By Sheila Gabeya
The team of World Vasectomy Day filmmakers and storytellers set off for a trip to Western Kenya in a seven-passenger vehicle on a beautiful evening in Nairobi. It seems normal, but this is not just any trip. It is a journey back to the roots of what is now the largest male-focused family planning event in history. Indeed, it was in Busia on the border of Kenya on the 9th May 2012, where the idea for WVD was first imagined. It is, therefore, no surprise that Jonathan Stack and the team have decided to return to the place where it all started and even meet the doctor who did the actual vasectomy. Yet, the road to Busia passes through many communities, as they are eager to turn a spark into a raging fire. They begin in Nakuru, then Narok, then Kisii, Kisumu, Kakamega and finally Busia. All are lined up for what they are calling an Awareness Road Trip. They are working with IntraHealth, their primary sponsor, and guided by their wise field directors who will introduce them to authorities in family planning and the National Council for Population and Development.
Jonathan Stack, co-founder of World Vasectomy Day, is overcome with excitement about this journey and as the ‘elder statesman’ takes the front passenger seat. From the time when he last visited Busia to now, a lot has changed in his life and the lives of so many others. He is eager to know about new developments and how far vasectomy awareness has gone in this part of Kenya.
Silas Fischer, a young man with big dreams who hails from the state of New Hampshire, has returned for his second event, this time as WVD Director of Content. His expectation is to reach different communities and learn about their fears and the level of involvement men have in family planning. He plans to show some live vasectomies by connecting with doctors in other parts of the world. The goal is to inspire men to get more involved in family planning through raising awareness about the importance of gender equality and getting men to overcome their fears. Silas reminds us that the future of contraception and family planning also affects the economy of our country.
Silas says it is important to note that they are not targeting only men, just those who are certain their family is complete. He says, even those who are not yet ready for this permanent option, should get involved in the conversation with their partners so that they are participating in family planning and not putting all the responsibility on women.
There is also Sennah Akoi, Line Producer for WVD, who was not frightened when he first heard the word vasectomy. Sennah’s uncle had 30 children and adopted 45 more, but he is not of that mindset. Sennah often says, “When my community hears about my work for WVD, I might be excommunicated.” Unlike his family, Sennah maintains an open mind and liberal thinking. He believes in the mission, but Sennah loves the creative challenge of translating the project into films and images.
Being involved with WVD got him excited. Having self-initiated a cancer awareness documentary in 2014, he knows how powerful messaging can be when you combine audio and picture into a communication format. He feels honored to have teamed up with Jonathan Stack, a filmmaker himself, for WVD.
Sennah believes the aversion to vasectomies in Kenya is due to a lack of information. There haven’t been many discussions in this country about vasectomies, and the information that has been shared is incorrect. What people think is factual about vasectomies turns out to be a myth and because of this lack of information people speak out of fear. He is certain that if people have the proper information, they will have informed opinions and therefore make informed decisions.
Steven Sirengo is an editor, cameraman, and producer. He is excited to be part of this awareness road trip because he also believes in using film to create awareness. On a personal note, after Steven learned about the advantages of vasectomy, he now plans to have three children before getting a vasectomy.
Last but not least is the fearless driver, Zacharia Kagiri. Interestingly, like so many loving Kenyan men, Zacharia wouldn’t have minded having many children. At the end of the day, however, he knows what matters is not the number of children you have but the quality of education and life you can give them. It is for this reason that he has decided to get a vasectomy on November 18, arguing that if women can do a tubal ligation, why can’t men get a vasectomy?
Zacharia is especially happy to be part of this awareness road trip to hear the views of other men, and he is pleasantly surprised that many men are beginning to be open to the idea after they learn the facts about vasectomy.
The team is realistic. They know change takes time, but they are also dreamers who believe that when information is shared, bad attitudes change. And so they head off into the sunset in a nice new van. There are four eager passengers and a reliable driver to assure a safe journey. Tonight they depart from Nairobi, but by the time they stop, they will be dining and then sleeping in Nakuru. Every night for a straight week they will sleep in a different place, learning and teaching as they go.
Donate to build a sustainable vasectomy outreach program in Kenya! We’re looking for $35,000. Will you help? https://igg.me/at/rrp0V1ZxLSw
About the Author: Sheila Gabeya is a 25-year-old Ugandan writer and photographer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She will be documenting World Vasectomy Day triumphs and challenges through her pictures and storytelling.
Photo: Sheila Gabeya