|Addressing Family Planning Myths
Ms. Fatmata B. Kamara from BO district in Sierra Leone looks at her newborn daughter with a sense of pride and delight while waiting for her turn to speak to the health staff in Bumpe PHU in Bo District. At 21 years old, she is already mother of three young daughters aged 3 (yrs), 2 (yrs) and 9 months. Ms. Kamara has brought her daughter to the Bumpe PHU for a periodical medical check-up. But that is not the only reason for her visit to the Health Centre. She is one of the many young women that visit PHUs supported by UNFPA in Sierra Leone to avail themselves to free Family Planning Services.
Already a mother of three young children, she doesn’t want to have any more children and wants to focus on educating her three daughters. However there is a twist in the tale. Ms. Kamara’s husband does not know that his wife is currently on contraceptives. “after our third kid, I told him I do not want any more kids, and asked him to use a condom but he wouldn’t listen to me. He says he doesn’t enjoy the sex when he puts on the condom and refuses to use it. I really don’t want to get pregnant again and was wondering what I can do and was told about the “Pills” by one of my friends. So now I am regularly on contraceptive pills and so far have been able to avoid pregnancy”
Bumpe PHU is one of the many Service Delivery Points in the country that benefits from the Reproductive Health Commodities purchased and brought into the country by UNFPA with the support of GPRHCS programme. Ms. Kamara is grateful to UNFPA for bringing the drugs into the country and the Government of Sierra Leone for the Free Health Care Initiative which enables her to get the RH commodities free of charge. Her one worry though, is how long she can continue to take pills without her husband knowing. Ms. Kamara does not find it easy to take the pill regularly and continue to lie to her husband as he has expressed a wish for more children who could look after their parents at their old age. When asked whether she has heard of long term methods like implants “Ms. Kamara looks up and says in her soft voice “I have heard of it, but my friends are saying that if I take them, I will develop a bad sickness and will eventually bleed to death”.
These are some of the very misconceptions that CO is trying to address through various outreach activities including the establishment of Community Wellness Advocate Groups (CAGs). The CAGs are made up of transformed traditional birth attendants who conduct various outreach activities, such as mobilizing and referring pregnant women for antenatal care, accompanying women and girls for reproductive health services including family planning services, making sure that women benefit from the Free Health Care Initiative and dispelling the wide spread myths and misconceptions that hamper access to RH/FP services. Of particular importance in the Community Advocacy programme is the inclusion of Men’s Peer Educator Networks (MPENs) that were established as an adaptation of the Husband schools in Niger following a study tour to Niger. Both the women advocates (who are transformed TBAs and FGC/M practitioners) and the Men networks are empowered with technical knowledge with which UNFPA hopes will also able to educate people like Ms. Kamara’s husband. .
According to Marian Foday a Community Wellness Advocate in BO, Ms. Kamara’s case is not an exception and she says that “there are many women like Ms. Kamara who want to practice long term Family Planning methods but are afraid to use methods like implants due to the local myths and misconceptions associated with them”. But she also believes that attitudes are changing. “With the support received from UNFPA and other partners I hope we can continue to change attitudes in the community and I am confident that soon girls like Ms. Kamara will voluntarily access long term methods like implants”.
For now though Ms. Kamara is focusing on providing her better education/future for her 3 children, hoping that her daughters will not be forced to be teenage mothers like her.