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Placing destiny in women’s hands

NOT LOOKING BACK—Dismasi remains unshaken while fighting myths and misconceptions at Ngwangwa in Lilongwe

MODEL—Kampido insists that youths should have access to pregnancy prevention methods even in hard to reach areas

By Andrew Mkandawire:

Making life-changing decisions may take longer for others, but some do not like to waste opportunities; more so after searching and gathering adequate information on the benefits of positive change to anchor their lives.

This is the case with some youths in Lilongwe and Kasungu districts who did not have to think twice about using contraceptions.

“I first heard about contraception when I was 15 in 2016 from radios,” 19 year old Ruth Kampindo, from Traditional Authority (T/A) Chimutu in Lilongwe recalled.

Mtisunge Banda, 19 from Nsolola T/A Mwase in Kasungu District (Kasungu district hospital cluster) shares a similar story.

“I heard about contraception from radios and relatives when I was about 14 years but it never crossed my mind at that age to start enjoying the benefits of pregnancy prevention,” Banda said.

What came out clear from our discussion is that radio and youth clubs seem to be major sources of tips and alerts on the contraception subject, besides interpersonal communication and community discussions.

For Lucy Dismasi, 25, from T/A Kabudula in Lilongwe, she got information about contraception from the Ngwangwa Youth Network in 2018.

“This information enabled me to opt for a ten years loop pregnancy prevention method,” she said.

Getting information and adopting the information are indeed two different issues. But for the three, they went straight to health service providers and got the contraceptives of their choices.

“In my family we are three girls and all my elder sisters fell pregnant in their teens. I never wanted to get disturbed in my secondary school education. And hearing from radios about the benefits of contraception like the ability to complete education and careful decision making in business management, it made me generate confidence to have an implant to avoid unintended pregnancy,” Kampido said.

She remembered that at the first clinic she visited in Area 25, she could not help but feel nervous.

“Many people at the clinic insulted and condemned my choice because I looked young, except one female nurse who called me aside and gave me a word of encouragement to go ahead with my decision, and she emphasized that for the sake of my future, I needed long term contraception,” she said.

On her part, Banda said her life was going on well as a school and town girl. But towards the end of 2018 when she was preparing to sit for standard eight primary school examinations, she realised she was pregnant and dropped out of school at the age of 17.

“Immediately after giving birth, I remembered my grandfather’s requests and I got a three year implant from a Family Planning Association of Malawi (Fpam) mobile clinic,” she explained.

Dismasi got a loop in 2019 in her area, Ngwangwa.

Her decision was motivated by her plan not to have another child until six or seven years in order to boost the economic activities of her family.

“My friends discouraged me a lot because they heard rumours that loop drops into the uterus and causes cancer. Some said the loop moves into the fallopian tubes and blocks the menstruation cycle which ends up with ovarian cysts. But I gathered courage because I needed a solution that would enable me not to conceive again until my family’s economic status improves and I got the loop,” she said.

Counting the gains

“You cannot believe that I’m financially independent. I’m a mobile money agent, and I’m planning to get back to school to complete my secondary education,” an excited Kampido said.

And this is what Banda said: “Currently I have managed to support my parents with farming and marketing of agro-produce and immediately my child turns 2 years, I’m planning to get back to school to enroll in secondary education.”

Dismasi too is highly motivated as she has referred a lot of girls and women to hospitals to access family planning services.

“Most of my friends have learned that loop is good contraception and seven of them have already taken this contraception and their morbidity cannot be remembered. They are now committed to farming and small scale businesses,” she explained.

It is encouraging to note that these girls and women have gone full throttle in advocating for youth access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services. Their difference is felt as they pass contraception information while standing tall as models that create demand for family planning services.

Meanwhile, Fpam continues to engage young people in the promotion of youth access to contraception and other sexual and reproductive health services through static and mobile outreach clinics. This effort also responds to the social-economic problems that have been felt due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has fueled teenage pregnancies as job security and earnings have also plummeted, making most parents and guardians face a challenge to support the needs of their families.

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