Kajoli got married at the age of 17, moved to her husband’s house and got pregnant after two years of marriage.
Her pregnancy was tough and she suffered severe vomiting, headaches and became bedridden. “I was worried when I faced problems in first stage of my pregnancy. My husband didn’t support me in seeking treatment,” said Kajoli.
When she shared her experience with her husband and in-laws they were dismissive. The mother-in-law considered Kajoli’s symptoms to be a normal part of pregnancy so her husband did not take action.
“I feared my mother’s reaction because she did not go to a health center during pregnancy. I could not do much for my wife,” said Nur Islam, Kajoli’s husband.
Most people in this community lack knowledge of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and are unaware of the importance of safe delivery services. Women, especially young women have limited decision-making power and that creates additional barriers for their health. As a result, women like Kajoli who face pregnancy related complications and their babies are at higher risk of dying from these complications.
Due to lack of support, Kajoli decided to go to her father’s house and access the local health services which happened to be nearby.
Kajoli’s mother is a member of a peer-to-peer support group facilitated by project supported by Plan International Canada where she learned about MNCH issues and about Community Health Workers (CHW). She consulted with one and brought Kajoli to the local health facility to access medical services.
Kajoli was very satisfied with the service and friendly behaviour of healthcare providers trained by the project and started going for regular checkups. Gradually, Kajoli’s health started to improve and she started attending sessions conducted by a CHW that discussed safe motherhood.
Health workers are agents of change
Availability of skilled birth attendants at the health facilities is key factor to reducing maternal and child mortality, we are ensuring 24/7 safe delivery services by recruiting and training Community Skilled Birthing Attendants (CSBA’s) in all Union Health and Family Welfare Centre’s like the one Kajoli went to.
How Community Health Workers are helping to change the birth story:
- Conduct monthly sessions for a Women’s Self Help group to raise awareness about MNCH and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues.
- Work to identify pregnant women in their community and ensure they go to the health facility for checkup and delivery.
- Motivate men to support women in their lives to access health care services
- Male CHW’s orient people like Kajoli’s husband on pregnancy related danger signs and family planning. (After a few consultations with the CHW, Kajoli’s husband showed interest in visiting the local healthcare center with her.)
- Using MNCH/SRHR as an entry point to discuss topics like gender equality (Kajoli told us that, “after receiving message from CHW, my husband brought nutritious food for me and wanted to know the date of next ANC.”)
Changing the birth story, one family at a time
With the support of our project in this community, Kajoli gave birth to a healthy boy at her local Union Health and Family Welfare Centre.
“I am grateful to Plan’s project for introducing safe delivery services to poor people like us and for supporting changes in my husband’s attitude. I can now go for treatment with my child whenever I need,” said Kajoli.
Making healthcare more accessible for women and girls begins with building knowledge and understanding of MNCH/SRHR issues, and emphasizing the value of gender equality and the involvement of men in childcare and household responsibilities.
Change is slow but men in Kajoli’s community are gradually changing their behavior and the results are positive!
“My heart is filled with a roar when I see the smiling face of my son. I motivate my neighbors to take care of pregnant women and support my wife to do household chores,” said Nur Islam.
Nur Islam wakes up early in the morning to wash his family’s clothes and shares the responsibility of household chores with his wife. And his shift in attitude has inspired his parents to be more supportive of their son’s family accessing the healthcare that they need to thrive.
This project takes a holistic approach and doesn’t just work with families but also works to empower girls and young women to make their own sexual and reproductive health decisions. We also engage men and boys to become agents of change that support the advancement of gender equality.
Together, we can change the birth story and not only save lives but ensure they are healthy and thriving!
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