Wise Choices for Life began in response to one of the root causes of poverty in developing countries: excessively high fertility rates. These in turn lead to maternal mortality rates that are extremely high, too many children for a family to care for, and an infrastructure that can’t keep up with the population growth. All these things make it really hard for a family, a community, let alone a country to get itself out of the poverty cycle.
John and Marg Docking travel to Uganda to serve as Interns with African Enterprise at Nile Vocational Institute (NVI) in Jinja. They start to see that learning a trade to make a viable living could not lift the young people from poverty whilst the cultural norm is to have a very large family.
Marg, in working alongside the institute nurse, started to see that the girls had little understanding of the way their bodies were created and there were frequent unplanned pregnancies. Many were told to leave the Institute if they were found to be pregnant. This meant they had to live on the streets, as their families would not accept them back at home.
Marg discussed the teenage pregnancy rate with the Director of the Institute, Cannon Bennon Kwikrisor, who was also concerned. Together, with a team of staff from the institute, they wrote and illustrated a culturally relevant manual on reproductive health to be used at NVI.
On returning to Australia Marg was encouraged to form a Board and start a Non-profit organisation to train trainers in all aspects of reproductive health and family planning. Wise Choices for Life was born and registered as a charity.
Marg returned to NVI three times to train their staff in how to effectively deliver the lessons outlined in the manual.
JENGA CDO, based in Mbale, invited Marg to come and train the JENGA staff. It was during this time that the training was crystallised into 3 specific modules with the aim of the participants completing an exam at the end to become ‘Certified Wise Choices for Life trainers’.
In November 2013 our first group of participants graduated and 16 people became ‘Wise Choices for Life Trainers’.
Our second group of Graduates completed the training and we appointed two Regional Coordinators in Uganda to provide follow up to the trainees, and help to monitor and evaluate the program.
We are also expanding beyond Mbale and NVI, with groups being trained from Jinja, Moyo in the North of Uganda and gaining interest from West Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Module 1 begins in Ethiopia.
The work continued with follow up training and revisiting Moyo, Jinja and Mbale for regular workshops. The Ugandan team under Joyce Kidulu as the regional Director begins to take shape. They form their own committee to direct the training and develop strong relationships with key stakeholders in Uganda. The Ministry of Health, Church of Uganda and Ugandan Christian University all endorse the training manuals and workshops.
Modules 2 and 3 are also completed in Ethiopia.
The sustainability of the workshops travel and funding limitations create a necessary change in our implementation. The centralised training in Mukono is now condensed to all 3 modules into one full week.
An intensive residential program is run at African Village Hotel and 30 participants complete the training from 11 organisations and 3 countries. Uganda Tanzania and Kenya. The training is 80% run by the Ugandan trainers.
The community work continues in Prisons and school’s community projects with Jenga and Joyce Kidulu in Mbale and Diana Ferrell from Jinja overseeing many workshops.
Students from the Ugandan Christian University complete module 1 under Joyce Kidulu’s team of volunteer facilitators.
So why start another NGO? We believe these are the things that make us different:
- Many reproductive health programs focus only on training women. We believe we need to empower men to be the instigators of change. Our training gives men the confidence to discuss these issues using traditional decision making processes that are already in place.
- Churches are not usually direct in talking about sexuality. We are empowering faith leaders to speak effectively about these issues, giving them the knowledge and skills to talk about sexuality. We aim to build their capacity so they can have a truly holistic approach in their ministry.
- We approach the subject of sexuality, not only from a medical and practical perspective, but a spiritual one as well. We believe that people’s behaviour comes from what they believe more so than what they are told.
- We challenge the existing world views on sexuality, helping people to understand the consequences of their behaviour, moving them towards personal responsibility for the children they father and mother.
- We focus on one of the sources of poverty, not just the manifestations of poverty. We are empowering young people to make a difference in their lives and their communities, to make a change for the future.
- We promote development of life skills so young people can make effective decisions to control their own fertility.