How a mother of 11 became a family planning champion

Jenifer at Ngurubet Health Centre

Baringo County falls below the national average in access to family planning. Only 33% of married use a modern contraceptive method, compared to almost 54% nationally, according to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2014 Only half of women in Baringo have their demand for family planning satisfied. Afya Uzazi Program worked with the county government and local partners to change the situation by increasing access to quality family planning services for women and couples.

Jenifer, a mother of 11 children in her 50s, is well known at Ngubereti Dispensary in Mogotio, Baringo County. She is a community champion who educates women about family planning and links them to health workers at the facility to get more information and services.

Initially, Jenifer was vehemently opposed to contraception because of the rumours she had heard. Her transformation started when she had a change of heart because she did not want to have more children.

She decided to undergo tubal ligation, a permanent family planning method for women who do not wish to have more children.

 She recalls the operation: “It was simple, and I was even talking to the nurses,” Jenifer says of the procedure.

“I went back home and resumed my daily chores... After two weeks, I was able to continue doing farm work,” says Jenifer, a widow who earns a living tilling the small farm she inherited and doing casual jobs in nearby homes.

“I realized what people were saying about family planning is not true because I have used this method and experienced no side effects,” says Jenifer.

The reassurance of a modern method of family planning transformed Jenifer. She changed from a reserved woman into a confident, vibrant member of her community.

“I used to be ashamed because I kept getting children and yet the older ones were grown-ups ... I used to ask my among my sisters to help care for my younger children,” says Jenifer. 

Jenifer got her first child when she 14 years, forcing her to drop out of school. She gave birth to her last born at the age of 41.

Although she delivered all the children in hospital and was told about family planning, Jenifer was deeply suspicious of family planning methods before she became a champion. Early in life, her mother had warned her against family planning, saying women should have many children. Jenifer is the second born of 14 siblings.

“I used to listen to health talks in the hospital but always found a way to avoid family planning … One time the nurse even suggested that I try tubal ligation. I pretended to accept, just to get away,” says Jenifer.

“I use my own experience as an example to encourage women to use family planning. When we meet in groups, I listen to the challenges that women face. Some say they do not want to get more children and I tell them about family planning … I understand more about family planning and tell people to choose whatever they want.”

“I used to be shy could not talk in groups but after seeing the benefits of family planning, I am confident talking about my experience. Even in church I used to sit quietly, but I now lead prayers,” says Jenifer.