“All men should let their wives start family planning”

Hawa Ngoma being consulted by the midwife. (Photo Credit: CARE Nigeria)

By Rakiétou Hassane Mossi

Under the hot sun of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, Hawa Ngoma, 23 years, is sitting under the shade of a tree waiting for the clinic to resume after their break. She was using the end of her black hijab (a covering head and body piece that most Muslim women wear) to make some extra air as the temperature was not pleasant. She comes from a neighborhood that is 20 minutes’ drive from the clinic, so she did not want to go back home. Hawa is married and has a daughter of 5 years who is in school and a son of 2 years old who would go to school when he turns 3. Hawa is originally from Danboa, about 90 kilometers from Maiduguri, where she now lives with her family.

In Danboa, she used to sell pure water and iced water but since the move to Maiduguri, she has not been able to do anything. The neighborhood, she lives in, people are not really inclined to buy snacks, they prefer going to the main shops than buying from the small sellers. She started selling peanut and candies but it was not profitable. So she stopped. Her husband, Ali, is an ambulance driver, working with a UN project. “My husband’s salary covers our immediate expenses such as food, clothes and house rent. Nevertheless, I still want to be financially independent to help with the house expenses and the future education of my children.”

Hawa came to this specific health center because her husband and the midwife, who works part time with her husband, explained the benefit of family planning and also that CARE is offering it for free. “My husband actually sent me here as he and the midwife work for the same project when she is not working at this facility. When my husband heard and saw the benefits of the family planning from his work, he asked me to start the family planning and get counselled by this particular midwife.”

CARE Nigeria is providing much needed facility and outreach-based models of sexual and reproductive health service delivery in the most hard-to-reach areas in Northeast Nigeria. Over 250,000 most severely women and girls affected by the crisis were reached with services including pre and post-natal care, family planning, HIV testing, health education and post-abortion care.

Hawa was greatly welcomed and wanted it to be known. “When I came to the health center, the midwife explained all the different methods to me and how to use it, the good side of it and the bad. I love the first used but I wanted to change the method. That is why I’m here. When I came to the clinic, she was really welcoming and warm and took all her time to explain everything to me and gave me the chance to ask as much questions as I wanted and did not feel annoyed at all. This made me wants to come back and visit again when the time to change the implant has come.”

Hawa explains the fact that family planning is currently used in the community. “I heard my family members and my friends talk about it and that made me want to start also. I wanted to go for the pill but my husband told me it makes you grow fat and he loves the way I am already so I tried the shots. I love the shots but I want to go for the implant because you change it after 2-3 months and this will help me rest and not worry about it for that period of time.”

Men do not really welcome family planning but her husband understood the benefit of it through his work he allowed her to start using contraceptives. But that was not always the case for Hawa. “After our first daughter was born, he refused that I start family planning. But nowadays, as sensitization is becoming more and more constant, men are starting to understand more about it and welcome it happily.”

Her husband did not see why she should use contraceptives but as she understood the advantages of it, it was fine by her because he was living in a different town for his work. “I started family planning a year ago. Before my husband did not want to hear about family planning and since he was not living with us, it was easy not to get pregnant. After we started living together, I got pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl who died a few days later. I was not using contraceptives so I got pregnant 40 days after the death of my baby.”

Hawa had a rough pregnancy after losing her second child and getting pregnant right after. “After my first pregnancy, I was alright. My health was stable even though I gave birth at home. Our neighbor back then was a gynecologist she helped me give birth at home. For my last two pregnancies, I lost a lot of blood and lost consciousness. After the second one, I had a blood pressure issue. My third pregnancy was very difficult as I got pregnant just 40 days after giving birth. After my second pregnancy, I was introduced to family planning but my husband was against it. I guess the difficulties and challenges we faced during my third pregnancy made him realizes it was a mistake not to space births.”

According to Hawa, the benefit of family planning is being able to allow once body to rest after giving birth and fully recover, spend more time bearing the children, and have time for a career if one wants to engage in business. That is why she wants all the men on earth to embrace family planning. “I’d like to tell men that they should let their wives start family planning as it reduces the risk of their wives to suffer and to give birth to healthy babies. It gives you the time to rest and to give a better upbringing to your children instead of having a baby sucking on your breast, one on the back and the other one bothering you for being hungry or because he/she has messed his/her pants.”

Hawa’s hope for the future is to be able to go back to school as she left school in middle school. She wants to find a job and be financially independent. She wants to grow as a woman and give her children a better education and become people who will help others.

Read more about CARE's work in Nigeria.