JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. successfully implemented the Together for Health for the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2005 to 2011. For further information on project activites, visit the TfH page on jsi.com.
Reaching Families, Opening Doors in Crimean-Tatar Communities
Katidge Chelebieva counseling a training participant on FP methods. (Photo: T.Golovko)
May 2010 - This story takes place in Ploshchyne, a village in the Bahchysaray district of Crimea, where two young people fell in love and had a baby. Because the couple was not married, the young father's parents wouldn't accept the young mother, who, after giving birth, had no choice but to stay at the Center for Mother and Child. The fate of this mother and child may well have been grim had it not been for a change of heart on the part of the child's grandfather, who, stirred with mercy and compassion after attending an educational seminar held by USAID Together for Health (TfH) and Ukrainian House, invited the mother and his grandchild into the family home.
It has not been easy for outsiders to gain entry to Crimean-Tatar communities, in large part because of Vahabism, the conservative religious-political movement that has proliferated in the region. "These communities were reluctant to communicate with 'strangers'," said Tatiana Golovko, Director of Ukrainian House, a community education center and USAID partner. "So we reached out to Katidge Sait Chelebieva, the head of the local women's consultation, who has been working in the area for more than 20 years and is trusted by the local population."
Ms. Chelebieva was happy to collaborate with TfH. "There is a great need for family planning education and reproductive health services here in Crimea," said Ms. Chelebieva. "But we have our local ways. Together for Health was willing to understand and work within the local context and for this reason the project's efforts are successful."
In early 2010, with Ms. Chelebieva's guidance, family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) educational activities in the Crimean-Tatar communities of Bahchysaray district were initiated. TfH collaborated with community members, social workers, young teachers, students, and NGO specialists to develop various behavior change interventions. They wrote up questionnaires to interview people of reproductive age, both before the initiatives began and after they had taken place. The 'before' and 'after' responses showed positive attitude changes and increased knowledge about family planning and reproductive health.
The key has been collaboration. "Many private and public organizations and individuals have helped us organize the activities," said Ms. Golovko. "With all this support, we've been able to get this community—especially youth—involved." In only 11 months, "We have covered the population of the entire district, including its villages and towns," said Ms. Golovko. "We've held seminars for health professionals, and educational sessions and other events. Our two trainers have made reproductive health information available to more than 1,000 people, and the number of visits to family planning cabinets has increased."
One of those who noticed TfH's sessions was the aforementioned grandfather, who, in his role as a village functionary, attended a seminar entitled, "Family planning and preservation of reproductive health." At the conclusion of the seminar, he confided to Ms. Golovko the situation with his son and his girlfriend. After discussing the matter with her and reflecting upon all he had learned in the seminar, he decided to open his home to his grandchild and its mother.
Of course not all chapters of life have a happy ending, as did the story of the young mother from Ploshchyne village. But the birth of a baby should be a happy moment. TfH's educational activities in these communities are helping people of reproductive age—and their families—to plan and experience this joyous occasion when they are ready.
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