journalists have been tasked to create more awareness by breaking the stigma
associated with infertility, particularly women who are often solely blamed for
these societal problems in some instances resulting to break ups in marriages.
This call was made at a recent training held in Nairobi, Kenya, on infertility organised Merck Foundation. Being the first time of its kind to be staged by this foundation, the training attracted over three-hundred journalists from 17 African countries.
At the training, deliberation centered on infertility in a broader perspective and that since its affects both sexes; it is therefore pertinent as journalists to provide accurate facts about the condition to break the stigma attached to the problem.
“In addition to the personal grief and suffering it causes, infertility can create broader problems, particularly for the woman, in terms of stigma, economic hardship and social isolation. It is often considered a personal tragedy as well as a curse for the couple, impacting on the entire family and even the local community,” officials say.
Women who remain childless may be seen as a burden on the socio-economic well-being of communities, as childless women are often blamed and suffer from stigma, discrimination and even violence, officials further observed.
“The man may divorce her or, if their culture permits polygamy, ‘takes another wife’. She may be seen as an evil eye, a shameful subject, and banned from any family and community activities. Facing social isolation and ostracism, childless women often consider that without children, their lives are without purpose and without hope. Unlike the Western world, where infertility is openly discussed and help and information is widely available, in most African societies the topic is taboo, and help is scarce, contributing even more to the agony and isolation these women suffer.”
“This situation is further saddened by the lack of support women face, both emotional and financial. Women are not encouraged to seek medical treatment and modern fertility care, if at all available is very basic. Assisted reproductive techniques such as IUI and IVF are either very costly or unavailable. Combined with the widespread lack of insurance coverage, seeking fertility care often means a lonely path for women wishing to conceive”.
Infertility, according to officials, can be caused by various factors, male, female, or a combination of the two.
“In approximately 30% of cases no reason will be found. The main cause of infertility in Africa is genital infection. This may have been sexually transmitted or caused by traditional practices such as FMG, illegal abortions and home deliveries in unhygienic circumstances. If left untreated these infections often result in scar tissue and blockage or dysfunction of the fallopian tubes causing infertility. Teaching young people on how to avoid getting STD’s and encourage them to seek adequate diagnosis and treatment if they suspect any (risk of) an STD therefore is crucial to avoid infertility later in life”.
Generally, in most countries reproductive health issues, they explained, are not discussed with adolescents and many misconceptions on the subject of infertility remain alive today.
“Especially girls and young women should be educated on this since they are the group most at risk from the main causes of infertility such as STDs and other infections, but also young men should be taught on how to avoid STDs and fertility in general”.
The “Merck More Than A Mother” initiative specifically aims to empower infertile women in Africa by delivering infertility awareness, prevention and treatment initiatives that will address the medical, financial, social and emotional problems of African women tortured by the silent agony of childlessness.