As Nigeria joins to mark the World Population Day tomorrow, CHIOMA UMEHA who recently interacted with community leaders in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State on family planning writes that myths and misconceptions seriously contributing to the wrong perception of the practice thereby militating against the realisation of its noble goals in the country.
In spite of the role of family planning in reducing the health risks for women and children, improving the quality of life by increasing opportunities to access education, nutrition, employment and effective utilisation of scarce resources, many factors bedevilled its successful implementation in many communities.
Sharing her experience with DAILY INDEPENDENT recently, Mrs Salami Sidikat Iyabo, the Family Planning Manager, in Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State, said that some myths, misconception, and superstition are among many of the factors that account for the poor state of affairs in Badagry Local Government Area (LGA). Iyabo’s revelation did not come as a surprise as DAILY INDEPENDENT further learnt that fertility rate in Badagry area reached an all-time high such that a girl of 17 years could be having her second child, while access to education about family planning was low.
The Family Planning Manager while confirming this situation attributed this to low acceptance of family planning. Identifying one of such misconceptions, Mrs. Iyabo said that many residents in Badagry still believe that a woman who practises family planning would not be able to have children again. To disabuse their minds, Mrs. Iyabo said that she had to organise counselling programmes with the assistance of Marie Stopes International which lasted for three days.
“We let them know that not all Family Planning methods lead to permanent infertility; that it is only the Implant. We let them know that there might be some side effects of family planning, but they must let us know about it immediately so that we can counsel and treat or stop it if necessary or even change it to another method,” she stated.
Another problem the Family Planning Manager encountered was that family planning did not enjoy the support of many husbands. She said she had to develop the strategy of visiting Community Development Associations (CDAs) meetings and the community leaders such as the Iyalojas (market leader) and Baales (community heads) to address them on family planning.
“When I am called up to address them, I urge them to go back to the community and say something positive about family planning because I learnt that many men, our Babas, don’t support it.
“I then explained everything to the men, the community leaders and everyone, the traditional ruler promised me that from that time he would try to counsel young couples. This is because they thought that if they do family planning, their wives would not be able to become pregnant again. I said, ‘No, this is not right.’ So one day, we showcased some people that had done family planning, and also had children in between the family planning. Since then ‘Baba’ the traditional ruler usually involve me in outreaches in Badagry communities during which we encourage couples to use family planning.
“So we now have the traditional ruler’s support; there is no more issue with that although there are some people that still insist that their wives should not go for anything,” she said.
“Another objection to family planning was that some of them use to say that their culture forbids it. They said that if a woman refuses to give birth to all the children she is meant to give birth to, even if 25 she would become fat and burst if she tries to stop it,” she said.
Contributing, Elder Kuponu Ebenezer, Chairman, Badagry CDA, confirmed that some women in the area do not believe in family planning.
He said, “Some of them do not even believe that family planning works because I use to listen to a radio programme especially if am not going anywhere. The family planning programme is aired every Tuesday on Radio Lagos, ‘Sheri Gbo.’
Declaring his support for family planning, he said, “I’m aware of family planning and urge my women to go for it. Christians believe in family planning, while Muslims believe in child spacing. So you see, family planning enables couples to enjoy longevity. Even some of them would say, ‘I’m not going to give birth to more than three.”
“Elder Ebenezer, CDC Badagry Chairman, further explained, “When I got married, my wife told me, my dear I don’t want to have more than three children. I said why, she said, my mother had seven and training them became an issue. I said, let us have more than that and she said, no, that it is three that she wants. I said okay. When we got three children, we all hands up. So she did family planning. It was discussed and we agreed and after the third one, she went for family planning. I am at rest now. Family planning is helping a lot because I have trained the third one, he is almost finishing his degree now. If the third one graduates now, I will be ready to eat the fruit of my labour.
”Many husbands have understood that giving birth to many children is not easy, especially in this regime because of economic recession. So if you have too many children, you will not be able to train all to the level you want them to be, but if you have three or four, that would be okay for you to train. So that is why I said this family planning issue is even the best. Our fathers in the olden days didn’t have these opportunities; they just continue to give birth. Maybe because they were doing farming work then; they marry many wives for many children. I`ve been going from ward to ward, community by community to preach this gospel we are preaching now, so may God help us.”
On his part, Alhaji Kolade Ogungbe, CDC Badagry West, said he discusses family planning in their community meetings. “We always discuss family when we meet every month. When we go home we tell our wives what they said about family planning. Now everybody has learnt many things, we don’t need to preach much before they engage in it.
For Mrs. Toviho Caroline Kofoworola, CDA, Ejo Meji Badagry, there is no culture that restricts women from using Family Planning. She said, “Family planning works, the only issue is the one that happened to me when I was using the injection that my menses used to show two times a month. Some people that are aware and are using it realise that it is good and they are happy. Some women say that when they use these family planning tablets, they usually have a headache, so because of this, some are not ready to use it. Then during my own time too, what happened to me happened to another person, they said that when they use it they do have their menstrual period twice in a month and it suppose not to be so.
“So I now advise other women in my community on the one I have used which is an injection. I tell them that after taking the injection that I I was ok. So instead of stopping it, go for another option, so some of them now change to another method in line with my advice.
“Family planning is not new; the thing is that majority of couples here are illiterate. Not all of them are aware, but they are not ready to accept family planning. Some women are even going without their husbands’ consent. It is only the IUD which many of them call, ‘rope’ that some husband on detecting it would say, Ha! What is this? Not all men like IUD.
“But some women wisely avoid going to the family planning centres openly for tablet, coil or injection. So they go in secret. This is because the woman knows what she is facing; she knows she is in trouble if she continues to give birth every year, so she wants to save her life, she doesn’t want to die at a young age. So she may secretly go to a family planning centre and tell the officers in charge that “I want this and I want that, how can I do it, which one will you do for me that my husband will not detect?”
“Instead of having six, seven children, she can have three or four. A couple who has four children at the age of 30 or 35 automatically before they get to the age of 50 would have trained them all and be free, you will even be collecting gifts in kind or cash from your children too.”
On his part, Evangelist Ezekiel Ogunyemi, Community Development Chairman (CDC) Olorunola, Ibereko community, said, “It would be good for us have a programme that encompasses all women so that all these things can be discussed orally. Invariably, it is not new to majority of our members, but where we have problems is that some of our women prefer to go alone, without their husband.
“I support family planning. I have two children and I don’t want more than that. I decided to have two children because my late brother left liabilities for me. The point now is that I am the one taking the responsibility for my late brother’s children upkeep. That is why I keep telling my children that their little salary cannot solve the problem of many children; you better engage in family planning now. I also remind them that I was able to give (them) my children the best because I and my wife adopted family planning.”