My Implant Is My Badge of Honor

Dorothy didn’t know she had a choice. She wanted to do what was best for her family’s survival, but she needed information. She was never taught she should go for prenatal care. She never heard she should immunize her children. “One after another, they got sick,” she says soberly.

Dorothy was married and pregnant by 18. By 22, she had five children. That’s what happens when you are a woman living with no choice about your body.

“Family planning? I never knew what it was,” says Dorothy, from rural Uganda. “I’d heard some rumors, but people talked about it like it was obscene.”

Dorothy gave birth five times in five years. On her remote island of Bussi, many girls are expected to marry young, have a baby, drop out of school, then have more babies. That’s if they can survive their pregnancies. 

Picture this: The delivery room at Dorothy’s local health clinic is dangerously small. The delivery table barely fits. Sure, a mother can lie on it, but there’s not enough space at the foot of the table for her doctor. At the critical moment, she must turn, prop her back against the wall, balance on the side of the table, and push.

This is bad. But Dorothy had it even worse. She gave birth at home, in the dark, without a trained provider. “Four days,” she says, describing one of her deliveries. “My labor pains were unbearable.”

Dorothy didn’t know she had a choice. She wanted to do what was best for her family’s survival, but she needed information.

She was never taught she should go for prenatal care. She never heard she should immunize her children. “One after another, they got sick,” she says soberly.

She didn’t know that spacing her pregnancies could save her life and protect the health of the babies who rely on her. She didn’t know she had the right to contraception. And that is obscene.

But don’t for a second think Dorothy’s story is over. She is a woman who dares.

Today, Dorothy is smiling. She lifts her left arm, proudly showing off her contraceptive implant. “My implant,” she proclaims.

Dorothy is a member of a “Young Mothers’ Group,” started by the HoPE LVB project. She finds courage in joining young women just like her, who have all beaten unbelievable odds. Together they share their experiences and gain knowledge about how to take control of their sexual and reproductive health.

“I took what I learned about family planning to my husband,” she says. “I tried to explain, and he accepted. He allowed me to get it. Now he sees that our baby is two and, for the first time, there is no new baby immediately after it. He is happy. And I am really hopeful for my future.”

Dorothy promoShe should be. Dorothy is an inspiration. She and her fellow group members move across the island, sharing knowledge with anyone who will listen—about family planning, the importance of hand washing, child immunization, and more.

“It’s like this—” Dorothy begins to explain one of the most important changes in her life. “Before, no one knew me. But now I have new skills and new information. When people see me, they say, ‘It’s young mother Dorothy! She can talk to us about family planning.’”

Dorothy may be young, but she is powerful.

“I have a new identity and it’s one I am proud of.”

Dorothy's story is part of the Women Who Dare series in honor of International Women's Day. Visit the Women Who Dare homepage to continue exploring stories of fierce women around the globe.

Maren Vespia

Maren Vespia is Pathfinder's Communications Specialist.

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