The exhausted camel mobile clinic caravan had travelled for over 16 km since departing from Kirimon in Laikipia County and had served over 200 people with integrated health services that included Family Planning and HIV/AIDS services.
Led by a hired Government nurse, a Family Planning community worker, an HIV counselor and three camel handlers, the caravan had now slowed down to a stroll, and was approaching Lpussi village deep inside Samburu County. Luckily, a Chief’s baraza (a chief’s public meeting) was underway in the remote village.
In this particular baraza Susan Lenatari, the Family Planning Community Based Distributor (FPCBD) with Community Health Africa Trust accompanying the clinic stood and engaged over 50 men and 102 women on family planning--an issue the Samburu community is ‘uncomfortable about’ due to the myths propagated by the ‘old folk’ in their community.
"Family planning is only for women. And it makes them promiscuous. I would never advise my wife to use those things [contraceptives] because the role of a woman is to give birth to children," said Lemayan Nanpook, a 28-year-old father of six when he rose to speak.
His counterpart, Mengich Lemayan, who holds that family planning is dangerous, added, "I hear that it makes women give birth to children without ears and eyes. I think couples should space their children through natural means only. They were doing it before the introduction of this family planning thing anyway."
In this part of the world (Northern Kenya), it is men who usually decide on the number and variety of sexual relationships, timing and frequency of sexual activity and use of contraceptives, sometimes through coercion or violence.
"I started by taking pills discreetly because I didn’t want more children given that I have four already. When my husband discovered that I had chosen a 3 year Implanon, he went mad."
In Samburu, the overriding factors against family planning are widespread myths and misconceptions about family planning for women and men. Our FPCBDs understand since they are from the same community but they are well trained to dispel such rumors in order to increase uptake of family planning.
Susan spoke honestly and informatively to the crowd, a simple tactic that debunked the many myths associated with Family Planning. Later in that day, more than 70 women chose Implanon, an insertion method which offers five-years of contraception, as their form of family planning. Implanon is considered a wise choice since reproductive health services are rare amongst the pastoralist communities and many women have already had 8 children.
And as nomadic communities of the north struggle with effects of climate change and runaway population explosion, CHAT continues to give hope through strategic technology choices (family planning) as a means to mitigate poverty and suffering.
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