Maternal and child health presents significant challenges. And, to comprehend the magnitude of those challenges requires some knowledge of the traditions and values inherent in the community.
Historically, women have held a subsidiary position in society. Their roles were to please and provide for their husbands, produce many children, raise those who survived and perform the household and farm chores. They were not encouraged to express their needs or opinions, did not participate in local decisions, and were, more often than not, illiterate. They were not entitled to property and often forced to leave their homes when widowed, because their husband's property reverted to his kin. Still, men place great stock in their fertility. Reproductive prowess rates high among the attributes of masculinity.
The idea of limiting family size is a recent one and far from universally accepted by either sex. However, the idea is taking hold, still more among the wives than their husbands. As women become more educated, more literate, more aware of what is available to them, attendance at KARUDEC's women's and children's clinics grows. The advantages of having fewer, healthier children who can be provided with an elementary education - both boys and girls - makes sense. And, more and more husbands are coming to accept the personal and financial advantages of smaller, healthier, more productive families.
Good Things Begin to Happen
As more women and children attend clinics and outlying dispensaries, a host of good things begin to happen. One of the most important benefits is learning - learning about their bodies and those of their children - learning about contraception, feminine hygiene, the existence and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, immunizations, prenatal care, proper nutrition and water. Women are also exposed to the many opportunities available to them through the programs and projects of KARUDEC. They learn skills such as breeding goats, chickens and rabbits. They join their sisters in learning to read and write and become more familiar with their world. They learn how to establish a profitable business in their homes or in cooperation with others. They learn a multitude of things which will make them better mothers, wives and citizens. And, most important of all, their learning empowers them to gain self-confidence and to feel the joy of worthiness.