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Uganda: Family Planning Champion Changing Lives in Mityana

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At first sight, he looks reserved but when you engage him, he is conversational and humorous. At Maanyi Sub-county in Mityana District is where I met Tito Sserwadda, 50, who had come to attend a get-together workshop ahead of Forum for Women in Democracy's celebrations to mark their 21st anniversary.

A father of five, Sserwadda says before marriage, he yearned for a small family which he would provide for sufficiently. He got married in 1986 and he revealed the same to his wife.

"I explained to my wife the need to have children that we would manage to take care of. I never wanted my children to lack and I also wanted to have all of them educated," he recalls.

While giving birth to their fifth child, his wife got complications. Sserwadda was worried for her life. He asked her to get sterilised so that she could get rid of the pain caused by pregnancy. However, his wife said that the operation would be painful. Because he loved her, he instead got sterilised.

"One of my friends had told me of this method, explaining how important it is. I explained to my wife and she welcomed the idea. I knew the decision I took would be helping our family forever," he says.

On meeting the doctor in Mulago hospital, Sserwadda was told that such an operation could not be done without his wife's consent. He explained to them that they had both agreed and the operation was granted.

After the operation

Sserwadda was advised to use condoms until he got healed to avoid pregnancy. This is because sperms keep coming before one heals from this operation (vasectomy).

"When I got healed, I still enjoyed sex and I'm happy that I have taken all my children to school and we are happy. I don't regret doing it [vasectomy] and I'm now one of the champions of family planning in Mityana," he proudly shares.

However, Sserwadda admits that since he underwent the operation, his peers accuse him of taking a blind decision.

"Majority of men tease me that I would remain childless if at all my children passed on. But I tell them that the God I serve protects me. They admire our family because it looks healthy. We are happy parents," he says.

He notes that when Fowode started activities in Mityana, five years ago, it empowered men to champion family planning and also taught them to fight domestic violence.

While sensitising his peers, Serwadda tells them that family planning does not necessarily mean being sterilised but one can still use other methods to space their children.

Although he has done a lot to preach the gospel of family planning, he faces resistance from some men. However, he persists.

"I engage couples and the response is so far positive despite the reluctant ones," he says.

He also moves long distances to sensitise couples, which at times deters him from meeting his desired goal.

Stakeholder take

"We want men to appreciate the fact that family planning isn't a crime but rather a method to help couples have child spacing. In the past, men used to batter or divorce their wives who sought family planning but through sensitisation about its importance, they have embraced it and we need more men to also be agents of this campaign," Flavia Kalule, Fowode programmes coordinator says.

She adds that they are engaging government to ensure that each district gets a family planning budget to cater for families who would like to start family planning.

Credit: Amos Ngwomoya - www.allafrica.com