MNCH- Our maternal newborn and child health program has so far benefitted over 400 women who delivered healthy babies. 99% of these mothers have delivered in health facilities despite the distance and difficult terrain that makes the process a great challenge. We have also reached over 300 men (husbands to our expectant mothers) and helped them realize how supporting their spouses during pregnancy can tremendously improve their pregnancy outcomes. A number of them have given us impressive feedback on how the program has helped them smoothly manage pregnancy and also changed their families for the better. They have become active partners rather than passive spectators in the pregnancy, delivery and child care process. Through donations from our friends, we have distributed dozens of baby clothes to our newborns. Some of the children born under BLS are now in a school where they do very well.
About 30% of our participants in every cohort are teenagers. In most cases, they conceive while in school and either resolve to get married after dropping out of school or just stay at home. We have tailored appropriate health information to suit their needs and also offer them psychosocial support, sanitary towels and baby clothes. We also link them with mentors who motivate and encourage them to complete their studies. To reduce teenage pregnancies, the organization recently initiated a program in which it works with nearby secondary schools in providing mentorship and health education to girls. We are already currently following about 40 girls under our mentorship program.
Meet Elizabeth who in 2016 conceived at 14 years old while in primary school, Class 7. She lived with her parents. When she conceived, Elizabeth’s mother wanted her to procure an abortion. However, her elder sister discouraged her from doing so, which was in line with her conscience. Luckily, she got information about the BLS project. Joining BLS gave the emotional support that helped her go to school for the remaining two terms while pregnant. Elizabeth says that it would have been very hard for her to cope in school were it not for the emotional support she received emotional encouragement. While in the program, Elizabeth received antenatal education which made a whole lot of difference in her pregnancy. Besides, she received soap and clothes which helped her plan for the child as the family economic situation is dire. Her parents are unemployed. Elizabeth learned how to take care of pregnancy through attending clinics, how to feed during pregnancy, and also learned a lot about child care after delivery. She finally Gave birth to a baby boy, named Fabian Otieno. However, this did not deter her from going back to school to complete her education. She thus returned to school after delivery where she resumed her studies in class 7. Her plan was to complete her studies, join high school, work hard to qualify for university and hopefully become a nurse. She promised to recommend the program to any teenager who conceives while in school so that they can receive the same benefits from Begin Life Safely. Similarly, she now has some skills that she may use to offer emotional support to other girls who find themselves in the same situation and link them up with the project. Fabian is now grown and in elementary school.
Sasha (the girl in glasses) was conceived at 17 years during her second year in high school. This caused friction with her parents, so she escaped to the village to live with her great-grandmother. While in the village, she was reached by our community health volunteer who enrolled her on the program. Sasha finally delivered a healthy baby girl in 2021. However, due to poverty and lack of understanding from her guardian, life was difficult, she found it hard to provide for her baby’s needs. She thus went to live with her baby’s father (who was also a college student) in Kisumu city. This meant that her dream of education and good life had been cut short. When Begin Life Safely learnt of this, Geoffrey followed her, talked to her, and she expressed the struggles she had to go through in this child marriage since her husband couldn’t provide for their needs. According to her, her mother-in-law kept reminding her husband to “complete college and find a better, educated woman to marry”. Sasha was shuttered because she was not viewed as important at all by the people who had taken away her innocence and ended her education. With support from friends, Geoffrey helped her enrol in a boarding school to complete her studies. She’s sitting her final high school exams in December 2022. There are many cases like Sasha’s which create yet another challenge for BLS: How to support girls and such cases to complete their education.
We have continued to engage the youth (girls and boys) through partnerships with local football clubs as platforms for mentorship and health sensitization. We have continued to engage the youth (girls and boys) through partnerships with local football clubs as platforms for mentorship and health sensitization.