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Wisdom of the elders

VSO/ Georgie Scott

Three older people reflect on the changes they’ve seen in their lifetimes.

“I wish we had treatment like this in my days”

Here, great-grandmother Doroti, 64, washes her three-day-old granddaughter.

VSO/ Georgie Scott

Great-grandmother Doroti, 64, is pictured here washing her three-day-old granddaughter.

Her 19-year old daughter Prossy, has just given birth at the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, in Uganda, and is being monitored by VSO volunteer midwife Marianne Bontenbal. 

“I’ve produced 11 children of my own. I never came to the hospital to deliver any of them, I always delivered from home. It was normal in those days to give birth at home; it was the only option. 

“So many things have changed from how it used to be.

“When I was younger you would have easily died from the complications some of the mothers have experienced. Now they are able to come to the hospital, they can be worked on faster than ever before, and they are fine.

“One of my children died at one and a half years old the other died at four years old. There was nothing at the hospital for us.

“The way the hospital runs now is so different. I feel good seeing these changes. I wish we had treatment like this in my days.”

VSO/ Georgie Scott

The care Doroti’s granddaughter is receiving is far better than she was able to receive in her childbearing days.

Across Uganda, the number of women dying from birth-related complications has halved since 1990, while the proportion of newborns that don’t survive the first 28 days has been cut by almost two thirds. 

With your support, we were able to provide training and equipment to cut the newborn death rate by over 30%. 

 “There have been a lot of changes in this society”

VSO/ Suraj Shakya

Reema, 52, and her family have taken part in a VSO project reducing violence against women and family conflict in Baglung, Nepal. She reflects on the changes she’s seen in her lifetime. 

“I got married at the age of 13. My father arranged it.

“I felt very frightened. All of a sudden I had to leave my parents’ lap and go to another house to work as a wife.

“I tried to go back to my parents but they said, “your husband’s house is your home now, so you should go there, live there”. I used to feel bad. I used to get very afraid when I saw my husband.

“In those days daughters weren’t sent to school. Chances were if they were sent to school, they wouldn’t do well in their life, because ultimately they were raised to get married.

“It was not appropriate for a woman to talk back to a man – not even her own husband. But today with the training, everybody is talking to each other, sharing problems, and their thoughts, with each other. 

“So there have been a lot of changes in this society, and especially in this community. Whenever something happens, all the people gather to discuss what’s going on and decide what to do as one community.”

The share of girls in Nepal who go through child marriage has decreased by 21% in 2016. But levels of child marriage and gender inequality are still high. VSO is using interactive theatre to help start conversations about early marriage and helping older ‘sisters’ in the community to mentor younger girls, encouraging them to stay in school. 

“All of us are changing”

VSO/ Peter Caton

Alhaji Amara Job Goyway-Sama V is Paramount Chief of Tunkia, Sierra Leone. Here, VSO has been supporting the Fambul Initiative Network for Equality (FINE) to tackle gender-based violence, which is widespread across a country that was plagued by decades of

“As a Paramount Chief it is my responsibility to safeguard and protect the people within my chiefdom. “Some men can be brutal towards their wives. They may treat them like slaves. They fight all the time.

“Before this project started, we would settle gender-based violence cases out of court. “But not now. All of us are changing. We learnt that women are partners. They are not there to be slaves. We must support our women.

“There is now a reduction in domestic incidences within the chiefdom. There is a transformation within our communities. Men are starting to respect their wives as their peers. “I am proud we are peacemakers in our chiefdom. Others follow our example, and I pray that we will live in a conflict-free environment.”

VSO’s work in Sierra Leone has reached 2,763 people in the past year alone using male-led advocacy to change attitudes to gender-based violence, and support survivors to access justice.

Around one in three women in the world will face physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner. In Sierra Leone, domestic violence is common, but through VSO's work there is the promise of progress. 

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