Auburn Uniting Church in Hawthorn is a world away from Eastern Uganda. Yet these communities are united by a desire to empower people to make choices that can improve the lives of women and children in the African country.
This month, Auburn UC will hold its fourth ‘Bling Fling’ sale of jewellery and other items, with all money raised going to support the Wise Choices for Life (WCL) program.
Established by Australian midwife, Marg Docking, Wise Choices for Life is especially designed by Ugandans for Ugandans to train them in reproductive health and family planning.
Mrs Docking said these subjects can be challenging to talk about in any culture, but they can be particularly off-limits in this African nation.
“Uganda is a beautiful nation, full of beautiful people,” Mrs Docking said.
“But with a population growth rate that ranks amongst the highest in the world, the population is set to explode to nearly a fivefold increase in less than 40 years, entrapping the nation in poverty and instability.”
For a program such as WCL to work, it is vital to involve local people in the education process. Some women in remote communities feel their only purpose in life is to bear children. It is not uncommon in some villages for women in their 30s to have up to 12 children.
For any women, bearing this number of children presents significant health risks, such as haemorrhage. But in a country like Uganda, where health services are extremely difficult to access, these risks could lead to death.
Mrs Docking said it has been exciting to see Ugandans grasp the message and take it back to their own communities.
“We train others to talk about how God created our bodies. This helps them work toward solutions from their own cultural perspective,” Mrs Docking said.
“We don’t impose our ideals, rather we lead people toward seeking wise answers to understanding and using our sexuality responsibly, leading to harmony in life.”
The importance of this approach was highlighted with the example of Ugandan man, Fred Kintu, who overheard local midwives conducting a clinic for women.
“Using charts and diagrams and local languages to explain both natural and scientific family planning methods, the midwives stood under trees in an antenatal clinic where at least 30 to 50 mothers were gathered,” Mrs Docking said.
“They discussed the advantages of child spacing and dangers associated with having seven or more babies.
“After hearing what was being taught, Fred knew he needed to learn how to teach this subject to men. He grasped the concepts quickly and now can often be seen moving around the villages talking to young men helping them think critically, become responsible fathers and consider the environmental issues of having large families.”
Mrs Docking was keen to know why Fred had taken such an interest and his answer was simple. “My father had nine wives and I am one of 80 children,” he said.
The benefits of the program are being seen throughout Uganda. Mrs Docking said a local midwife, Christine, recently told her of two women who had each safely given birth to their ninth child. Christine explained to their husbands the risks involved in another pregnancy, and both families agreed to a permanent form of family planning.
“These are people without access to google or even text books,” Mrs Docking said.
“If Christine had not passed on the education she received, these mothers would have been pregnant a tenth time. If they had died in childbirth they would leave nine orphaned children at home. That would have been 18 motherless children in one village, placing huge pressure on the community.”
For information on Wise Choices for Life go to: