Saturday, July 21, 2012

Have your say: Family planning is your choice!.

By Meluse Kapatamoyo

“Women must have the power to choose how many and when to have children” stated David Cameron, the British Prime Minister at the recent summit on Family Planning held in London.

Cameron believes that preventing women from making that choice compromises their chance of a better life in the future.

He added that “fewer children increase chances for better healthcare and better education for children…we know this works because smaller families are healthier and wealthier.”

Cameron’s call came with Britain’s pledge to double its budgetary support for family planning to Africa and other poor nations elsewhere.

While Cameron’s statement may sound empowering to most women, there are still growing concerns that side-effects, costs, ease of use, access and communication between couples often hinder the success of family planning methods.

In most African communities, negotiating for sex and the use of any planning methods remains a man’s prerogative. Only he has the final choice on how many children the couple should have. A woman’s role, unfortunately, still remain, to ensure that his wishes are followed.

Although traditionally women undergo initiation ceremonies where they are taught everything from how to look after a man to how to sexually satisfy him in bed once in marriage, they are not given the voice to negotiate for sex or the use of contraceptives.

Kyapa, an ardent follower on my blog added her voice saying "I strongly feel our culture in Zambia has betrayed the women and sentenced them to silence....!! The tradition tells a woman that they should do what the man says the line of sex it in fact teaches the woman to be so submissive in that is their role to please the opposite sex.

I feel we should then direct our sensitization to these women especially in rural areas were once they reach puberty these teachings are embedded in them. Surely and truly may we all women learn."

Meeting the current need for modern contraception would reduce pregnancy-related deaths by 79,000 in the developing world. Most of this reduction – a drop of 48,000 maternal deaths – would take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest levels of maternal mortality and unmet need for modern contraception.

The good news for Zambian women is that government at the same summit also announced that it had doubled its budgetary allocation in a bid to reach the vulnerable majority who needed these critical services.

Dr Joseph Katema, Zambia’s minister of Community Development, Mother and Child said that funding from government will be complimented by additional contributions from donors' “Family planning and commitments to increase the contraceptive coverage for modern methods have gone up from 33 percent to 58 percent.”

In a statement released by Amos Chanda, press secretary at the Zambian embassy in London, government’s approach to achieving this will be broken into three categories; policy changes, significant increase of financial resources allocation to family planning and improving delivery.

Government further intends to dialogue with stake holders in order to reach  the underserviced populations such as religious populations and traditional leaders, including its other departments in order to increase contraceptive coverage.

Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said the organisation plans to spend one billion dollars of aid money to help advance family planning services in poor countries especially among women and girls.

However, as government and various stakeholders continue to pump money to close gaps hindering family planning, there should be deliberate efforts made to communicate and ensure that women understand why it is important to have a say and control on how many children they should have.

An anonymous contributor wondered "why reproductive health is only taught in clinics and other counselling places. I suggest, churches, places of learning should all learn even at tender age. Imagine thinking its taboo talking about safe sex with your children and they get to learn from friends about unprotected sex, surely it doesn't pay."

"We have got to talk about it openly so that everyone can acquire this knowledge. My biggest problem is the NGOs who make all the noise but do very little in terms of educating men and women, the so called modest in rural areas."

"Their concentration has been on women when they are supposed to concentrate on men. We (men) need the data than our counterparts in skirts."

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin noted that “as our numbers keep growing past 7 billion, and so many (people) suffer from poverty, poor health and lack of opportunities, it is more important than ever to ensure that every child is wanted and that everyone has the power and the right to manage their own fertility.”

And a recent study Adding It up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services- Estimates for 2012 released in June 2012, by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the number of women with an unmet need for modern contraception increased in sub-Saharan Africa, from 31 million in 2008 to 36 million in 2012.

About 80 million unintended pregnancies will occur in 2012 in the developing world as a result of contraceptive failure and non-use among women who do not want a pregnancy soon.

The unintended pregnancies will result in 30 million unplanned births, 40 million abortions and 10 million miscarriages, the report stated. PYM


Boyd said...


This makes both sad and happy reading...sad because it has highlighted a very important human condition that has been ignored by many for years...but happy that you have brought this subject to the fore. We shun disgussing this especially in Africa because of the 'misguided' beliefe that numbers matter a lot in a family. I believe that sound economic development starts within the family. This can only be controlled and monitored effectively if numbers in the family remain within affrodable means of survival. I pray that a day will come (soon) when all will realise the need to practise effective, safe and reliable family planning for the betterment and prosperity of our communities!!! Once again you have scored a mark with this piece Meluse......


Adams Muftawu said...

This is a very sensitive in my view you have touched on.Until recently,Africans have made a fetish of numbers with regard to family issues.
Certainly the world has gone global and the question we mist ask ourselves is,can we give theses numbers the necessary education and Healthcare?
I believe it is high time we understood that effective family planning is the tool to:
1.Good education
2.Good Parenthood
3.Good Healthcare culminating in good future building.
You have my 10 out of 10 with this topic.

Mutimba Mazwi said...

Very interesting indeed, Melu. But the issue is that if contraception fails, then what do we do?
I understand that not every married women wants to meet hubby in bed with a condom; many couples would rather they take contraception and go for the real thing in marriage.
Why is it that medical professionals and other campaigners do not advocate for 'withdrawal method?'
Maybe they think it would not work? Does Zambia have Depo Provera? In the early 80s, there was a report saying Depo Provera had been outlawed by the Food and Drug Administration after trials indicated it causes cancer.
However, I notice nowadays that most women ask where they can get it, especially on advice columns on Facebook.
You cannot avoid getting pregnant if the method of contraception is slippery:-)

Mutimba Mazwi said...

A link on WebMed lists a few side effects of DP:

Adams Muftawu said...

I have had the chance of meeting a woman who has eleven children(7 boys and 4 girls aged between 31 and 15).
Upon an interview with this woman,the idea they bore was to give the first the best of education to enable him take care of the rest.Was the first child able to fulfill the purported idea? Absolutely not because he was also focusing on his marriage life.Family planning is very important and once again kudos for this topic,Meluse......

kyapa said...


Great piece...! Its really sad indeed as Adam has put it....who decides how many children and when? in the marriage or relationship? Most men would prefer the women are on contraceptives as opposed to them using a condom....The statistics are really alarming indeed but I must confess they are so true...!A lot needs to be done meluse i believe ...even the myths behind the contraception should be cleared out that it makes women fat for instance....that they grow hairy.......that once on the pill they might have problems in future conceiving? awe there too many issues.....? @ mutimba i will check out the website