THE EARTH TIMES
MAY 18, 1993
‘Give women right information…’
BY ASHALI VARMA
Florence Manguyu, from Kenya is a pediatrician in private practice and is also president-elect of the Kenya Medical Women’s Association an NGO affiliated with the Medical Women’s International Association, Excerpts form an interview:
What is the main objective of your organization?
Our main objective is to improve the health of women in the communities we live in. Once a woman’s health and economic status improves and she is able to look after her children better, she will have fewer children. People have got to recognize the fact that even the illiterate woman has got common sense. We try to give women information that is vital to their health and well-being.
What are the chief problems that your organization faces in your outreach program?
The problem is that our services are fragmented. We are not always able to reach a woman when she’s young and before she starts a family. Women ask us “Where were you when we needed you?” Because we are only able to reach them after they have already had 6 or 7 children. Another problem is poverty. When a woman and her children’s survival is at stake, family planning is not the main issue.
How can your work in Kenya be significant to other African nations?
We are involved in a big way in preparing the country for The First Regional Congress of the Medical Women’s International Association Near East and Africa Region 29 November-3 December 1993. The conference will be held in Nairobi in Kenya and the theme is the health of women and safe motherhood. We serve as the secretariat to develop the national program of action to improve women and children’s health. This conference will bring people from several regions together to deal with women’s health and welfare including policy makers and health planners.
What else do you need to achieve your objectives of reaching out to all women at the grassroots level?
We could achieve a lot if we had more resources like finances and technical support to implement our ideas and our action plan. We need capacity building for our institutions and associations. We have now created a greater awareness of women’s issues in this country. We can send people out to give information and so we have been able to develop a human resource body, but we need more technically qualified people who would work on a voluntary basis.
Do you get adequate support from the government?
The work we do is complementary to the government’s work. We work for the community and we need government’s support when we want to change laws. So, although we don’t get financial support, the government facilitates our work and many of our members are government officials.
What does your organization hope to achieve at the International Conference for Population and Development?
The issues that are going to be discussed in the conference are human development issues. These are issues which we have been involved with, like health, refugees, women and children’s welfare, homelessness.
To be able to have the opportunity to have an input into the conference is wonderful. NGOs like us work at the grassroots level and we are in touch with the people, and this conference is about people. After Cairo there will be need for implementation of the action plan, and NGOs are the implementers. I also hope that the Cairo Conference, it is recognized that if we improve the status of women them family planning takes care of itself.