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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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.

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

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

Nigeria is in the midst of a population explosion, and this is in spite of the fact that maternal and neo-natal mortality figures are pretty high. Since 1992, several Nigerian governments have embarked on massive Family Planning campaigns and billions of naira has been poured into making available family planning tools in a bid to control population growth.

Nothing appears to be working.

In order to get a grasp of people’s knowledge of their reproductive rights and reproductive health seeking behaviour, we conducted a series of interviews with the most affected populace, women living in low income communities. Below are excerpts from the interview, also attached, for our Yoruba speaking audience, are some voice notes from the interview.

Kudirat

My name is Kudirat*, my education came to an end in JSS2, I learnt hairdressing but I’m no longer a hairdresser, because I don’t have money to set up a business. I have three children. After I had my first born I fainted and afterwards started having dizzy spells. My first born was delivered in Lagos by a nurse. I had the other two at home, here in Ibadan. When I was pregnant with my second child the nurse asked me to go for a blood test, when the results came back I was told that I don’t have enough blood. Then I was also asked to do a scan they also said that the child was not healthy, but I delivered the child in spite of it all. I attended antenatal clinic in Lagos when I was pregnant with my second child but delivered her at home in Ibadan. I don’t attend any clinic after delivering my children.

Audio 1

My first child did not take any vaccination, but the second one had a few shots, it seems that the third one had a few vaccinations too. The reason I don’t take vaccination for my children is because at the health centre, when we go to take vaccinations, they ask us to bring #200 naira and a bar-soap, afterwards you’ll have to pay #100 per visit. I don’t know whether the people that give the vaccinations are doctors, nurses or healthcare providers trained to give vaccinations, I just know that they are all from the government and they work at the clinic.

My husband and I did not discuss anything pertaining to the number of children we are going to have, there was no discussion of such between us. After I had our third child, my husband asked me to go to the family planning clinic and start taking contraceptives, that I should do the one for three years. I refused because I don’t know how I can cope with something I’ve never done before. He was very angry and started shouting about money, that where do I expect him to find #400 naira each time I have to go to the clinic. I don’t know why that is such a big deal, because as a lot of people know, that family planning has side-effects and anything can happen. Things go wrong all the time, and anybody who claims that there are no side effects and things don’t go wrong is lying, things go wrong! Even though some people claim that things don’t go wrong, they are lying, things go wrong!

Audio 2

Although I’ve never met anyone that has had a personal experience with the way things can go wrong, but I know because women are always talking about these side-effects, although some people say it’s a lie, things go wrong.

While some women claim that taking contraceptives did not work, and they got pregnant in spite of it, some women claims it makes them lose a lot of weight, while others says it makes their stomachs bigger.

When it seemed that I was pregnant I went to *Mummy T to collect some medicine, after doing a pregnancy test for me she confirmed that I was pregnant, so I asked her what to do, she told me about one medicine like that that she uses anytime she doesn’t want to have a baby, but she said it cost #1,200, me I had only #350 on me, so she said I should try another medicine, but when I got to the chemist they told me it costs #500 naira. So I told them my dilemma and they gave me some other medicine to use.

To be continued…

  • The interviews were recorded in Yoruba, transcribed and translated into English.
  • The names of correspondents have been changed to protect the identities of the correspondents.
  • For our Yoruba speaking audience an excerpt from the audio of the interview is embedded in the article.

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

Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman

Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman

One of the most used beauty brands on the continent, Dove, came under fire for their most recent advertisement.

Continue reading “Race, identity, Body Dysmorphia and the Nigerian Woman”

There is no standard for ‘normal’

There is no standard for ‘normal’

There is no standard for normal

Unusual, is that the word you’re looking for?

Who made you a gender marshal?

Who made you a Human Marshal?

What is with you and your gender obsession?

You’re only human,

Inquisitive by nature,

But…

You are not a judge.

Let you bother you

Stop with trying to score cheap points.

I’m not an object of entertainment

Stop with the bullying

I will no longer normalize abuse

 

Kennawo