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

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

In 2016, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi, proposed the incorporation and enforcement of certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, this bill came to be known as the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill (GEO Bill).

Of interest are items 5 and 7.

Item 5 seeks to modify socio-cultural practices within both public and private spaces that causes people to be fitted into stereotypes (classifying them as inferior or superior).

… every public or private educational institution shall ensure the adoption of appropriate teaching methods and curriculum including provision of facilities that emphasise the promotion of equality of all sexes in all circumstances and for all purposes, including choice of career, equal participation and inclusion of all persons in all activities of the school or institution. – GEO Bill 2016, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi.

While item 7 directly addresses the issue of eliminating discrimination in education. The bill was thrown out of the senate.

This action shows that the Nigerian government, in spite of many studies and evidence, do not understand that the more educated a woman is, the better her understanding of her reproductive rights and eventual reproductive health seeking behaviour. When women are educated they are able to make informed choices about the kind of Family Planning Methods they would use. They can make the connection between high birth rates and population explosion and how it affects the economy and the family’s spending power.

There are several similarities between Ruth’s interview and the one granted to us by Kudirat.

Interview with *Ruth

My name is Ruth and I’m a trader, I sell everyday goods from my house. I finished my secondary school education (SS3) and I am going to be 40 years old soon. I have four children, three boys and one girl. I didn’t use any family planning methods until just before I had my daughter. And even at that I only used the contraceptive for about six months.

Audio excerpt from Ruth’s interview (in Yoruba)

I stopped using it because I was allergic to it. I went to a private hospital when I wanted to do family planning, but they didn’t carry out any test on me. They only asked me the type I wanted. They wanted to know if I would want to use the one inserted into the arm, or the one inserted into the vaginal tract [Intrauterine contraceptive Devices, IUCD], or the injections [injectable contraceptives]. I told them I would like the injection that lasts for about three months. But after I took the injection my period kept flowing, all the time, that’s why I stopped taking the injections.

It is possible that public hospitals and health care centres carry out tests to determine the type of contraceptives that will work with one’s body, but those ones [a private clinic], didn’t do any test for me they didn’t tell me about any kind of side-effect, they just said that whoever elects to do the one inserted into the arm[contraceptive implants] that it lasts for five years.

According to some people, the one inserted into the arm needs a surgery, they will first open up your arm and some other people claim that it is quite painful. This is why I didn’t go down that line. And the one that is inserted inside you also has one long rope that makes washing down there discomforting. These are the reasons I decided to take the injection, particularly since all my friends are using that same method.

Nobody told me about menstruation or reproductive health or how to take care of myself, because I never really lived with my mum. The person that raised me was an old woman and she’s not the type to discuss that kind of thing with you. But, you know, when one starts going to school, once you start getting to SS (senior secondary school) you start hearing about different things, and then the subjects we were taught, particularly if you take sciences, you know… and by then one is no longer a child…the older one gets, the wiser one becomes. It’s because the world has become so civilized. When we were at the age that these children who are getting pregnant are, nobody ever discussed sex with us, but as the world is becoming more advanced, a lot of children are growing up pretty fast. Until I left secondary school I didn’t have a boyfriend.

Audio excerpt 2 from our interview with Ruth (in Yoruba)

As far as I’m concerned as soon as a child turns fifteen, one should be telling them about sex, in fact one can tell them that if you have sex with a man you’ll get pregnant immediately. There’s this program that we watch, on Saturday evenings, that one man was accused of raping a 3year old child.

If a man can afford it nothing stops you from having as many children as possible. I have a friend whose husband loves children, a lot of children. But the man is very rich and can afford to take care of them, that man has 3 wives, but he has divorced one of them, the other two are still having children. The number of children one has depends on the man, you know some men love having children. But some people decide that they will only have the number of children they can afford. In that case both the man and the woman will discuss this. There are also some men who don’t take care of their children, once a woman knows the kind of man she’s married to, she can go ahead and do family planning.

But in some cases, the husband and wife decides to plan their families, the husband is the one who will even give his wife money to go to the hospital.

As for us, there’s no number of children that we can’t decide to have, my father-in-law has many children, and he’s always telling his own children to have many children. This is due to the fact that my father-in-law was his mother’s only child. But then everyone has to decide the number of children they want to have, depending on whether they can afford it.

Especially with how everybody is becoming educated and school fees are becoming higher. It’s not everyone who has a high number of children that’s not educated, it depends on individuals and their love for children. I once worked in Lagos with a couple, very rich couple, but they have only two children, if this couple decides to have ten children, they can afford it. Education has nothing to do with the number of children you have.

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.
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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.