Feature: South Sudanese women seek empowerment with family planning

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 16, 2019
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by Julius Gale

MALAKAL, South Sudan, Dec. 16 (Xinhua)-- At just 19 years of age, Nyami Sebit is already a mother of two children in South Sudan, a country where girls are often married off at young age, expected to give birth to many children and build large families.

But Sebit has defied cultural and religious barriers through using contraceptives as a birth control method, a controversial issue in the east African country.

Eager to delay having another child and also return to school next year, Sebit opted to seek voluntary family planning services in a nearby clinic set up by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in her town of Malakal, northern South Sudan.

"We plan to have three children and also go back to school next year," Marry told Xinhua. "I hope the use of contraceptives will allow me to complete my studies without interference."

But Sebit is lucky because her husband and family members are supportive of the new-found family planning method.

"I will give birth after eight years from now because intended to go back to school next year. I encourage mothers to seek assistance if they need to have healthy children," Sebit said.

Women who chose to go for the contraceptive without the consent of their husbands sometimes suffer domestic violence or even rejection by society.

But for 24-old William Jad, who started using condoms last year, it is the best way to control the number of his children and also protect himself from sexually transmitted diseases.

"I started using condom last year because I wanted to delay having another child with my wife and also protect myself from diseases," Jad said.

The father of one child said he has become an advocate of family planning in Malakal camp for the Internally Displaced People (IDP), which is hosting some 25,000 people uprooted from their homes by civil war.

"In my tribe (Shiluk), we pay ten cows as dowry, and some people also expect their wives to give birth to ten or more children because they have paid dowry, said Jad. "But that does not work for me because there is no need to have many children when you cannot take care of them."

"I would encourage men to support their wives and seek family planning services," he added.

Contraceptives use remains low in South Sudan, with current prevalence rate standing at just 3.9 percent this year, according to data from Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global partnership initiative that seeks to promote rights of women and girls.

Kenyi Friday Lodu, a midwife at a health facility in Malakal said family planning remains a controversial issue because of myths, rumours and misconceptions about its usage.

"In 2016, a man came to the health facility very angry and aggressive after getting to know that his wife was given contraceptives without his consent but we managed to convince him, and he later accepted," Pitia said.

Pitia said the usage of contraceptives is picking up in Malakal despite existing misconceptions.

"Now on daily basis, we normally get on average five or six new clients every day, but in the past, we could take the whole day without seeing a client," he added.

South Sudan has some of the world's worst health indicators, with maternal death rate estimated at 789 deaths per 100,000 live births.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method.

Muzuri Zephirina, a surgeon working at a UNFPA-funded health facility in Malakal, said voluntary family planning would boost the reproductive health and economic wellbeing of women if embraced.

"In South Sudan, we are focusing on empowering families to embrace family planning so that they improve their lives," Zephirina said.

He said contraceptives could be key methods to reduce unintended pregnancy that often lead to unsafe abortions and deaths of mothers and children.

"If a mother is pregnant every year, she will underperform in her workplace. With family planning, mothers will have time to recover and perform better professionally and economically. She will spend less on health and this will increase the income," Zephirina added. Enditem

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