Educating young mothers in Sindh – A glimpse into Sajida’s journey
19 year old Sajida lives in village Sonwa near Garhi Hassan in Jacobabad District, Sindh. She was married a year ago to Ali Khan. Quiet and reserved, Sajida has hardly ever stepped out of her small village. She quit education when she was in primary school, and Ali has only studied till grade 10.
23 years old Ali Khan works as a peon in Karachi, and earns around PKR 10,000 (USD 100 approximately) per month. They also own some livestock, and the money is mostly enough to fulfil their basic needs. Sajida conceived in the fourth month of her marriage. She is a part of a joint family system and her only source of information for antenatal care was the women from her family. All females in her family had their deliveries with the help of local traditional birt attendants, and they used to treat pregnancies very casually. There was hardly any awareness in her small village regarding healthy diet for pregnant mothers, antenatal visits and consultations with doctors.
Soon after conceiving, Sajida started feeling very weak. She developed severe nausea and back ache. Everything she ate, she threw up. After months of suffering and home remedies, she decided to visit a private doctor in Taluka Thul in her 5th month of pregnancy. The doctor charged PKR 1000 while travelling cost an additional PKR 400. She spent more money on medicines, but they didn’t make much difference to her health.
Fortunately, Hakim Bai, a midwife who works in Garhi Hassan’s Rural Health Centre (RHC), used to visit the landlords where Sajida’s brother in law worked. The landlady told Hakim Bai about Sajida’s situation and she advised to take her to RHC Garhi Hassan. This health facility is one of the 12 health facilities refurbished under the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) project by Save the Children with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) investment in Sindh. In 2016, Save the Children established a fully equipped labour room in RHC Garhi Hassan and a Woman Medical Officer was hired at the facility. It also has a separate waiting area and an immunisation room for females now.
Following Hakim Bai’s advice, Sajida went to the health facility for a check-up. The female doctor there gave her medicines for the pain and weakness, and asked her to keep visiting. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that all services at the facility were provided free of charge. Sajida took the medicines regularly and followed the first visit with five follow-up check-ups. She started taking better care of her diet, felt healthier and the back ache also receded.
On April 28, 2017, Sajida gave birth to a baby boy through a normal delivery. The baby weighed a healthy 2.6 kgs. She was admitted at the facility for 24 hours for observation, along with the baby, after which she was discharged and advised to visit the doctor in case of any complications. The Lady Health Worker also provided guidance to Sajida on the importance of birth spacing, different kinds of contraceptives and the role of a healthy diet and good hygiene for her own as well as her baby’s wellbeing. Sajida says:
“I was the first woman from my family to deliver a baby at a proper health facility. However, upon seeing the care that the health staff at the facility provided me, they all want to go to a proper doctor now if they get pregnant again. I can use the guidance provided by the Lady Health Worker to plan my family and raise healthy kids.”