By Ibukun Adepoju, BBF Volunteer
Politics and poverty, diverse tribes and culture – these are some of the major things Nigeria as a country is well known for.
Add to this growing list the following facts: the chances of a Nigerian woman dying from pregnancy in childbirth are 1 in 13, about half of the over 150 million people in Nigeria are women (2012 World Bank report) who contribute to the 2.5% annual growth in the country; and according to UNICEF statistics, Nigeria is the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
In many countries including Nigeria, choice is a scarce commodity where it concerns women.
The benefits of motherhood are being limited by the lack of freedom that allows a woman to decide for herself, first, if she even wants to be pregnant. Prevalence of contraceptives in Nigeria is estimated at 14.6%, and in the presence of poor health care facilities, illiteracy, religious and cultural beliefs, as well as general misconceptions, unplanned pregnancies could further result in complicated deliveries, unsafe abortions, and an increased risk of maternal and neonatal mortality.
Wednesday, September 12th 2012 was the first annual Global Female Condom Day aimed at increasing awareness and highlighting the importance of female condom use to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STI's, while also advocating for increased access. This is being closely followed by World Contraception Day on the 26th of September, with a vision to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted.
The reproductive right of a woman allows her make a decision on reproduction that is free of discrimination, coercion and violence. Unfortunately, the anticipated joy of pregnancy is being killed by poor government policy, inadequate health centres, stiff cultural practices and our failure in empowering women and acknowledging that the woman is truly as powerful as she is; not just in risking her life to bring forth a child, but in being able to make the right decisions.
In trusting her to manage finances wisely and make sure her family stays happy and healthy even on the barest minimum, we should also trust her to decide when she has had as many children as she is able to care for; trust her to know that 10 is too many, and two could be all the world for her home.
Pregnancy doesn’t have to be an exchange programme where the woman dies in the struggle to birth her child - it should be a re-productive program.
Every woman should be freely allowed to claim her right to life as well as to decide if and when she wants to have children or conclude that she is done.
A lot has been said in theory and agreements are signed by governments, but these actions are only laudable when they actually deliver on what they say they will, otherwise, we will remain stuck in a circle of political and advocacy-based activity without significant accomplishment.
We may not have it all in the bag by the MDG deadline, but we know it is better late than never, and better earlier than later.
This can however only be achieved through relentless efforts in advocating practical policies, educating communities, and empowering women to take advantage of the power in their feminity.
Brown Button Foundation (BBF) is located in Alimosho Local Government, towards the outskirts of Lagos State, South-West Nigeria, but its activities spread across Nigeria..