In an attempt to not only impact but also empower the lives of women in South Sudan, the breadth of the programs developed by the Strengthening Midwifery Services Project is intentionally widespread. All the initiatives place a strong emphasis on gender equality and empowerment, with services included to provide easier access as well as further control for women, when it comes to taking charge of their health and, ultimately, their lives. As South Sudan is predominantly a patriarchal society, many women are not aware that they have options when it comes to childbearing and health decisions. Even if they are cognizant of these, a lot of mothers don’t necessarily feel comfortable exercising these options. This is especially true among uneducated women living in rural areas. The idea of family planning, the use of contraceptives and other maternal health care support are novel concepts in many communities across South Sudan.
“My father has eight wives and 24 children,” says Peter Door, one of the national UN Volunteer midwives employed under the SMS Project. “He told me to marry and have lots of kids, but I thought educating one is better than educating many as you won’t be able to afford the latter.” Having graduated from the scholarship programme in 2016, Door has been working at Rumbek Hospital as a midwife for the past year and a half. He says his large family is not the exception – in fact it is the norm. For Door, by deciding to have one child instead of eight is already a step in the right direction with regards to family planning. “And that’s what we want to share with everyone,” he says. Through the SMS Project, awareness on family planning, antenatal and postnatal care increased.
Midwife Judith Draleu at the maternity award at Juba Teaching Hospital Juba South Sudan
Midwife Peter Door in Rumbek
“In 2014, an average 40 mothers came to the family planning clinic every month,” says Judith Draleru, an international UNV midwife in Juba Teaching Hospital. “Now, between 150 and 170 mothers come monthly.” Draleru says that when more women realize they have options, the more likely they are to talk to each other and spread the word. Since working for the SMS Project, Draleru has witnessed a marked increase in the number of women and girls who avail of maternal health services. Midwives across the country echo her observation. “In 2015, family planning increased by at least 20 per cent,” says Gordon Magang Dhukpuou, a midwife at Kiir Mayardit Women’s Hospital in Rumbek. He has seen a huge surge in mothers coming for antenatal services. With services in place and women accessing health care, the SMS Project builds on the momentum by supporting the rehabilitation and refurbishment of health facilities.
Kiir Mayardit Women’s Hospital in Rumbek where UNFPA has national and international volunteer midwives working on the maternity and antenatal clinic. Rumbek South Sudan