Nairobi, Kenya — When Eunice Achieng, 24, found out that she was pregnant for the fourth time in six years she could not stop weeping. Her other pregnancies had been hard on her young body and her first two babies were always in the hospital. Weak, sick and feeling alone, Eunice knew that she never wanted to get pregnant again.
Beatrice Obare, a top administrator at the Airport Dispensary in Kisumu, Kenya, remembers Achieng well: “This woman came in with her tiny baby, looking so tired and so old. I thought that she was 40, then she told me her age—she was only 24. I couldn’t believe it.”
Sensing that Achieng needed some help, Beatrice invited her to join a young mothers’ support group at the facility, which is part of Tupange, an urban health initiative increasing access to family planning services in communities throughout Kenya.
The project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Jhpiego, works with the Kenyan government and private health providers to reach some of the country’s most vulnerable people. The Tupange project is a key initiative in Jhpiego’s array of health programs in Kenya. The project builds on the organization’s vast experience in reproductive health and its earlier work in urban health through increasing the capacity of local health workers to provide family planning options and services to Kenyans.
While attending support group meetings, Achieng learned about family planning and started considering a permanent method. After talking with her husband, the young mother chose a method that was right for the couple.
“When I am pregnant, I am sick and I am a burden to my husband. Together we decided that I should get a BTL [bilateral tubal ligation],” Achieng says in recalling the couple’s decision. “Pregnancy is no good for me, and it is no good for my family. I never want to be pregnant again. I’m finished with that, kabisa [completely].”
Feeling both relieved and rejuvenated, Achieng says choosing the right family planning method has benefited her and her family. “I became young and beautiful again! Just look at me! All my friends want to know my secret. I tell them, it’s finding a [family planning] method,” the young mother says. “Even sex is better now, because I’m not worried. My kids are growing healthy.”
“Life today is difficult,” she adds, growing more serious. “A good mother has to be very disciplined. I learn so many important things from my big sister [Beatrice Obare] at the club.”
Obare is proud of her work and gladly explains how the Airport Dispensary clinic providers handle family planning since the Tupange project began and the impact of the young mothers’ club fits in increasing uptake of family planning. Jhpiego has trained the providers in family planning services and helped equip the center with supplies. “Since we started working with Tupange, we no longer sit and wait for clients to ask us for a family planning method,” she says. “Now, as we’re signing each person in, we automatically ask them what method they are using. If they say none, we make sure they pass by the counseling room before they leave.”
She continues, “We have about 60 young mothers—the attendance is very good. Many of these girls had to drop out of school because of pregnancy, but they weren’t ready to finish learning.”
Mary Akinyi, 23, and a mother of three children, proudly describes her contraceptive implant, and raves about the club, its educational sessions, support activities and savings club, which assists women in earning money to meet family needs.
“Here we learn important things to be better mothers and how to have a better business,” says Akinyi. “The week that I got the savings money, I was able to build my business from selling one bundle of charcoal to selling four. I use the extra money to buy clothes for my kids and better food.”
All of the providers at Airport Dispensary are excited about the change Tupange has brought to their facility. “It’s very exciting to give family planning because you can make a young girl have hope again for her future. Then, she passes the message to her friends. . .,” shared Obare, the facility’s in-charge administrator. “We used to have one or two family planning clients per month. Now look at all the names in this register! We have over 100.”
She added: “These Tupange people came, and they care so much about us and our women. We have to care too.”