Reproductive Health and Rights: A series of interview with women living in low-income communities(III)

Reproductive Health and Rights: A series of interview with women living in low-income communities(III)

After a lot of outcry, both on social media and in traditional news outlets, by feminists and human rights activists about the manner in which the proposed #GEO Bill was thrown off the floor of the National Assembly, the senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki, agreed to re-introduce the bill. It passed a second-reading, and was stalled pending a public hearing which was postponed due to the absence of the members of the senate committee in charge of the hearing.
It is important to note that on June 13,1985 Nigeria ratified, with no exceptions, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which is also considered the international bill of rights for women, but since its ratification, the convention has not been domesticated. The #GEO Bill actually incorporates a large part of the CEDAW.
In this interview, Jolomi* who trained as a ‘chemist’ (drug dispenser) discusses issues bordering on sexual autonomy, the high rate of abortions amongst women in her community, women’s lack of knowledge about their anatomy and inability to take reproductive health decisions due to this ignorance. She also discusses the state of primary health care facilities and the impact poor reproductive health decisions on the population.

Interview with Jolomi

My name is Jolomi, I went through primary school and got my SSCE before venturing into business. I sell medicine and run a chemist [patent medicine store]. It is common amongst women of my age that there’s a lot of ignorance about their bodies and how it works, particularly as it pertains to their reproductive health seeking behaviour. For example, most of the common cases women bring to me are about pregnancies. Like some of them they might be nursing a 2 months old baby and then they’ll come and tell me that they are pregnant. Meanwhile, this same woman might have had four or five children. This goes to show that we, women, need to know the period we should share intimacy with a man. So these women come to me asking me for a solution because they really don’t want to be pregnant yet, or some of them will say they are already pregnant and want to use something to terminate the pregnancy.

Audio excerpt 1

As you well know, prevention is better than cure, so its really important that we know our menstrual cycle so that we’ll know when we should have sex and when we shouldn’t.

I usually carry out a pregnancy test to confirm whether they are actually pregnant or not, it is important to first test for pregnancy. Because some women panic when they don’t see their period two months after delivery, so it’s important to carry out a test, if it’s positive, but if it’s negative then one will confirm that the person is not pregnant.

Usually after the first abortion and I’m able to tell them about their menstrual cycle, and their ‘safe period’, they are usually able to maintain the cycle and will stop making that kind of mistake. Once they learn about it and know it, they never return to me with the same error. And they even go ahead and teach other people about their bodies and their safe periods.

Men don’t experience the kinds of problems women have. It’s god that will have mercy on us women. It is only women that they tell about how to avoid getting pregnant, and the period they have to use condom. This is because its only women that can get pregnant, men don’t get pregnant. On the other hand, men don’t need any kind of warnings or education because they are free. For example when some women are pregnant they won’t feel like having sex again, because of this, such men knowing that if they ask their wives for sex they will get turned down, the man will prefer to have sex with other women.

Audio excerpt 2

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of men lack self-control when it comes to the matter of sex. Even medically it’s difficult for men to control themselves. When men abstain from sex it gives them stomach upset, and this is due to the way their anatomies are made. The stomach upset is caused by the fact that their semen is inside them and they need to release it, so that they’ll become lighter.

A lot of women don’t think about the impact having many children has on the population. For example, let’s say the government did a census last year and counted ten people, whatever plans they have in mind will be for those ten, but if on their return they find out that instead of let’s say 12 people they expected to see, they now find out that there are 2000 people, this causes a lot of difficulty for the government.

The government should make policies and laws that will mandate that female children must go to school up till a certain age, at least until they leave SS3. This will empower them to be able to join in moving the country forward and enable them contribute meaningfully to the society. Many people don’t believe in educating their female children. In some homes they’ll have four children, let’s say two boys and two girls, but they will educate only the boys in a meaningful way. This is because they believe that no matter how well-educated their daughter is, she will end up in the kitchen.

But it’s not supposed to be like that. It shouldn’t be like that. They should understand that women should participate in decision making, so that we women will have power too.

Children should be educated about their reproductive rights and health from the age of 11years. We are all civilized now, and things shouldn’t be covered up again. Sexual rights education should be part of the school’s curriculum, it is also important that parents should have knowledge about these things so that they can also teach their children.

I use family planning methods, the 2 months injection. My children are well spaced, and I don’t suffer from any side effects. Once I stop taking the injections, after six-months, I usually get pregnant. Although I use the services of the health centre in our neighbourhood, I really don’t like going there often. They are always complaining that they don’t have one thing or the other. Their services are never complete, so I prefer going to a private clinic.

To be continued.

  • The interviews were recorded in Yoruba, transcribed and translated to English.
  • The names of correspondents have been changed to protect the identities of the correspondents.
  • For our Yoruba speaking audience audio notes of the women’s interviews are embedded in the article.

 

Find previous interviews here and here.

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The void until our mouths speak form

The void until our mouths speak form

We are the echoes you hear in dark crannies, tormenting you to turn on the lights
We are angry storms causing blackouts
Just as the sun loses its glory at night, so can our words darken a reckless heart,

We are a starless night.

We are the ones who drink unapologetically from beer bottles, unladylike, for we make words and define what they mean
We don’t drink wine from champagne flutes, bourbon with chasers? That’s uncouth!
We are the ones who hear, we listen, we know, we are aware,
Well aware, our words can rend and tear,
Mend hearts with needs dire our words tend to, our words care

We are the angels who knock on doors looking like bums,
The ones you tell to get away with a cry
So we don’t taint your false pride
We are the ones too arrogant to dwell in your circle of ignorance
We were raised to know better than sit in the assembly of fools.

We are the ones your parents warned you about, telling you we are deviants and would amount to nothing for we are art birthing art
We are the Creator’s tools
We are whichever side the coin shows when it’s flipped.
We are heads, we are tails and every other side
We fail forward, we are daring always ready to take leaps

We are shame, we are pride
We are life, we are death
We are shallow, we are depth
We are royalty, we are the peasants, we are the ones who have decreed our loyalty to kings alone.
We occupy temples preaching peace, when we take a piss you find us in fighting rings
We are disasters named after beautiful women, we are beaches walking naked in the most beautiful cities filled with bare chested men.

We are one’s amounting to tens
We are nomads living in tents
We are the devils in r3d dresses we are bound to tempt
We are the saints, you call sinners
The failures who became winners
We are the the squares that fit into triangles
We are angels you call demons
We are walking oxymorons.
We are miracles, we are oracles
We bind fools and set the wise free
We are everything we pretend to be

r3d

Ikenga!

Ikenga!

She looked to her left, then her right. There was no one in sight. She could see light from afar but no shadows or figures. She kept walking, almost running. She knew that everything ends tonight.

It used to be sweet and good, but now, it’s painful.

Pain-ful. And bad.

Ugly-bad.

She continued to run-walk.

Everything had been good and beautiful until her husband, Ikenga, brought that witch of a sister to live with them. She had protested the decision, but Ikenga had promised her that it was just for some time. Maybe a month or two. But that month or two had stretched into six, seven, eight, nine months and half, and that girl became pregnant.

Pregnant! She almost screamed, she clamped her mouth with her left hand.

Pregnant for Ikenga!

Who would believe this?

And he never attempted to deny it. All he said was that she wasn’t related to him .

But how could she have been so foolish? How could she not have seen that they were not related? That the girl was his new wife, sent from the village by her mother-in-law, to come and take her Ikenga from her.

That witch of a mother!

She kept walking and running.

Crying.

That girl with her nonsense pregnancy! Ha the way she’d been flaunting it, as if she wants to torment my childlessness. It’s not my fault that my stomach cannot hold a pregnancy.

Ikenga had been so supportive of her, consoling her and fighting his mother for her. He had comforted her and followed her to all the doctors and pastors that were recommended. He had cooked and drank and bathed with all the oil and herbs and potions and concoctions they were given. He had prayed and fasted and thrown small parties for children like they were told, parties because children are spirits and if treated well and kindly with love and generosity, could bring babies to those who sought them.

Ikenga!

Why didn’t you tell me that you wanted a baby badly? Why humiliate me?

A light flashed from afar. A thick voice, almost like leather, asked who it was. She stopped.

Police! Yes. It was the police.

She ran towards them.

They kept the torchlight shining into her face, blinding her.

“Woman, what is the problem? Where are you coming from this late in the night?”

“I killed them! My husband and the pregnant girl. I killed them both with poison. Please arrest me… arrest me now!”

 

Som’Adina Kambilinudo is a writer, a human being. 

Nigerian women must approach the gates of Heaven with a penis in one hand!

Nigerian women must approach the gates of Heaven with a penis in one hand!

Frankly speaking, I don’t see anything bad in what the G.O of RCCG preached about. He spoke for the men, from the male angle. Now, what are ladies telling themselves on this issue?

I think single ladies should also up their game! I do not mean they should go add to their culinary skills, single ladies need to start demanding and setting standards for the type of person they’d settle for.

Would they?

Are they not more bothered on how to prove they are a “wife material” in order to grab a penis? While the men are “dishing” out criteria to them what are the ladies doing? They’re smiling and nodding their heads in jubilation that the days of their “sorrow” as Singles are going to be over.

No man is doing you any favour by asking for your hand in marriage. You can decide not to marry a man who can’t cook, you can decide not to marry a man who can’t do house chores, and you can decide not to marry a man who can’t pray for 24hrs abeg!

It is either he meets your criteria or he “waka front” with his penis.

Listen, even if you can cook for Africa, if you marry a man who can’t cook, you won’t find it funny at some point.

Go and ask women who their husbands can’t even boil water, go and ask women married to men who just cross their legs in the sitting room watching Arsenal and Chelsea play while their “virtuous wives” are running from pillar to post: from the kitchen to the bedroom, changing diapers, running around all alone. They will tell you how frustrating it is. Whether you are sick or not, you will enter the kitchen and cook, whether you are pregnant and unfit, God help you if your pregnancy is the way it does me whenever I “carry belle”, you’d so look like a skeleton that you won’t even see yourself, let alone see kitchen, but you will still cook because you must take care of your husband who must be “kept” so as not to become ‘husbandless and go to hell fire’.

That is double wahala!

You know it is only Nigerian women who must approach the gates of Heaven with a penis in one hand and pestle in the other!

Hian!

Please, that Bullshit that our mothers and great-grandmothers had 50 children and still did all the house chores doesn’t apply here at all. Some of our mothers who suffered and suffered to keep their Husbands still got “more wives” added to them after all the cooking, the daily pounding of yam and preparing “efo riro” didn’t make them the “superb” wife still.
This is 2016, there are Bankers, Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Engineers etc. among women.Some women augment the income of their husbands, some single handedly pay the bills, while their jobless or “Contractor husbands” stay home all day. They will sit down and cross leg at home till their wives return from work. You mean, it is fair if these set of women return from work at 10:pm and they’d still dash to the kitchen, grab mortar and pestle and start pounding yam?

Abeg, as they are giving you criteria before they can marry you, give them yours too. Whatever criteria they set for you, set it for them too. Nobody is doing you favor by toasting you or by asking you to marry them. Or are you languishing and waiting earnestly for a “Messiah” to come pick you from the gutter?

In pastor E. A Adeboye’s voice… “Ladies, don’t marry a man who can’t pray for one hour at a stretch, don’t marry a man who can’t cook. Don’t marry a lazy man. Ask the nigga to pack his penis in a polythene bag and go find somewhere to sit joor. You don’t need him.”

*Drops mic*

 

buki
Bukola Afolabi Ogunyeye

 

This is all your fault…And slaps her again.

This is all your fault…And slaps her again.

You started drinking when you were pregnant with your first baby, a bottle of small stout spread over four or five days to help with the nausea. By the time you had your second, you were up to one bottle every two days. By the time your daughter – your third child – came, you were drinking close to three bottles every day; ogogoro on days you didn’t have money to spend.

Do you know how much blood comes out of a head wound? Plenty.  Especially when you’re hit on the head with a spanner by your husband. This is after you’ve insulted him for hours and torn his shirt because he wouldn’t bring enough money for your daughter’s naming ceremony. It’s been five days since you brought her home, two weeks since you had her, a tiny little thing who almost died, and you should be resting but it is important to have this party.  It doesn’t matter that your husband hasn’t been getting much work as a tanker driver. Other drivers are complaining about his drinking.

When he is asked why he drinks, he says he has a witch at home.
When you are asked why you drink, you say, you are married to the devil.
Neighbours help you when the blood starts to flow. They got tired of separating your fights a long time ago. Too many people had been hit by a stray fist from you or your husband so they stayed away. But today there is blood and so they hold you by the hand – still spewing invectives and kicking– and take you to a nearby chemist.
Your first has been standing by the door all along; it was his shout, mummy! that drew the neighbours’ attention. Your second is in the village with your mother, he was sick before your went to the hospital. The baby is inside your one-room apartment, asleep through the quarrel.

He goes into the room after everyone leaves, you with the neighbours, your husband to his favourite bar. He struggles to climb the bed, forbidden to him because he wets himself every night.

He lifts the baby net gently. He sits there and looks at her for a few minutes.
The slap is sudden, startling her awake; her cry is piercing.

This is all your fault, he says. And slaps her again.

– Enajite Efemuaye

For women who walk on the dark-side

For women who walk on the dark-side

This is for you… Yes you on those high, high heels. Your bright red lipstick, your body fitting clothes showing plump backsides, bouncy breasts, you’re enough your dreams are valid
For you trawling the streets of Ayilara, Ikeja, Mokola, Agbani Market in the dead of night,  turning tricks… You are human, your dreams are valid
This is for you on Teevee, twerking to the beats of violence, your Brazilian weaves, 12inches of lashes of nails, you’re enough, your dreams are valid
This is for you, yes you of the dark desires, BDSM, fantasies, role plays, you that like them plenty, like them rough, like them period. You’re human you’re real, your dreams are valid
This for you that don’t fit in, you don’t like sex, you don’t like kisses, orgasm is just not your thing,  you’re enough your dreams are valid
This is for you who loves other women, you like them wild you like them pretty you love to wipe their lipsticks off with tender kisses, you’re human, your dreams are valid
This is for you my beauty queen,  named as one sex but you know it’s not true, toss your weaves my wo-man my pretty you’re human your dreams are valid
This is for you my warrior princess your kombat boots, your low cut hair, your swagger, bow-tie, skinny jeans,  you’re human your dreams are valid
This is for all my girls that walk on the dark side, the edgy, the non-conformists, the girls wearing tats, piercings, nose rings…
you’re enough your dreams are valid…

– Ayodele Olofintuade

Love will never treat you less

Love will never treat you less

Love should not hurt. Love shouldn’t break you physically, mentally and spiritually.
Love should not expose you to harm and damage.
Love should not dehumanise and degrade you.
Love should not come in blows, slaps or bruises.
Love should not render you unsafe or afraid.
Love should not turn you to a shadow or a ghost.
Love should not put your life, health or future at risk.
Love should not resort to violence as a means to settle conflicts and disagreements.

No woman should be taught that love is how much hurt/pains you can tolerate from a man. No, that is not love.

Knowing what love is and is not means you value yourself and life. Love will never treat you less. Love will never seek to destroy you.

Enwogo C Cleopas