World Contraception Day (WCD) which takes place on September 26 every year, visions where every pregnancy is wanted. Launched in 2007, WCD’s mission is to improve awareness of contraception and to enable young people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health. In this interview, the Director, Family Health and Nutrition at the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Folasade Oludara, discusses the importance of using contraception to achieve healthy living, with APPOLONIA ADEYEMI
Our women’s attitude on the use of modern contraceptives is still very low. How do we help them?
What you have narrated now is true and I feel that it has to do with more of public perception about contraception. Everybody tends to believe that contraception is only for women and it is only for preventing pregnancy which is actually not true. That is limiting the benefits of contraceptives. People do not even know the use of contraception. The benefits of contraception is wider and more than that. It is used to prevent pregnancy eventually but that is not the main aim. The first aim is to have your child when you are ready psychologically, mentally and physically to have that child. Having a child should be by choice not by chance.
The advantage of contraception is that it is all encompassing. It has benefits to the individual that is using it; it has benefits for the family-the father to be specific and it also has benefits for the child and the community. The fight for contraception has been limited to the health sector alone. It is supposed to be a multisectoral fight that should involve all the various stakeholders because everybody has a stake in sustainable development and contraception is the only catalyst that the government can use to obtain that sustainable development.
For instance, when you look at our population dynamics you will see that we do not have many people among the elderly age. We have a lot of middle-aged, young adults and even adolescents. With regard to these young adults we have neglected their sexual and reproductive health as a nation. A lot of them can get pregnant and have children, not out of will but out of circumstances.
A lot of them, especially women are not able to attain their fullpotential and so many women, most especially in the northern part of the country do not go to school. So, they do not know their rights. All these affect their decisions to take up contraception because sexual life is a right.
You have the right to have sex before you marry; you have the right to abstain from sexual relations till you get married. Even when you are married, you have the right to choose when you want to have children and how many children you want to have or the number you can afford to take care of because even morally speaking it is not good for us to be b r i n g i n g f o r t h children that we do not e v e n h a v e plans for into the world.
Are you saying that women have the right to choose the number of children they want to have?
Yes, but our socio-cultural norms do not give them that chance. That is what educating a girl can do. The use of contraceptives is supposed to be consensual. Both parties have to agree to it. That is for people that are married. For those that are not married, a woman likewise a man that is not married has the right to decide when to have children.
If they are married, of course they have the right to decide the number of children they want to have based on their purse and their ability to take care of those children. A woman also deserves the right to survive in life and reach old age and attain her potential, adding value to economic productivity of the state which most of the time will not happen due to the fact that few female children get to school in Nigeria. Secondly, there is high rate of rape cases and the perpetrators go scot free most times.
When the girl gets pregnant from this rape, the society will look at her as if she was the only one that committed that crime. They will say she is carrying a bastard child which she would have prevented if she knew what to do and the man too could have prevented it.
How many women have more than what nature gives them? By the time a woman is having more than four to five children, your fifth pregnancy will be labeled as high risk medically. So if a pregnancy is labeled high risk what it simply means is that you have a fifty-fifty chance of surviving after that pregnancy or the baby you are carrying has a fifty-fifty chance of surviving.
What if that pregnancy had been prevented from happening?
The woman will be well and she will have time for her family. Women can manage money better, they are more economically driven. They have the natural ability to provide for their families even in the midst of uncertainty especially when a child is involved. You can imagine what a family will face when the woman of the family dies. The children will become second class citizens.
A child that is brought to this world should have the right to education, health services and the right to attain his or her potential without being discriminated upon. Another benefit of family planning to the society is that if every woman can be prevented from dying; they will beavailable to add value to the society and they will earn a living for their families.
They will invest in their children for a better future for their children. In developed countries that is the strategy they use in developing their country. They use contraception to make sure that every woman counts and every life counts. No life is worth bringing to the world when there are no resources to care for the child. I will be happy if every government parastatal is involved in the fight. One of the sustainable development goals (SDG) is no hunger. The only waythere can be no hunger is if every woman has the family size that she and her husband will be able to manage.