MBALE – Anna Lokiru is a married mother of many children who has lost her bid to plan for her unmanageable family.
The rather youthful mother is in a polygamous marriage in a rural area of Nakapiripirit district in Karamoja where the number of wives and children a man has is an indicator of his wealth.
Lokiru has six children but needs quality life for herself and children because she can no longer support them in these hard economic times.
And so the overburdened mother made a decision to use contraceptives. She approached er mother and her mother-in-law and confided in them that she would seek family planning services.
She made this deal with her mother that she would not continue having more children when her husband no longer provided for the family and so “I want to focus on raising the six” added Ms Lokiru.
But her mother-in-law leaked the secret and the man gave her two: Adopt family planning and quit the marriage or continue giving birth and remain his wife. She chose to remain.
Ms Lokiru is not alone, there are many women, whose access to family planning has been denied, especially in rural areas, many are struggling to raise children on their own while husbands have taken to drinking alcohol and only come back at night to sleep.
In many homes especially in rural areas, men don’t know that family planning is a woman’s reproductive health right that must be respected.
Ms Lokiru says that “This family has a husband and a father at night while during the day there is no husband and father, he goes to drink alcohol. He does not provide anything for the family but wants you to produce children whatever number without minding about you,”
And despite poverty, they continue giving birth in silence, this is either due to ignorance, retrogressive cultural practices that shun family planning or, most unfortunately, lack of access to family planning.
Dr Jonathan Wangisi, the DHO Mbale says that there really should be no reason for anyone, woman or man, not to access contraceptives in this day and age.
He explained that it is the duty of medical workers to ensure that every woman is empowered to plan her family, and life, through family planning if she wants it.
“There should be no debate about whether to go for family planning or not because access to this is for the well-being of women and girls. Ugandan women and their partners have to access sexual and reproductive health services to have the families that they will manage,” said Dr Wangisi.
Dr Muhammad Mulongo, a gynecologist said that studies have shown that access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, helps in cutting maternal and child deaths, eases the burden of post-abortion care as well as new HIV and STI infections.
He added that for the sake of Ugandans, especially the underserved, remote and low-income communities, it is important that government directs more investment to sexual and reproductive health services.
A report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) titled “The Power of Choice: Reproductive Rights and the Demographic Transition 2018.” Indicates that family size is closely linked with reproductive rights, which, in turn, are tied to many other rights, including the right to adequate health, education, and jobs.
The report reveals that 28% of the women in Uganda have an unmet need for family planning services and that because of this unmet family planning need, Ugandan’s are having more children than they want.
According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), more than four in 10 births are unplanned and that figures from Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) show that Ugandan women, on average, give birth to nearly two children more than they want (5.4 vs. 4.2).
Indeed, such grim figures can be avoided if women like Ms Lokiru were free to decide on the number and spacing of their children.
Dr Mulongo said educating people on having manageable families will deter them from having big families that they can’t manage.
He explained that the government in order to reduce on the problem of teenage pregnancies affecting most parts of the country must also allow girls to freely and openly access family planning information to help them make better decisions later in life.
The doctors revealed that there was need for political will to not only empower women, girls and the youth to access their sexual and reproductive health rights but to also invest in family planning.
“This includes access to information, policies and services that prevent unplanned pregnancies and to have a say on the number of children to have, how to space them and when to have a child,” said Dr Mulongo.
According to Dr Wangisi the governments must take the lead in removing barriers to empowerment, education and progress of women and girls.
“Let all know that family planning not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but also protects mothers’ and children’s lives,” said Dr Wangisi.
The Country Representatives of UNFPA Mr Alain Sibenaler, while speaking to PML Daily said the population in Uganda can be reversed if family planning services are made available and women empowered to make to make choices.
“In Uganda there is a very clear indication that there is an unmet need to family planning methods. That means people would want to have contraception but they don’t have access to it and thus end up with more children than they wanted,” Mr Sibenaler said.
Ms Robinah Nabbanja, the state minister for health [General duties] said the Government is committed to scaling-up family planning programmes to create demand, especially in hard to reach areas like Karamoja.
She revealed that in 2017 government revised its original commitment of 2012 to reduce the unmet need among adolescents from 30.4% in 2016 to 25% in 2021.
Indeed, such grim figures can be avoided if women are free to decide on the number and spacing of their children. That is why propagandists, hypocrites, busybodies and self-seeking politicians who seek to dictate to women what to do with their bodies must be called out.
She revealed that by improving the number of health structures in hard-to-reach places, the Government of Uganda strives to expand its reach and provision of services and method mix, including long acting, reversible, and permanent methods.
“And all these commitments will contribute to the nation’s ambitious goal to reduce unmet need for family planning to 10% and increase the modern contraceptive prevalence rate to 50% by 2020,” said Ms Nabbanja.
Reports from ministry of health also indicate that the Government is planning to scale-up access to family planning services up to at least 50% by 2020 as one way of improving the quality of the Ugandan population and reducing unwanted pregnancies.
About Family planning;
Family planning is the practice of controlling the number of children one has and the intervals between their births, particularly by means of contraception or voluntary sterilization.
Family planning methods include; use of condoms, diaphragm, contraceptive pills, implants, IUDs (intrauterine devices), sterilization and the morning-after pill.