A new perspective
20-year-old Nandakali is only woman in the family. She lives with her father-in-law, husband, two-year-old son and two brothers-in-law. Not having another female to talk to and confide with was challenging for her when she first came to her husband’s house at the age of 16. She liked her husband and got married when she was in grade eight. Her challenges were bigger when she was pregnant and gave birth to a child at the age of 18.
Both Nandakali and her husband were school dropouts without proper knowledge of family planning, care during pregnancy and childcare. “Being a mother at an early age is difficult. It’s even more challenging when you have no one to teach you how to become one,” says Nadakali. She raised her son seeing other mothers in the community but was always unsure if she was doing it right. It is only after she joined the HTNYP (Healthy Transition for Nepali Youth Project) group sessions, she realized taking care of oneself and a child had a lot more perspective.
Though her father in-law was supportive, her husband disapproved the idea of joining the group. “You better stay home and take care of our boy,” he would say. She had to take her two-year-old to the sessions as her husband would not look after him. Nandakali recalls how she used to lie to her husband to attend sessions. “I lied because I knew the sessions were beneficial for me and my little child. It was beneficial for the family, but he would not understand this”, Nandakali adds.
But one day, her husband came home after participating in one of the Pragati games conducted by the project in communities to promote male engagement in maternal and reproductive health discussion. Nandakali could not stop smiling when he came home and shared what he learnt through the game. “He shared about fertile and infertile days, contraceptives, family planning, and for the first time asked what I learn in the sessions. I said we learn similar things. He supported and encouraged me to attend sessions ever since. And I could leave our son with him for the sessions,” Nandakali happily shares.
Out of everything she learnt in 24 sessions, she found information on contraception and balanced diet most useful to her. “I had left using Depo Provera in the fear of side-effects and was always worried of conceiving. But in the sessions, I learnt, the side-effects are normal and will go away in some time,” she says. Now, she has used a family planning method and is happy to be able to plan the family as she prefers.
She also learnt about balanced diet and the importance of giving children a well-balanced food. When she Iearnt that 80% of child’s brain is developed during first two years, she has been more careful regarding nutrition of her child. Previously, when her son would feel hungry, she would feed him whatever was available, without much caring about nutrition. She did not know which food contain what nutrition and how to balance the nutrition in meal.
“Now I can recognize common food around us and what nutrition they contain. Though we do not earn much, I buy nutritious foods to feed my son,” she says and continues, “the child is healthy now. He has gained weight and has become taller. I wish I knew about all these things during my pregnancy and when the child was smaller. I am however grateful that I attended those sessions. I will apply and share whatever I have learnt so that new mothers have proper knowledge of nutrition, childcare, and contraception.
Nandakali has gained new perspective because of the sessions she attended. She is a more confident mother and her relationship with her husband has improved. The sessions have changed her husband who now supports her in household works and childcare duties. He also respects her decision regarding family planning. Nandakali happily says, “we are a happy family now”. Through fortnightly group sessions, HTNYP has reached 15697 adolescent girls and young women.