Last week we held a community meeting on our land to gather the thoughts, ideas and questions of the three villages that surround the birth house. As the meeting went on more and more people came flowing in – babies, mothers, men in their best dress pants. We sat on benches, on bricks and on the earth surrounding the tree on our land that has naturally become our meeting place and shared with them our ideas, asked them about theirs and invited the community to walk through the birth house for the first time.
Community meetings in Uganda are fascinating – no matter how many people have different opinions, somehow they are always able to solve disagreements and come up with solutions. It is inspiring to watch as everyone shares their own ideas. I’ve held many community meetings here in Uganda over the years and was blown away with the amount of participation the women in this community had. It was lead by Julius, our project coordinator and the two local village chairmen. They introduced the traditional birth attendant, discussed the needs of the community and most importantly made decisions on how they would get involved.
For a while, there was great discussion that seemed to almost get heated about participation. Part of our criteria as an organization is to make sure that any project we support is rooted deeply in community participation – we do not start anything with the time, effort and support of the community in any way they can. This time the problem was not that they didn’t want to help, but that they wanted to help SO much we needed to come up with a plan!
In the end the 3 villages decided they would all contribute a few hours of work twice a month during the build and then once the birth house is up come once a month to help weed, work in the garden, repair the buildings, cook and clean.
The women clapped when we told them there would have an emergency transfer vehicle to take women with complications from our birth house to the hospital in town. They told us stories of walking long distances into town while in the birth process only to receive poor care at overcrowded hospitals in Kasana.
We connected with the local traditional birth attendant and have a meeting scheduled with her this Thursday to see how we can work together. I wasn’t surprised when I found out she was the local TBA as she had the most to say about mothers, birth and babies during the meeting.
(Julius, Shanti Uganda project coordinator addresses the members of the surrounding villages at a meeting on our land)
(Members of the surrounding villages walk through the birth house for the first time to share ideas)
(Natalie, executive director and Marva, shanti uganda volunteer set up a meeting with a local traditional birth attendant)