“I cannot go on without sharing my own story.” The workshop is almost over. In a crowded circle of community leaders, all eyes are on Kasongo.*
“When I was young, my uncles pushed me to marry before I finished high school,” he says. “Soon, my wife had our first child…a girl…and then our second…another girl. Then we had our third child…a girl again. Believing my wife could never give me a son, my family pushed me to leave that woman and her daughters…”
“I abandoned my children,” Kasongo admits.
“…To life without education…to early marriage and so many children of their own. Now after participating in this workshop…I feel naked. And I pledge I will use what I have learned to teach others…about how to treat girls and boys the same…about how all young people need information and sexual and reproductive health care. I will do what I can to mentor young people in my community, so their lives can be different.”
Over 750,000 community leaders, women, men, and young people have attended workshops to reflect on and challenge harmful gender norms, violence, and poor sexual and reproductive health, and gained the tools to choose a different path forward.
Where Pathfinder works, many women do not have control of what happens to their bodies. Men often make the decisions about women’s sexual and reproductive health. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, facing extreme gender inequality and often violence, nearly 30 percent of women have an unmet need for family planning. Only five percent of married women use a modern method of contraception. It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re inspiring generations of women and men, girls and boys to transform their thinking and lives.
The Access to Primary Health Care Program, funded by DFID, is implemented through a consortium of partners, including Pathfinder, and led by IMA World Health.
*Name has been changed.