Nigerian Chronicles III- PPFA in Gwoza

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, womens reproductive healthcare on September 27th, 2010 by tuschman

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Gwoza is a community in northern Nigeria that is over 90% Muslim. As recently as six years ago it was inconceivable to imagine any birth control or family planning options. They were regarded as taboo. The accepted norm was that  “God gives children and God will provide for the children”. It was therefore not unusual to see women giving birth to 10 or more children. The cultural belief system encouraged the high rate as the more children a women had, the more respect she received  from her husband and the greater her status within the  community.

Six years ago, PPFA (Planned Parenthood Federation of America) started to bring a new perspective to these cultural beliefs. Traditional rulers and district heads are  recognized as gate keepers in the community; they are the custodians of the native laws and customs and as such, are revered and respected. PPFA spent considerable time convincing these rulers that family planning would benefit their communities.

The following photos and commentaries will hopefully give a fuller sense of the program activities of PPFA in Gwoza. Again, all these programs are funded by the Packard Foundation. And to add a disclaimer, any opinions here are mine and do not reflect the policies or opinions of the Packard Foundation.

The main street in Gwoza is, in fact, the main thoroughfare in this area. Many young men loiter around here-  the unemployment rate is upwards of 40% and educations doesn’t seem to be a serious option in this part of the country. PPFA health care workers attract the attention of these young men with bullhorns and informational posters and the promise of free condoms.

This poster reads: “Your wives/women are like your farmlands. If they are given a break from childbearing/adequate spacing of child births, their health and well being is at its BEST”. There was a great deal of interest expressed by these young men in what the health care workers had to say.

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Nigerian Chronicles II- Yola Nomadic Schools

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, education, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on September 21st, 2010 by tuschman

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These schools were funded by the Packard Foundation.  According to the foundation, the education of girls is the best indicator of reproductive health outcomes as they mature into women of child bearing age. The plan is to make sure these children will receive an education that will carry them through secondary school.

While these young girls  (and boys) are in the classroom, their parents also are instructed on reproductive health care issues. I was under the impression that the education was limited to the seasonal time that their families spent in this region grazing their cattle, but I was mistaken. Migratory patterns have become more erratic. This area, along the 10th parallel in Africa, is a region greatly affected by climate change. The deserts to the north are moving south by the rate of a quarter to a half mile per year and the frequent droughts make it all the more difficult for these tribes to follow their traditional migratory routes.

Now the mothers and children stay here while the fathers assume the nomadic life, following the rains with their herds.  One of the hidden blessings is that these children now have an opportunity to receive an education.

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The Nigerian Chronicles- I

Posted in Documentary | Photography, Non Profit, Recent Projects on September 13th, 2010 by tuschman

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This past July I was assigned  by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation to photograph their maternal and child health care programs in Nigeria. The Packard Foundation had made an executive decision to terminate their programs after ten years of very multifaceted and comprehensive involvement in all aspects of women’s reproductive health care, including promoting education for young girls. I spent ten very intense days photographing their various programs and even though I covered only 20% of their activities, I feel that we documented enough of the work to highlight many significant issues that were being addressed. The projects I covered raise many important political, cultural and efficacy questions which I will briefly discuss during these posts and as a final post to the Nigerian chronicles, I will address in more detail.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, the eighth most populated country in the world, with a population estimated to be over 155 million. One out of every five Africans is a Nigerian.  Nigeria has been undergoing explosive population growth and has one of the highest growth and fertility rates in the world. The country is culturally divided between the Muslim north and the Christian south. The Packard Foundation was the first foundation to implement family planning and maternal health care programs in the Muslim northern  half of the country. It was in this region of the country that I did my work.

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