Empowering Mothers, Reforming Communities
30 years old Sanam was married to her relative Javed Hussain when she turned 19. She now lives in a joint family system in village Morano of Shikarpur District, Sindh. Javed belongs to a middle class, religious family. He is a government employee and earns PKR 16000 (USD 160 approximately) per month.
Sanam conceived within a few months of her marriage. She gave birth to a baby boy through normal delivery with assistance from a local Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) at home. Since she was married at a very young age, Sanam had very little knowledge about issues related to pregnancy, family planning and proper care and diet for mother and children. She also faced a lot of problems during her pregnancy. She said:
“I was very happy when I learnt that I was pregnant, but I gradually started feeling very weak. I did not know that it is necessary to visit a doctor during pregnancy. My mother-in-law took me to a local quack, but my health worsened with every passing day.”
Luckily, Sanam gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She had hardly recovered from her first pregnancy when she learned that she was expecting a child again. Her health got so bad that she couldn’t continue to breastfeed her son. She also didn not get the time to recuperate because of the burden of numerous household chores. Her health woes didn’t stop with her second child, a daughter. She gave back to back births to two more daughters within a span of two years.
Luckily, an outreach worker from Save the Children, working on a project on Family Planning and Post Abortion Care (FP and PAC), arranged a reproductive health awareness session in Sanam’s village, where Sanam learnt about the importance of antenatal check-ups and birth spacing for every woman. Seeing Sanam’s health, the project team advised her to visit Taluka Hospital, Lakhi.
Sanam convinced her husband to take her to the hospital in Lakhi where a female doctor, Dr. Fozia, inquired about her case in detail and told her that limited birth spacing had taken a severe toll on her health. She prescribed Sanam multivitamins and a few medicines. She also counselled her on different family planning methods.
Initially, Sanam faced a lot of resistance from her family elders. They considered family planning against their religion, and strictly forbade her from adopting it.
“I counseled the elder women in my community by telling them that Islam asks us to care for our family’s health and birth spacing is beneficial for both, mothers and children,” says Sanam.
After continuous counselling, Sanam managed to convince her husband and mother-in-law to use birth spacing methods. She used birth control tablets for two years and has now opted for an Intrauterine Contraceptive Device (IUCD) for five years. She has also joined Save the Children as a volunteer in its FP and PAC project.
“I feel very strongly about maternal and child health. I know the struggle first-hand. I am very thankful to my husband for his constant support throughout our married life. Now, I conduct sessions every month during Village Organisation and Community Organisation meetings to create awareness among local women regarding family planning,” she adds.