as a tradition in The Gambia, sex education is often regarded as a taboo, but
times have changed and lives and livelihoods are also changing.
Even before the advent of the modern contraceptives, Family Planning in The Gambia was as old as the country and its people.
Even though our grandmothers found it very hard to talk to us about matters relating to sexual reproductive health, they have been telling us about the traditional family planning methods, like the existence of the “Musu bungba”, which is a large house for women who are nursing to stay with their mothers and grandmothers, to nurse their children and stay away from their husbands; so that unwanted pregnancy will not take place while they are still breastfeeding their new-born babies.
In our new generation, where young women will find it difficult to stay away from their husbands, and go to the provinces to stay with their mothers whilst breastfeeding their babies, the modern contraceptive and family planning commodities make it easy for these young women to stay with their husbands, whilst breastfeeding and avoid unwanted pregnant at the same time.
Back to the old contraceptive methods, our traditionalist and as well as some of our religious leaders, also talked about the withdrawal method done by men to prevent unwanted pregnancy from taking place at the wrong time; a method that most of the men complained they cannot live by because it is somehow complicated, and the timing is very bad for a man to withdraw at such a stage while performing his matrimonial rights as a man.
You will agree with me that the condom is good and even better than the withdrawal method, because before you asked a man doing or performing his matrimonial rights to interrupt himself and withdraw at a difficult stage, is better if he embraces the condom and perform his matrimonial duty to his wife or partner uninterrupted in a civilized manner.
Let’s talk contraceptive today, and stop seeing modern contraception as a new thing that is added to the practices of the human race, and accept it as something that came to upgrade what we had, and to make life even better and more enjoyable.
There is also what they called the “alkurutoo”, a juju that is made by marabouts in a watery format, or something that is used by women to tie it around their waist, to prevent pregnancy from taking place at the wrong time; which also fails women sometimes and results in unwanted pregnancy.
Women have to go through all sorts of things like this just to prevent themselves from unwanted pregnancy, especially at the time when they are breastfeeding.
Then family planning commodities like the injectables, Implants, pills are here to prevent women from making their waist look ugly or from going through all the hardships that may fail at the end of the day. Family planning commodities are here to complement and upgrade the traditional FP methods.
As men of this country, you will all agree with me that all you ever wanted and prayed for is a healthy family, and a healthy relationship that will yield healthy results.
Family Planning promotes healthier relationships, and ensures that every child born to a family is recognized, cared for, loved and catered for.
So why not sit your family down and talk contraceptive with that woman you love so much, and whose life matters to you more than anything or anyone else.
Talking contraceptive with your wife or partner, as a man, does not mean that you are opening doors for that woman to turn herself into a player; instead you recognize a woman’s right to sexual reproductive health so that she can live a healthier life and bear healthier children, and make healthier decisions concerning her sexuality.
You are empowering that woman to visit clinics or hospitals; to learn and asked questions about her sexual reproductive health; and make informed choices that will not only benefit her, but you as well.
A woman who has the support of her male partner, be it married or unmarried; and empowered on her sexual reproductive health and rights, will turn out to be the best mother who can take care of her teenage daughters, and prevent them from being victims of unwanted pregnancy. Family Planning is the key to a happy and fruitful home.
As a woman, what is the competition for if you cannot guarantee a healthier life for your children, due to your decisions of giving birth every now and then, just because you are a second wife in a competition with your rival.
Your health is far more important than putting your life in danger. Every woman wants to be there, when her son or daughter makes a good man or lady of him or herself, but that dream cannot be realised when you put your life in danger as a result of giving birth every year. Contraception is the answer.
Every child born to this world deserves to be taken care of, loved, educated, is healthy, catered for and has the right to survival.
That is why, as mothers, we should make sure that every pregnancy is wanted, so that it can be enjoyed and given all the due attention it deserves; and so that the survival of that unborn child will be ensured by all that matters.
A man who sees a woman as his property will never let that woman have a say over her sexuality; let alone take decisions concerning her reproductive health, and that trend will continue if she gave birth to daughters.
A man who sees a woman as his partner and a human being, will accord that woman the right to have a say over her sexuality, empower her and support and allow her to partake in decisions concerning her reproductive health and rights, and the trend will continue in her lineage.
Let’s talk contraceptive today and give Family Planning a chance, so that poverty will be a thing of the past. Women’s rights are human rights! And so are Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.
Let’s join UNFPA and partners, put all hands on deck, both men and women, and make sure that we deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child-birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.