CONNECT WITH US:
Find us on Facebook
The family is a microcosm of the society and what happens in each family on the aggregate greatly impacts the nation on a larger scale. The notion of family planning has long been with us, but in the context of Nigeria this idea has been heavy influenced by social norms. In the meantime, millions of dollars are spent annually to ensure that Nigerians have access to family planning methods.
Family planning involves the consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no children, as well as the age at which she wishes to have them. Sadly, in Nigeria these decisions majorly rest in the hands of the husbands or men, and women experience strong societal pressures to have children. Family planning could provide great benefits to both men and women in Nigeria, but so many individuals ignore this opportunity or take it for granted.
I am the host of a radio show called Reality Check, and we recently talked about family planning in Nigeria with Dr. Daramola Adeleke, who is a reproductive health physician and public health speaker. Most Nigerians still think family planning consists only in the use of drugs and protection: family planning, however, is a broad term that consists of three parts. One component of family planning is awareness, which is mainly raised through reproductive health campaigns. A second aspect is assisted reproduction, which involves the use of technology to achieve pregnancy in procedures such as fertility medication, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. And a third fundamental aspect of family planning is the use of contraception. Many contraceptive approaches are available, including behavioral methods (which involve the woman knowing her safe periods), medical methods (which require the use of pills, hormonal injections and implants used to suppress a woman’s ovulation), and mechanical methods (which involve the use of barriers condoms, IUD etc., and surgery available to both men and women). All these contraceptive methods have advantages and disadvantages, and to my dismay, I discovered that some women are dealing with health consequences associated with the use of oral contraceptives. During my conversation with Dr. Adeleke, this fact raised lots of questions on who decides on what method(s) to adopt in the family: could it be that women are also sacrificing their physical health to have and keep families? This is unbalanced and exposes women to many risks.
There is a popular belief that family planning impedes conception and delivery. In reality, however, family planning involves a holistic plan aimed at creating a sustainable household and ensuring that parents take care of the children as well as themselves. Historically, in Nigeria, women believed that it was the sole responsibility of their husbands to make provisions for everyone in their household and sometimes in the extended families. The current economic reality, however, has caused a cultural shift in the perception of women, and many women choose or are forced out of necessity to take up the roles of “bread winner”. Though we see this shift with women, many of whom are at a disadvantage because of poor family planning, we are yet to see the shift with men with regards to involving women in the decisions on the number of children and when they would prefer to have them. In Nigeria, many women sacrifice their careers and personal goals in order to parent and raise kids, hoping to return back to the workforce later in life. The necessary conditions for women to have successful careers while raising a family are still missing in Nigeria. This was clearly demonstrated by a recent incident, when Globacom Limited, one of the telecommunication giants, fired its married female employees.
While women have tried to lend their voice on some of these challenges, many still fail to embrace the opportunity that family planning provides in solving many of these problems. There are several family planning methods available to men as well, but many men ignore them. As a result, women are at a higher health risk as the onus rests on them. Given the gender imbalance in parenting and the other disadvantages that come with it, there are also cases of women whose prospect of earnings are reduced as a result of poor child spacing. In the 21st century, we know the impact that the financial empowerment of women has on the family and a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and yet this is sacrificed on the altar of marriage in Nigeria.
The importance of family planning cannot be over emphasized. Among other benefits, family planning helps couples and individuals manage their finances better, it prevents maternal and infant mortality, abortion and sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Despite the many benefit that family planning can provide, most women find themselves in relationships where they have little or no input in decisions regarding their bodies, with many relationship mostly founded on the premise that what the husband or man decides is final. These behaviors exhibited by men in Nigeria are triggered primarily by the belief that they are the heads of their households, and that this gives them control over these women’s bodies regardless of the consequences these may have in the future.
Finally, an important aspect that is often overlooked in Nigeria and needs prompt intervention is the idea that family planning is only aimed at married couples. Women need to learn better negotiating skills when they decide to get into a contractual marriage, but there is a lot of awareness that needs to be raised in educating single men and women about the use of family planning methods to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Hopefully, if this will be done effectively using the right channels, Nigeria will have more manageable and sustainable population and families. Both at global level and in country more research is required to provide effective family planning methods to men and reduce the gender imbalance in the availability and uptake of contraception.
[Cover photo © Arne Hoel / World Bank]
Miss Aforfem Afobunor is a certified marketing professional and a social marketing expert with over ten years of professional experience in the marketing of consumer goods, brands and non profits. She advocates for the development and rights of women through partnering and volunteering with organizations committed to mirroring and fostering support of women and girls.
She utilizes both the mass and social media to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, and has earned international recognitions. In November 2016, she was invited to Geneva (Switzerland) by the office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) for the launch of the global campaign “Not Too Young to Run” during the Forum on Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law.
Miss Afobunor continously engages with key stakeholders to proffer solutions that have led to positive impact in Nigeria and Africa as a whole, and utilizes her marketing skills in deploying resources in promoting and advancing the work of NGOs/Civic Societies and other Youth led associations. Besides being a public speaker, she loves sharing ideas, providing solutions, counseling, writing and reading books that builds the spirit, soul and body, and is a consultant to many organizations both home and abroad.
She has received a number of awards but most importantly was rated top 7% of all Nigerian Executives in the Advertising, Marketing & PR Industry in the 2015 publication of the Nigerian Top Executives in the Advertising, Marketing & PR Industry.