We had our first focus group meeting today. As part of our community meeting yesterday, we had 10 representatives of the middle age group (26-49 years) come to discuss health needs of their group. We split the women and men up and what a great decision. We asked the four women of our group what their biggest health need was. After some issues such as malaria and safe water were discussed, family planning became the center topic of the meeting - different methods, side effects, reasons why women don't use, and the patriarchal society they are forced to live in. In the villages, men are in charge of all decisions and the women told us that the men do not want them to use family planning methods. Thus, many of the women are forced to have multiple children. By multiple, I mean anywhere from 5-10 kids. One woman said she is a mother to 10 children, a wife of 3 to 1 man, another wife has 9 kids and is pregnant, and the last wife has 3 children. She pleaded for a method that wouldn't be obvious to her husband, but would stop her from having any more births permanently. In fact, all 4 of the women asked for the permanent method: Fallopian tube ligation. It was clear that they did not want any more kids. Additionally, the women spoke of their other responsibilities: fetching water from the borehole (which can be as far as a mile for some women), tending the garden, working the fields, cleaning the houses, and taking care of the kids. Most of the time, they can't even take care of their kids so their younger siblings do. We see kids (boys and girls) as young as 5 or 6 holding babies 2 or 3 years old on their backs walking around all day. These stories have truly made me realize how lucky I am to be a free woman. To be able to make my own choices is something I will never take for granted again.
While we were walking home, we saw two giant black birds in the middle of the road. The villagers told us they are very rare to see and are really special in the Ugandan culture. It's forbidden to kill one and when one dies, they are folded up in a bedsheet and buried like a human. They are also said to walk around praying for rain. At the time they told us, I didn't believe them. But boy did it rain.