Esther Mukami Njoroge was 16 and pregnant when arrived at a clinic run by Family Health Options Kenya. It was the start of a thirty year relationship. She explains why.
It was 1982, I was 16 and pregnant with my first child. I’d only just moved to Form 1 at school when I found out I was pregnant and I felt depressed and disorientated.
I had seen ladies dressed in green coming to our village to educate women about family planning but at the time I was afraid to talk to them or ask any questions. I later came to learn they were community health workers from Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK).
After I had delivered my baby, the first thing my mother did was to take me to the family planning clinic. The nurses counselled me, they said that all was not lost. They said I needed to go back to school, but I had to start family planning to prevent another pregnancy so I started using the coil.
That day I felt confident as I left the clinic. The future that had looked bleak, became brighter. The coil allowed me to enjoy 10 years without fear of getting pregnant and to complete school. All my attention was on my daughter, and she enjoyed all my love. We have a special bond that we would not have had if I had had many children. I later removed the coil and conceived my second child. I then enrolled in college to study early childhood education and became a teacher.
The benefits of family planning to me were very visible. I even wonder what would have become of me if FPAK was not there. Perhaps I would not have realised my full potential. That is why I introduced my daughter to the FPAK clinic when she had a baby. She has never looked back and she is yet to deliver a second child. My friends and other relatives that I have referred to FPAK have also got positive stories to tell about the clinics. Many of them have happy planned families. One of them thanked me the other day for introducing her to FPAK, saying that the family planning advice she had received had helped her to have a four year gap between each of her three children.
I think family planning leads to happier homes where there’s more love. It means husbands and wives have the number of children they can manage on the meagre resources they may have with less stress. People ask me why I have been faithful to FPAK for three decades, and my answer is - my first experience in 1982 was so good, it kept me going back. At FPAK the nurses are very understanding, they listen to your problems and give you much more information than you would get in a public hospital.
Another advantage is the package of services that they offer free of charge. Every year I know I will get free breast and cervical cancer screening. These are services I cannot afford.
Having experienced all this, I decided in early 2000 that I wanted to give something back so I joined FPAK’s volunteer team. I now educate women about family planning. I’d like our work to have even more impact, to build outreach programmes in areas where there are no clinics. I have faith that FHOK will do that.