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Empowering women to become leaders in their communities

Nighty Achen lives in Kitenge Village in the Gulu district of northern Uganda with her husband and four children, and has been a member of her local women’s group for two years.

In fact, Nighty was one of the first women to be trained to be a group facilitator in her region, and has since become known throughout her village, and feels like a valued member of her community.

The women’s group that Nighty leads has 30 members and meets twice a month. In these meetings, women receive information about key health issues. Nighty proudly affirms that through the knowledge shared at her women’s group, members “understand signs of malaria, symptoms of miscarriage, the dangers of wrong childbirth positions and the effects of obstructed labour”.

The women’s group also set a by-law that all men need to accompany their wives to their antenatal care appointments and during births, a by-law greatly embraced by the community. Indeed, healthcare workers have noticed that pregnant group members are not only actively seeking health care, but are increasingly accompanied by their husbands.

Nighty herself has trained many other women in her region to become facilitators and lead their groups. Facilitators are local women who are trained by Women and Children First and our regional partners to help lead their women’s groups through a learning and action cycle. As such, facilitators are trained to involve all women and men in the group, and they enable group members to learn, share information and decide together how to address their problems.

Becoming a group facilitator has had a profound effect on Nighty’s life, as she now has many responsibilities and both her community and local healthcare workers listen to her. As Nighty describes it, “I am known by many people in my community and they value my work”. Through the training she has received and the knowledge shared in the women’s groups, Nighty has not only become empowered to be a leader in her community, but she has also helped save the lives of many women and children.

Women and Children First has been working with its partner Amref Health Africa Uganda in the Gulu and Amuru districts in northern Uganda since June 2014. The project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, focuses on mobilising communities and raising their awareness of the key issues underlying women’s maternal and reproductive health, as well as the health of newborns and children. Throughout the project, which is due to finish in May 2017, 150 women’s groups have been established and approximately 15,000 women and their families have been reached in these communities.