I saw my father hand a new loin cloth with a pair of sandals and a hand bag to my mother that afternoon my brother was born. Together with other women and men within my community they showered her with all sorts of pet names because she has given birth to another child. It is years later that I understood the importance of bearing a child within my community.
My aunt who had been married for over twenty-five years will cry daily because of insults from her in-laws and other women within the community. I spent most of my childhood wondering why she hadn’t a child although she was the most loving and caring woman amongst my mother’s siblings. I got an answer once I overheard her lamenting and blaming her husband for her childlessness since they carried out a crude abortion which claimed her womb.
Just a few years later I had a crude abortion which almost claimed my life. Besides the physical, material and psychological damage that it had on me, I lived with the guilt of murder and fear of barrenness for over five years before having my first child. That notwithstanding a friend whom I ‘helped’ to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy in order to get married to a rich suitor is childless after fifteen years of marriage.
The situations cited above are very common in my community. It is an abomination to be a childless woman for one will suffer a lot of stigmatization from the people. It is also worth noting that having a child out of wedlock was considered a greater taboo thereby accounting for the high level of crude abortions. This situation left me worried particularly because I had experienced the pressure involved. No parent/guardian talks to a child about their sexuality but every parent expects the child to overcome challenges about their sexuality. I kept wondering to myself how the dilemma could be solved: sex education is a taboo subject, unwanted pregnancy and STIs which come as a result of lack sex education is equally a taboo. Many people will wonder why such an issue could be on my mind for so long. The reason is simple: many of my friends died because of crude abortions, a good number are childless due to abortion and many other STD infections. What malicious damage ignorance causes within my community?
In my teaching career I realized the bigger challenge was to educate girls while the biggest challenge is to educate healthy girls. The challenges that I faced in the 1990s are less than those faced within my community today judging from the statistics of cases of school dropouts due to abortion and unwanted pregnancy for the 2014/2015 academic year. There is much misinformation, confusion and fear in the area of managing sexuality. Neither parents nor school curriculums adequately address issues of adolescence sexuality. Health workers are either judgmental or intimidating towards these girls. Social media and peers influence them to get involved in unprotected sex, promiscuity and even drug abuse.
It is on this premise that I feel the best I can do for my community is to help women and girls to have access to sexual and reproductive health education so that the issue of ignorance, intimidation, fears and too much assumption will be a thing of the past. My vision is to have social clinics where in this vulnerable group can go to have expertise services without fear of being judged or intimidated. These will also be counseling and orientation centres for life skills acquisition and socio-economic empowerment.