When Mary Edwards was a young woman, crossing the bridge from adolescence to adulthood, she knew nothing about contraception, and at age 18, she had her first child.
“I had children continuously without using any family planning method,” she said.
It was not until after Mary’s fourth birth that she began using oral contraceptive pills. After one year of using the pills, she decided to have a fifth child who died shortly after childbirth—a death she attributed to use of the oral contraceptive pills.
“I got a child with big head who then passed away,” she said. “People said that this was directly associated with the family planning methods I used, so I decided not to use a method anymore, and within few months I got an unexpected pregnancy.”
“I asked a doctor if the death of my baby was related to the use of contraceptives and he explained to me that it was not,” she said. “I decided, then, to try once more the contraceptives and I used injectable for six months, then I went for a tubal ligation.”
Today, as a 45-year-old widow and mother of five, Mary works with Pathfinder International’s E2A-supported community-based family planning program in the Shinyanga District of Tanzania as a community health worker.
“Before joining this program, I still believed in myths and misconception about contraceptives,” said Mary. “After the trainings and the experience I am having on family planning, I have gained knowledge and always speak about what I know through counseling sessions I am conducting in my village.”
“I have 176 clients using family planning,” Mary said proudly.
E2A’s work in Tanzania has included an effort to integrate Standard Days Method into the contraceptive method mix in Shinyanga—an area with a significant number of Catholics. Standard Days Method has been fluidly integrated into family planning counseling and methods provided by community health workers like Mary, largely through use of a mobile application. The mobile application guides the community health workers through a well-defined protocol to educate the client about all available methods, and draws on the client’s fertility intentions and personal preferences to enable her to choose an appropriate method.
More recently, E2A has started to develop and apply specific approaches to reaching first-time parents—young women under the age of 25 and their partners with one child—with reproductive health and family planning services. Mary, who did not know anything about using contraception to space and delay pregnancies when she had her first child at age 18, is part of this effort.
“I would like to tell the world, especially young mothers, that family planning is very important as it will help them to fulfill their dreams and be able to take care of the children that they can and plan to have,” said Mary. “I always talk to my four daughters about the necessity of spacing.”
Mary said that all of her daughters, except the youngest, are now using contraceptives.
“I am the example of failure to plan,” said Mary, “and I struggled a lot to take care of my children in the absence of their father. I do not want anyone else to suffer like me.”