Contraception? What's that?
on Hysteria in Nigeria (Nigeria), 15/Mar/2012 10:21, 34 days ago
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I apologise in advance. This is more of a rant than a blog post.I mentioned in my last post that we’d been running some focus groups in some rural FCT communities this week. Some data the organisation had collected showed that there was a very high rate of teen pregnancy in these communities, so we went to talk to the unmarried girls there to try and find out why the rate is so high, and how the program the organisation runs there can better help to tackle the problem.And lets just say it was an eye opener. I knew that the focus groups would be run in pidgin, so I didn’t hold out much hope of being able to understand what was being said, but I was pleasantly surprised as I think I managed to understand about 90% of what they were talking about. But boy oh boy does it make you realise just how much of an issue there is here. The girls basically outlined the following issues as stopping them from using contraception:• Their boyfriends/partners won’t use condoms.• Even if their boyfriends/partners will use condoms, they won’t actually initiate the buying of the condoms, and any girls who are seen buying condoms in the community are seen as easy and looked down on.• People in the community assume that anyone who is buying condoms is buying them to use them with someone other than their partner, so even men don’t feel able to go and buy them without being met with disapproval.• The health centre in the community is supposed to provide contraception free of charge, but they very rarely have condoms available. If the girls go there for the injection or the contraceptive pill they can get it free for the first two visits, but then have to pay 500N for each visit from then on. 500N a month for the pill is out of reach for pretty much all of the girls in this community.• Because of it being frowned upon for unmarried (and to a certain degree, even married) girls to access contraception, even if the health centre provided contraception free of charge (and accurate advice), the girls would be too embarrassed to go there.• The men in the community practice “Juju” (magic) on the girls, so that they can have sex with them without the girls realising it has happened (a summarised version of their words – not mine). We had to ask several questions when we heard this to try and understand what they meant. They explained that the men put something in the girls’ food or drink that makes them “go to sleep.” And then they have sex with them. My colleague’s response to this was “do you mean rape?” and the girls replied, “no, not rape, its Juju - like charm.”And on top of all of these issues, the health centre in the community provides inaccurate information. We asked one of the girls we spoke to to go there as a“mystery client” and ask for advice on contraception. She asked the person there what contraception they could give her to protect her from HIV and STI, and they told her condoms AND, wait for it …… the injection.I had to take some very deep breaths when she came back and told us this.And this is a community a couple of hours from the centre of Abuja. It was definitely one of the days when I went home wondering how anything is ever going to change here.And then later that day I read an article about the police force getting a new uniform. A camouflage uniform that will apparently also have magical powers, given these uniforms will, and I quote,“discourage them [police officers] from developing cold feet any time they come face to face with robbers.” Having collectively spent over 3 hours over the past 2 days sat at one of the checkpoints here, news that money was being spent on uniforms rather than training did not fill me with joy.