Immaculate grew up with seven siblings, and when she got pregnant at 15, her father, a small-scale fish trader, stopped paying school fees for Immaculate and her sisters, instead investing in the education of his sons. “My father had very many children, so he could not afford to take care of all of us. … I felt bad about it. I was really angry .… I loved to study and wanted to be a nurse,” said Immaculate.
Unable to finish school and pursue her dream, Immaculate followed her mother’s path and began making a local brew she sells for a small fee in her small village of Busia, located on Uganda’s eastern border with Kenya. Still, she and her husband, who works as a farmer, struggle to afford school for their five children. “Right now my biggest challenge is having my children educated. I am worried about my capability to pay for school fees,” she said.
Immaculate receiving her contraceptive shot from her neighbor and community health volunteer, Jackqueline.
Immaculate has five children and shared that she does not want to have any more, and is was grateful to Jackqueline, her neighbor who comes to her home every three months to provide her with Depo Provera, a three-month contraceptive injection.
Before she began receiving services from Jackqueline, Immaculate faced challenges accessing contraception. “Sometimes you would go [to the clinic] and there were many people, and you would have to wait. … Once I went and there were no [contraceptive] commodities,” she explained. “I honestly would have at least 15 children by now if I didn’t use family planning.”
Immaculate with two of her sons and their home in Busia, Uganda
She stressed that she wants her children’s lives to be different from hers, saying, “I would love to have my children go to school and become educated, as compared to how I was.”
Immaculate’s story is not singular. One in three women in Uganda have an unmet need for family planning. The United States, the largest government funder of global family planning programs, is stepping up to help Immaculate and women like her. The U.S. provides almost $14 million for family planning in Uganda, the backbone of the country’s reproductive health budget. The U.S. is also a major contributor to FHI360, the NGO that provided reproductive health education in Immaculate’s village, and the UN Population Fund, which provides the bulk of the contraceptive commodities in Uganda.
Women waiting for services at a health clinic in Uganda
Despite these critical investments, demand is still outstripping supply in Uganda. Countries like Uganda have long relied on donor countries to cover the cost of contraceptives, but today the world is facing a contraceptive crisis, with a funding gap of at least $847 million.
The international community, with the U.S. in the lead, has the opportunity to increase its support for international family planning programs in Uganda and other countries to ensure Immaculate and every woman around the world can choose when, whether, and how many children she has. Click here to learn more and take action.
“Sometimes you would go [to the clinic] and there were many people, and you would have to wait. … Once I went and there were no [contraceptive] commodities.”