Pajulu-Olevu village boasts of green rolling hills, but more awe-inspiring than the scenic views is the camaraderie of the women who live here.
At the onset of project implementation in Uganda, the ACHAP Afya field team noted a gap in social support, especially for young and first-time mothers whose lives revolved around their household duties and child rearing. With support from Mr. Yitre Michael, the area VHT lead, a Mother-to-Mother support group comprising 20 women aged 17 to 24 was formed and later named Munguci Women’s Group. The group meets weekly for trainings on antenatal care, WASH, and nutrition, and provides an opportunity for mothers to help and guide each other in the different stages of pregnancy and early motherhood.
“Before I joined this group, I had never heard of antenatal care. I thought everything about pregnancy and childbirth was done at home. Now, it is easy to go for ANC visits and keep track of my schedules because I have friends to go with,” says one of the mothers. “We call and visit each other, and make sure nobody misses an appointment or a training session.”
During the group meetings, the VHT noticed something interesting. The fact that the women were uniting and spending time together had aroused the curiosity of their spouses, who one by one started accompanying them to meetings and clinic visits. Doing this, they have become actively involved in the health of their wives and children, and by paying more attention to their families, the prevalence of social ills such as alcoholism and idleness has been greatly reduced.
“When my husband accompanies me to the health facility, the healthcare workers talk to him about family planning, which he later discusses with me. Hearing him speak about healthy baby-spacing has been very reassuring to me; that he is thinking about our future and is planning to stay with me for a long time,” says Tabu Jesca, the lead mother, as she recounts the benefits of male involvement in ANC.
Spending time together has provided the women of Munguci Women’s group a platform to uplift each other economically, especially in the hard times presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. They started little kitchen gardens to save on food expenses, and have something to sell in order to lessen the financial burden on their spouses. They have also started aggregating their savings to ensure a cash cushion in case of family emergencies.
Applying their knowledge from WASH trainings, they sensitize their community on COVID-19 barrier measures, and have constructed tippy taps around the village that serve as accessible handwashing stations for the people of Pajulu-Olevu.
What started as a simple support group for pregnant women has become a great source of joy, help, learning, and most of all, friendship.