Busia Women Leaders Unite for Better Maternal Health Care
While the Uganda government policy does not support child delivery at Health Center (HC) IIs, the reality is that many a mother deliver at the HCII for a variety of reasons most outstanding being the long distances from their homes to the HCIII where delivery facilities should typically be accessed.
At Busime HC II, in Bwaniha Village which serves a population of over 11,500 in Busia District, expectant mothers awaiting ante-natal care speak excitedly about the new delivery bed at the health centre. The state-of-the-art bed is made specifically to suit the functionality of child delivery, a significant upgrade from the usual beds on which they usually gave birth. “This is my fourth child and I am looking forward to delivering on that bed this time. “ Jesca Nabwire, a 26 year old expectant mother says.
The Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) has supported the Busia Women’s Caucus since its formation in 2011, facilitating them with skills to improve their capacity as leaders and decision makers. In May, 2013, FOWODE under the umbrella of the Women Democracy Group (WDG) trained 13 women councillors in Busia District on a number of topics including understanding gender budgeting, gender principles, council procedures, lobbying, advocacy and networking, legislative processes, public speaking etiquette, and formation and strengthening of caucuses among others. It was in follow up of this training that improvement of service delivery at HC IIs was identified as an advocacy priority.
“When we decided to address these maternal health issues, we approached the District Health Officer (DHO) who facilitated us with 175 litres of fuel which enabled us visit the HC IIs in order to assess the state of health services. In addition to the lack of equipment, we were concerned about the number of midwives and attendants at the health centres.” Betty Ajambo Bwire, Women’s Councilor for Busitema and Sikuda Sub Counties, Deputy Speaker and member of the Busia Women’s Caucus explains. “We found that of the 19 health centres, only 8 had midwives and of those 8, only 3 had ante-natal equipment. “On realizing that our women’s plight involved moving such long distances for child birth, we decided to design a plan of action that included lobbying for delivery beds for HC IIs.” says Betty adds. In addition to lobbying for delivery beds, the leaders moved a motion to recruit midwives for the HC IIs in the district and fortunately both motions were adopted.
By May 2014, 8 Health Centre IIs had new delivery beds while 9 health Centre IIs were awaiting the new beds which had already been procured. The women caucus members attribute their successful lobbying to the coordination among members and the support of the DHO and the social services committee. Aside from Busiime HC II which now conducts deliveries on the new beds, other HCII, such as Amonikakinei and Mudindi were visited and found to be using the new beds, to the joy of many mothers.