My project’s overarching aim is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in three high burden states in Nigeria. As part of my project I have been running a household survey to quantify the current awareness and understanding of long term reversible contraceptives (and healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy) in the rural communities in Nigeria. As part of this survey we are also surveying men as men influence a lot of the decisions that women take about their reproductive health in Nigeria. Results from this survey will drive future program strategies.
We visited many houses and interviewed over 500 people (men and women of certain age groups). Some were reluctant to talk, some weren’t honest and some were very open and took pride in talking to us. Women prefer to be interviewed by women and men preferred to be interviewed by men. This is because reproductive health is a very sensitive topic to talk about, especially in northern Nigeria, due to various religious and traditional stigma. It is a very challenging exercise.
Rabi’u Yusuf is a 26-year-old man from a rural part of northern Nigeria (Kano state). Rabi’u has 6 siblings and his father has 2 wives. His uncle has 4 wives and a total of 23 children. This is not so uncommon in northern Nigeria as a large section of the society is polygamous.
We met Rabi’u as we were conducting our survey and he was one of our respondents. He answered all the questions diligently and honestly. He was initially reluctant to talk openly but our enumerators could speak the local language and Rabi’u started opening up as he felt more comfortable with us. Rabi’u has attended primary school and even though he wanted to study further, his circumstances meant he had to work to meet his needs. He owns a small shop in his community selling everyday essentials. He does not believe in the tradition of having multiple wives or a large family. He is fed up with what he sees around him. He believes these strong traditions do not allow Nigeria to be progressive and competitive in the modern day. Rabi’u feels he cannot change the system but he doesn’t want to be a part of it. Rabi’u is standing up for what he believes. His wife is pregnant with their second child and he doesn’t want any more children after this. He thinks two is enough for a happy life. He understands that in this harsh economic climate he will not be able to provide good education if he has more than 2 children. He also knows that he is going to have a very difficult time standing up against the pressures of his relatives, neighbours and his friends for what he has chosen to do. Rabi’u is determined that he wants to be the change that he wishes to see in his community.
Rabi’u is an inspiration and he is an unsung hero of his village. Rabi’u is a superhero who is taking the right decision as he dreams a healthy and better future for his family. Rabi’u inspired all of us in just 15 minutes. We want more people like Rabi’u in Nigeria and in the world.
Ibrahim Abubkar is a 35-year-old man and has 7 children. He has 5 children from his first wife and after their divorce he remarried and he has 2 children from his current wife. His father has 3 wives and a total of 19 children. Ibrahim has an electrical shop in front of his house. Ibrahim is a very humble and soft spoken person.
Ibrahim took a lot of pride in talking to us and sharing his knowledge. He did not know anything about long term reversible contraceptives until his last child, which was last year. He now thinks that he has been a fool all these years for not knowing the benefits of child spacing. Ever since Ibrahim learnt about family planning (healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy), he has been very vocal about it in his neighbourhood. He has educated many people already on the benefits of child spacing and how it is directly related to mother’s health, child’s health, family economy and emotional stress.
Ibrahim believes he could have benefitted from knowing about family planning earlier in his life as he could have planned his family in a more controlled way. Nevertheless, Ibrahim is a spirited person and thinks he can still do a lot of good by educating others on the benefits, including his own children. Ibrahim is a hero for helping his community unselfishly and unconditionally. Ibrahim is an inspiration and we need many more Ibrahim’s in this world, who are proactively helping others.
NOTE: I got full consent of Rabi’u and Ibrahim to publish their stories and photos.