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In the midst of strong negative social norms, this couple prevails as champions of change.

Paschal and his wife Paulina with their daughter at their home in Mara region.

In the midst of strong negative social norms, this couple prevails as champions of change.

| Richard Ryaganda

In the face of challenging negative social norms, Paschal Julius Gekondo (23 years old) and his wife, Paulina Mafuru (20 years old), have emerged as beacons of change in their community.

Living in Nyamimange ward in the Mara region, Paschal supports his family through farming, ensuring his wife and daughter are well provided for. Their journey towards knowledge about sexual reproductive health and family planning began when they were introduced to the it by Janeth, a UMATI community health worker under the #WISH2ACTION programme in Mara region. This led them to attend special youth weekend clinics regularly since 2021, at the time Paschal was 21 years old and Paulina was 18, despite the negative social and gender norms surrounding family planning.

UMATI community health worker, Janeth during a household visit.

Motivated by the invaluable information provided at the clinics, Paschal explained that embracing family planning allowed them to break free from negative social and gender norms. “Proper family planning helps avoid challenges that arise when children are born with little spacing between them, such as economic strain when both children fall sick are supposed to go to school simultaneously.” Paschal mentioned.

With a one-year-old daughter, Paschal and Paulina have already adopted a long-term family planning method, a 5-year implant. “By using this method, we have a clear vision of our family’s future, aiming to have four children with standard spacing of 3 to 4 years between each child.” Said Paulina This approach contrasts with the larger family sizes commonly embraced in their community, where rumors and misconceptions about family planning methods abound.

To combat these misconceptions, Paschal and Paulina actively educate their peers and close acquaintances about sexual reproductive health and the benefits of family planning. They dispel myths and encourage informed choices, as evidenced by Paschal’s elder brother, who initially wanted to have children in rapid succession but later changed his mind after the fourth child. Now, he also uses family planning to ensure a more suitable spacing between children.

As beneficiaries of #WISH2ACTION, Paschal and Paulina make the most of their knowledge to empower other adolescents and youth in their community. By advocating for informed decision-making, they aim to free young individuals from unintended pregnancies, early marriages, and maternal health risks, fostering a sense of independence and self-fulfillment.

Overall, #WISH2ACTION programme is making a significant impact in the underserved communities of Tanzania, including Mara region, by reaching out to thousands of adolescents and youth. The program seeks to empower young people, enabling them to make wise choices and lead fulfilling lives, unburdened by unintended pregnancies, early marriages, and maternal health issues, while promoting the development of a self-reliant society.