Nigerian Chronicles IX- PPFA in Gboko

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on November 7th, 2010 by tuschman

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So far I have been documenting family planning in Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria.  This next post brings us back together with Thank-God Okosun and PPFA’s activities in an evangelical Christian community in Gboko, Benue State. The NKST (Nongo u Kristi u k Sudan hen Tiv) Church, whose headquarters we visited, has 127,115 members distributed among 298 well established congregations. As Nigeria provides little to no health care service for its citizens, the church had taken over this responsibility by being a health care provider;  9 hospitals and 123 primary health centers are managed by NKST.

The highly restrictive religious bias against reproductive health issues is a serious cause for concern in Nigeria. Most religious organizations view issues of reproductive health, particularly issues of sexuality and family planning, as immoral. Seven years ago PPFA was able to partner with the NKST church in altering this cultural and religious perception. Family planning, sex education and post abortion care are now accepted throughout the church and the fact that the church has a well established network of hospitals and clinics has made this PPFA project an effective one for reaching a large number of potential clients.

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Nigerian Chronicles VIII- Social Networking

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, womens reproductive healthcare on October 31st, 2010 by tuschman

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In a small village an hour outside Kano I was asked to photograph a large congregation of people inside a small courtyard. Apparently this was the beginning of a wedding ceremony where Traditional Birth Attendants take the opportunity to dispense birth control materials  and  engage in family planning discussions. My initial impression was that there were more birth attendants than guests, but it was only the very beginning of the  celebration.

Two experienced TBA’s from CEDPA ( Center for Development and Population Activities) were among the first guests.

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Nigerian Chronicles VII- Hospitals

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Uncategorized, womens reproductive healthcare on October 25th, 2010 by tuschman

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Abortions are illegal in Nigeria; nevertheless, abortions occur and as they happen under non-medical conditions, serious complications are all too frequent. Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital (MMSH) is the primary public sector hospital in Kano State and has the largest program for treating women for complications of unsafe abortions. Although the hospital serves mainly woman in Kano, patients from neighboring Nigerian states and countries as far away as Mali and Niger seek treatment here as well. I was informed that due to lack of blood storage facilities, the MMSH is one of only three comprehensive obstetric care facilities in the state able to provide the full range of life saving obstetric services. Trained nurses and midwives treat women suffering from incomplete abortion with manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) in a dedicated procedure room. Care is available 24 hours a day.  Women normally wait only 30 minutes to be treated, and most go home within an hour after treatment, after receiving counseling and choosing a contraceptive method.

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Nigerian Chronicles VI: Bixby Girls Education

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, education, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects on October 17th, 2010 by tuschman

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An hour outside of Kaduna, we arrived in a small village to document the Bixby Girls’ Education project. It was raining, and as we waited outside a small mud structure, a few women came to sweep out the water that had accumulated on the floor and then proceeded to lay down a dry carpet. About 15 girls appeared, and they all sat down in a big circle in the room and took turns reading from a single, soft covered book.

The girls are taught once a week in the afternoon from 3 PM to 5 PM. Every group of fifteen girls has one mentor. The books consist of some folklore stories that teach them cultural values; other books teach the girls the basics of child-raising and simple ways of combating deadly diseases through vaccines, including practical details of when to get them and where they are available. Other books discuss health-related issues: oral rehydration therapy, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality.

During the Children’s Day Celebration, the girls are normally taken out for excursions to various places with Program Officers and their mentors. The girls started this program completely illiterate, but now they can read and write without much difficulty.

Some girls were removed from the program by their parents, who had arranged marriages for their daughters.  Nevertheless, some of these girls later came back to continue with their studies.

I was very moved by the intensity of these girls as a single, very worn book was passed around so each girl could take a turn reading a single passage. Their attention was complete and unwavering as they were soaking up each and every word that was read aloud.

When everyone had had a turn reading, the mentor brought out a laptop computer and all the girls surrounded her, jostling with each other to be able to get a view of the computer screen. There was an image on the screen of a building in Europe (or the U.S.), and their hunger to get a glimpse of the outside world was palpable.

I have to admit from my Western eyes, I felt very sad that these girls were unlikely to ever have a chance to achieve their potential, to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, artists; their choice was limited to getting married and to having frequent pregnancies. I think it is wonderful that they learned how to read and write, but I could sense from photographing them that there was so much more they could achieve.

Nigeria has the wealth to educate these young girls and it is very unfortunate that the government can’t provide a full education that would give them the choice and the opportunity to attend a university. These girls’ situation is not unique; unfortunately, it is all too common. Their tragic loss of potential belongs not only to these young students who have such a desire to learn, but also to the nation of Nigeria and to the wider world.

The Emir of the village. It is customary to always greet an Emir when entering a village and get his permission to visit and photograph.

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Nigerian Chronicles V: SWODEN in Kano

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on October 11th, 2010 by tuschman

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SWODEN is a foundation supported by the Packard Foundation that operates in Kano, the second most populous Nigerian city after Lagos, which has an estimated population of 2.1 million inhabitants (from the 2006 Nigerian census).  SWODEN is a multi-faceted NGO, whose work encompasses women’s reproductive health care, girl’s education, vocational-skills training, and microfinance – all with the express purpose of empowering women.

The SWODEN Community School project is designed to break the cycle of hopelessness that children experience from their impoverished environment. The school has operated since 2001 and is designed to give the students a positive, hopeful dimension to their lives.  So far, the school has graduated 127 pupils, with many of them going on to secondary school.  A total of 87 students are currently attending classes.   The school offers scholarships, and provides the basic educational materials needed to attend, including uniforms, bags, sandals, books and writing materials.  Of course, guidance and counseling are always available to each and every student.

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Nigerian Chronicles IV- PPFA in Maiduguri

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on October 3rd, 2010 by tuschman

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In Maiduguri, PPFA ( again supported by Packard Foundation grants) had set up a Reproductive Health Information and Services Center run by youth peer educators. PPFA considers peer to peer interaction very critical for successful youth and adolescent reproductive health programming. The philosophy behind these programs, according to Thank-God Okosun, the PPFA Program Officer here , “like poles attract and unlike poles repel”.  PPFA has invested heavily in training young peer counselors to implement their educational activities, especially  in contraception and safe sexual practices. They are also trained to refer clients for post abortion care and unintended pregnancies for possible counseling and services. Emergency Contraceptives have also been introduced and considering the conservative religious climate, this is seen as a major point of progress in family planning programming.

PPFA’s Youth Friendly Center is very much like a boys and girls club for teenagers. There is a pool table and other recreational activities and every opportunity is used engage teenagers and educate them on sexual reproductive health issues.

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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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Recent News- May 2010

Posted in Awards, News, Recent Projects on May 14th, 2010 by tuschman

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It’s been a busy first part of 2010 and I have been fortunate that my photography has been well received. I had an exhibit of my work for a malaria prevention and treatment program (sponsored by Pfizer) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I was also chosen to be the featured exhibiting photographer at this year’s Pacific Health Summit (http://www.pacifichealthsummit.org/ ) to be held in London June 22-24th. This year’s topic is on newborn and maternal healthcare.

Also in June, Columbia Mailman School of Public Health will feature my work in Ethiopia at the Women Deliver conference (http://www.womendeliver.org/conferences/-2010-conference/ ). And as an extra bonus, the San Francisco Arts Commission, in conjunction with the International Museum of Women, chose 5 of my images from Capital of Hope, a book on microfinance and girls’ education, to be in a group exhibit on Picturing Power and Potential (http://www.sfartscommission.org/gallery/2010/picturing-power-potential/) to be shown at San Francisco City Hall. The opening is June 15th from 5:30- 7:30 pm.  I was also informed that Blurb will be using Capital of Hope, in their marketing efforts as an example of a well-photographed, designed and produced book.

The last two weeks of April I traveled in China photographing marketing materials for a new venture, WinVivo, that will be selling pure extracts of Chinese botanicals that have been used for centuries combined in innovative ways for disease prevention. In July, I have plans to photograph in Nigeria for the Packard Foundation to dodocument their ten year anniversary of successful efforts in women’s reproductive healthcare programscument their ten year anniversary of successful efforts in women’s reproductive healthcare programs.

Microfinance Grantee- One of Five Images Selected for Exhibition