YoSpace Health Facility Success
Dr Farooq, of the Nile Crescent Health Centre in Jinja district, spoke to us about his experiences of the YoSpace project implemented by Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU). As a family planning service provider, Dr Farooq gave us unseen insight into the lives of young people and their needs regarding family planning services. The YoSpace project aims to share information regarding sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and refer young people to YoSpace Health Facilities. During our visit to Jinja, Dr Farooq outlined how the project has addressed some of the challenges of young people.
Facility problems before YoSpace
Prior to the Nile Crescent Health Centre becoming a YoSpace Health Facility, it faced a number of challenges. To begin with, accessibility was a problem for many young women seeking health services. This encompasses both the distance from health facilities, as well as the appropriate health facilities being unknown. These factors greatly impact the accessibility of services. Being unsure of where to seek family planning services was a challenge for young women before the implementation of the YoSpace project.
In addition, if young women were fortunate enough to have access to these services then they would often times face stigma. Where women may go for family planning services there was no separation, so young women and teenagers would be in the same space as older women. These older women are likely seeking family planning as they have finished having all the children they want. This lack of separation can lead to stigma because older women may look down on young women seeking family planning. Above anything else, the stigma these young women faced was off-putting and they would instead not seek the appropriate health services.
Furthermore, if facilities were accessible and young women were not deterred by stigma, the affordability of these services was a huge setback. These services are not free and for some women, the little money they have is needed elsewhere. Therefore, they put their sexual and reproductive health and family planning on the back burner. Through neglecting family planning due to affordability, these women risk unwanted pregnancies and becoming very young mothers. These outcomes have serious implications to their health, as Dr Farooq outlined that unwanted and young pregnancies risk maternal mortality.
Moreover, there was a knowledge gap regarding family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) services. Many young women in these communities had negative attitudes and feelings towards these services. In many cases, women did not believe in the safety of family planning. A widely held misconception about family planning services was that it causes infertility, which of course is not the case. The negativity and misconceptions surrounding family planning causes the uptake of these services to be low. This is why projects such as YoSpace are so important, providing young women with accurate information. With this information, young women are more likely to be able to take care of their sexual and reproductive health.
Successes of YoSpace
Through recognising the challenges of young women in communities in the Jinja district, the YoSpace project has successfully tackled them to improve the uptake of family planning services. PHAU could not have succeeded in the YoSpace project without enlisting the help of peer mobilizers, this group has been crucial in spreading information and mobilizing young women for family planning referrals. Dr Farooq discussed with us his experiences of the work of peer mobilizers to help tackle the challenges he outlined.
Peer education is a tactic used by peer mobilizers in order to share accurate information. Through this activity the peer mobilizers have been able to change the views of young women and help them to understand that family planning is not a negative, but rather a positive to help them to take control of their lives and their health.
Additionally, the peer mobilizers have been doing outreaches in the communities to women who struggle to access SRHR services and family planning. By doing this, the peer mobilizers can educate and, if necessary, take these women commodities to help them through their challenges.
The creation of the bridge between young women in need of services and the service providers was a crucial step for the YoSpace project. Through building these links and connections, peer mobilizers are able to directly refer these young women to receive family planning services. Without this link, YoSpace would not have been able to succeed.