Bearing children was all Eviness Sendeza knew at her house. Other household or field developments did not matter to her.
She had no time to fend for her family such as looking for piecework. Neither could she generate income for her family.
Sendeza, 49, from Malengasange Village in Traditional Authority Chiwere has given birth to 11 children of which four died.
She said she started bearing children when she was 17 years old and no one had talked to her about family planning methods.
“I had my first child when I was 17 years old. And since then, I had been having a child after another. My health was deteriorating.
“I never thought that giving birth every year was having a negative impact on my body and it real had toil in me because I could not concentrate in the field let alone find piecework to have money to buy food,” Sendeza says.
She says she used to receive some aid from the nearby clinic, which was providing porridge flour for malnourished children and ended up given the leadership at the clinic because of her frequenting the place.
Sendeza recognises the day members of Community Action group (Cag) who were working under the supervision of Mponela Aids Information and Counselling Centre (Maicc) in a community mobilisation project approached and asked her to practise safe health motherhood.
“Everyone in the village knew my story but no one ever approached me to say there are other ways on how you can care for yourself and the children you are bearing.
“But Cag members imparted in me knowledge on family planning and gave me so many options that I had a chance to choose from. As I already had seven living children, I opted for sterilisation and since then, I have never looked back,” Sendeza says.
Sendeza might not be the only woman living in the rural Malawi having no knowledge of family planning.
She says she did not know that giving birth at home can create problems both for the mother and child.
“I usually got help from traditional birth attendants during childbirth and I used to think this was very fine. Sometime, it happened that on my way to see a traditional birth attendant, I gave birth on the way,” she says.
She applauds Cag members for rescuing her from poverty and death. She says her home was hopeless and her children were malnourished and did not have adequate food.
However, with the knowledge and information she got from Cag, she was empowered to concentrate on fieldwork and devised better ways of taking care of her home and children.
“I never used to have a pit latrine and rubbish pit as these to me were useless. I did not know that in the absence of these, I was putting my children and myself in danger. I am happy to say that I do have pit latrines and a rubbish pit,” she says.
Evaluation and Monitoring Officer for Maicc, Catherine Mazenga, says Cags were established to provide information directly to individuals and families through cascade messages.
She says the Cag members were to explore health-related problems in their communities and Malengasange Village had a problem of maternal and neonatal deaths.
“Cags were established also to ensure ownership of community initiatives; that they take it as genuinely theirs. But also the village is the smallest area where there is an assurance that all community members will respond to health-related issues if they have the knowledge,” Mazenga says.
The area was targeted as it is one of the catchment areas where Maicc is implementing its projects but also it has health issues which the project is responding to.
Community mobilisation project approach is based on building capacity of communities and individuals to plan, carry out and evaluate activities in a participatory manner to identify and address pressing health care concerns.
Community action cycle is used in community mobilisation interventions whereby communities, with the leadership of Cag members, are mobilised to organise for action, explore pressing health issues on six essential health practices (SEHPs) and set priorities to find solutions, plan, act and evaluate successful interventions.
The major objective of evaluating community mobilisation activities is to assess the extent on how Cags have implemented action plans which they developed and the quality of implementing the entire community action cycle.
It also aims to establish benefits of community mobilisation activities as regards increased knowledge and change of practices on SEHPs that the area chose to embark on looking at how grave the problem was in the area.
To ensure that other women do not go through her childbearing experience, Sendeza has also volunteered to assist women in her village that are struggling with issues of family planning and has since helped four women who used to bear children yearly.
“I am happy that I have reached out to other women who were in my shoes. I can boast that four women whom I have told the benefits of family planning are now able to care for the families and can concentrate on how to generate income for their households,” Sendeza says.
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