By Anna Antoni, KF11, Indonesia
Sex. Ok, reproductive health. Let’s talk about reproductive health in a language you don’t speak. Ok, conversational, but far from professional. And now the setting: a women’s health training for clients from the Kiva field partner Koperasi Mitra Usaha Kecil (MUK) in a village in Bali, Indonesia.
When I REALLY realized this, I couldn’t stop wearing a huge happy grin before I started…
In a previous post I wrote about women in Indonesia, motivated by the national day for women’s emancipation in April and the fact that the Kiva field partner MUK focuses on empowerment of women. Now I had the chance to actively take part in this stage of empowerment of entrepreneurs and I want to share my thoughts during preparations for this delicate training.
Reproductive health is a topic that is under-represented everywhere in the world. Of course sex is everywhere- in TV, cinema, internet, music, magazines, (your life?)- but when it comes to serious discussions and education, the sources shrink. When modern media is not easily accessible like in rural areas, this topic is even less present.
Nowadays at least one of the sexually transmitted diseases AIDS and the use of condoms are subject of extensive education and awareness campaigns but there is so much more to be discussed without shame to support health in all it’s dimensions (see WHO definition of health). I could fill pages with topics related to reproductive health but this is not the proper place…
So, what to pick for clients who are mainly women who live in small villages in Bali and want to improve their and their families living conditions by taking a loan at MUK for their small businesses?
Things that came to my mind were all about empowerment.
Empowerment can mean being able to make active decisions. When to have a baby is one of them, so I emphasized the basics of contraception and I bet some of the readers are just thinking “so, when again can a woman become pregnant?” Yes, it’s not for granted to know this (it’s roughly 5 days in the middle between two menstruations by the way) and that’s some useful information also for men and their patience…
Now imagine living in a village where everyone knows each other and where gender roles are more conservative than you may know it from big cities around the world! Could you just walk in a store and buy condoms even if they are available? I don’t know many women who don’t feel embarrassed at all to buy condoms even in the biggest supermarket in Austria. Seeing a doctor to request contraception isn’t so much easier or pleasant for most…
For women who have a few stones in the way (even literally) to buy condoms or get the prescription for contraception methods other than condoms, basic knowledge about the fertile period and natural contraception can mean a lot- even if it’s not the safest method.
Another obstacle I wanted to minimize through knowledge was when to see a doctor and what to expect. Again no topic only relevant for villagers. Sooner or later everyone will face a situation where he or she asks “hm, is this normal or should I see a doctor?” like a strange smell from your private parts for example…”What if my question is totally stupid?” like if there is something you can do if you are pregnant but your financial situation doesn’t predict a rosy future for your child or how to avoid such a situation.
These are only some of the universally important and equally controversial issues for health which are connected to living conditions and I am happy that I was able to contribute to this important step in empowerment of entrepreneurs in Bali. But most of all I am happy to see that there are successful organizations like MUK which face such delicate but important topics- THANK YOU for that MUK!
And now that I’ve started- another thank you to all the lenders who support all the microfinance institutions around the world that work on improving living conditions for the working poor!
If you want to support MUK and their work, join the MUK Kiva lending team!
This Kiva Fellow is a “fresh” graduate from Medicine who during her studies worked as a volunteer in the organization Achtung*Liebe. They perform sexual education workshops for school children in Vienna, Austria.