Inspiration for a Change

Inspiration for a Change
With USAID assistance a young woman learns how to take care of her family’s health.
Marie Stopes Society
“I will never marry my daughters until they are at least 20 years old and help them be better informed about their health.” — Shazia Mehmood

Shazia Mehmood* and her husband are now role models in promoting awareness on family planning in Tehsil Thull, Jaccobabad district of Sindh, Pakistan. The couple talks confidently about their decision to limit their family size to three children and wait for two years before their next pregnancy. They are convinced that families must learn about these topics to take better care of their health. 

Culturally, discussions on pregnancies and birth spacing are taboo. Young men and women secretly seek advice from older siblings or friends who are just as ill-informed. 
Mehmood, who is now a mother of two little girls, remembers with great sadness how ignorant she was about her health as a young woman and the lack of information on these issues. She says she had no idea what was happening to her when her menstrual periods began and thought she was going to die. Her mother was not able to tell her much, and quickly arranged for Mehmood to get married. Later on, Mehmood was equally ignorant about her first pregnancy, and only realized what was happening after hearing her mother-in-law tell someone that “Shazia is going to have a baby.” 
Mehmood’s life changed when she accompanied her sister-in-law to a village meeting about reproductive health. The meeting was organized under a project funded by USAID and implemented by Marie Stopes Society. This project works with local volunteers to spread information about reproductive health and encourages the use of primary health care services through a network of Social Franchised Suraj (meaning Sun in Urdu) Clinics. These efforts aim to improve the health of women and children in Pakistan. 
At first, Mehmood was embarrassed about the discussion that centered on birth spacing. But as the meeting progressed, she realized how useful the information was. She was also pleased to learn that she could receive reproductive services free of charge through the USAID project. 
Convinced she needed to plan her next pregnancy better, Mehmood spoke to her husband and decided to visit a Suraj clinic. A community volunteer helped Mehmood receive a voucher for free services from the USAID-funded project and accompanied her to the clinic. Now Mehmood can’t wait to share her knowledge with friends – especially those in need birth-spacing support. “I will never marry my daughters until they are at least 20 years old, and help them be better informed about their health,” says Mehmood.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity. 

Last updated: August 30, 2013

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