Seated under the cool shade of a massive mango tree, its branches drooping to the ground under the weight of the unripe green fruits, is a group of 41 women from Oringoi, Uganda. Today, these women are not gathering for their regular Village Enterprise training sessions or Business Savings Group meetings. Instead, they are here to learn about family planning and to receive select medical services from Marie Stopes International Uganda.
Village Enterprise teamed up with Marie Stopes to institute a Long Term Family Planning project, under the funding of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since our business owners struggle to access adequate health facilities, our Uganda Country Director, Winnie Auma, felt that a partnership with Marie Stopes was a great opportunity to help our clients get the health services they need without draining their bank accounts.
The goal of this partnership is to achieve measurable improvements in access to family planning at health facilities and community levels.
The project targets women and men of reproductive age as well as community leaders to champion advocacy.
For one week, Marie Stopes International Uganda traveled long distances on dusty, pot-hole ridden roads to reach the rural villages in which we operate, such as Oringoi, Uganda. While Village Enterprise Business Mentors mobilized the community, Marie Stopes service providers set up a mobile health unit, complete with two sanitized private patient rooms. Over the course of the day, attendees received group training on family planning and contraception methods as well as individual consultations tailored to personal health needs. In addition, participants could opt to receive integrated medical services such as the insertion of an intra-uterine device (IUD) or contraceptive arm implants, as well as cervical cancer screenings.
But why did Village Enterprise opt to partner with Marie Stopes in the first place? Marie Stopes Interpersonal Communications Coordinator, Ronnie Aisu, explains, “partnering with Village Enterprise is important because it demonstrates the linkages between savings and health. Family planning enables women to be healthier and to have more equal opportunities to pursue an education, a career, and financial security. With fewer children to support, families can accumulate greater assets and invest more in their children’s health and well-being. The relationship between smaller families and greater wealth highlights the benefits of sustained investments in family planning and maternal and child health programs as an important poverty reduction strategy.” While Village Enterprise does not itself offer health services, we recognize that physical and financial health are intertwined and that this partnership will not only improve the well-being of our individual business owners, but of their entire communities.
Village Enterprise business owner Grace Akello testified to the importance of this project. Grace, a mother of seven, previously had negative feelings about family spacing. Despite her doubts, she attended the family planning day in her village because she explained, “I already have so many children and taking care of them is difficult.” After participating in the family planning training and receiving individual consultation, Grace began to see the advantages to family planning. She said, “Now that I have joined family planning, I will have more time to care for the children I already have and to plan for my business activities.”
Grace Akello, mother of seven and attendee
Marie Stopes service providers explain the importance of family planning and contraception