Family Planning: The Problem of the Man - Bruno Chijioke Okere

I got this via email from one of our members at the League of Extraordinary Men. He, being my relative works at the National Population Commission and having imbibed our #PositiveMasculinity advocacy and ideology, he had to represent the report of this year's World Population with a twist of the role of the MAN.



The report is titled
"Family Planning: The Problem of the Man"

See what he wrote to me:
"I just finished an essay of this years theme of World Population Day Celebration. I thought you might love to have a copy and possibly put on your blog. You will love the masculine twist I added to it.

Read the report:

Excerpt:
She must have heard a noise behind her and turned round sharply. A man stood there with a matchet in his hand. Ekwefi uttered a scream and sprang to her feet. ‘Don’t be foolish,’ said Okonkwo’s voice. ‘I thought you were going into the shrine with Chielo,’ he mocked. Ekwefi did not answer. Tears of gratitude filled her eyes. She knew her daughter was safe. ‘Go home and sleep,’ said Okonkwo. I shall wait here.’ ‘I shall wait too. It is almost dawn. The first cock has crowed.’ As they stood there together, Ekwefi’s mind went back to the days when they were young. She had married Anene because Okonkwo was too poor then to marry. Two years after her marriage to Anene she could bear it no longer and she ran away to Okonkwo.  It had been early in the morning. The moon was shining. she was going to the stream. Okonkwo’s house was on the way to the stream. She went in and knocked at his door and he came out. Even in those days he was not a man of many words. He just carried her into his bed and in the darkness began to feel around her waist for the loose end of her cloth (86-87).  Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart.
Please do not try to dwell your thoughts on the last parts of the excerpt from Achebe’s masterpiece. I used it to get your attention. However in some ways that manly act to protect and to support the woman by Okonkwo reflects the role that men must take in the issue at stake. I will still try at the end to connect it with the topic.
Every 11th July annually, the National Population Commission of Nigeria joins critical stakeholders like UNFPA, and the UNDP all over the world to celebrate the World Population Day. For every year, a topic which raises concern and risk to the population of the world is adopted with the intention of generating adequate advocacy and publicity towards forestalling bigger population problems for the entire world.
The theme for this years’ (2017) celebration is "Family Planning, Birth Spacing; Empowering people, Developing Nation". The woman and girl-child are at the center of this topic because by nature they carry the burden of pregnancy, bear the pangs of labour and childbirth and takes on the task of nurturing the new born right from conception. When we combine these natural functions of the woman with the remaining attendant problems of poverty, religious crises, cultural predilections and domestic violence and coupled with the erroneous impression that Family Planning and Birth Spacing ought to be the sole responsibility of the woman, it becomes easy to see that indeed the woman and girl-child are fast becoming endangered. They seem to usually stand-alone when they face these problems; without the support of the man. The problem of Family Planning persists because we have not seen it as the problem of the man.
Incidentally, this year's World Population day celebration coincided with the world Family Planning Summit which held at the United Kingdom. The primary focus of the summit according to UNFPA publication on 'Family Planning Summit' was "to bring together leaders and advocates from around the world to commit to expanding access to modern forms of contraception to an additional 120 million women with a special focus on the most marginalized and vulnerable” (1). 
In Nigeria today, the reason why women recurrently suffer from the problems of Family Planning is not far-fetched; the man leaves the woman alone to her ‘problem’. Family Planning and Birth Spacing is an area of our co-habitation on earth which most men see as being under the exclusive duty of a woman. These troubles are embedded in three areas which are;
1)     Illiteracy and Misconception: From a long time ago, the desire to educate the male child first, ahead of the female in Nigeria placed the woman in a disadvantaged position from inception. A lot of women and girl-child had very minimal proper education before they were married off. This blunder simply means that the average Nigerian woman and girl-child are poorly equipped from the beginning of their lives on how to transcend the problems of life. They lack the confidence which they ought to have as educated better versions of themselves to even seek the right counsel or information about Voluntary Family Planning. The chances of ever going back or furthering their education, is equally reduced because they are married or have unwanted pregnancy. They become entrapped into only one function in their entire lifetime; child bearing. In other cases, some women are completely ignorant of Family Planning methods. Thus they are exposed to problems of unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, and early pregnancy. This type of woman becomes a burden directly to the man. She cannot help in the finances of the family because she is not equipped to do so. She cannot control her cycle properly because she lacks the confidence and the right counsel. Consequently the burden to run a home falls completely on the man, who eventually struggles till death. An uneducated woman brings problems to the man, while an educated woman actually supports her husband and builds a stronger home.
There is also the generally untrue misconception that Family Planning is a ploy to reduce the number of children a woman should have had. Some men even believe that as soon as a woman starts giving birth then she should have all her children immediately and consecutively at the same time without spacing since the womb has opened and started making babies, before she can rest.  On the contrary, family planning actually gives a woman the chance to recover her body health-wise before having another baby. It also allows her to have all the children she wants at a balanced and safe pace. It gives the woman room to also make meaningful ventures out of life apart from child bearing. It equally pays the man upon whom providing the resources for the upbringing of the child falls upon, to have a breather in terms of resources.
2)     Unmet Need for Family Planning: Lack of access to standard Family Planning methods also hampers the campaign of voluntary Family Planning. Part of the goal of the Family Planning Summit in United Kingdom was to take the campaign to the poorest corners of the world. The Chairman National Population Commission, Chief Eze Duruiheoma (SAN) in his press briefing on this years’ theme of World Population Day commemoration in Abuja noted that “an estimated 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. Most of these women with unmet demand for contraceptive live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth. Fulfilling their unmet demand would save lives by averting 60 million unintended pregnancies around the world” (3). Some women who live in crisis riddled areas in Nigeria do not have any access to family planning methods because of the war thorn areas and low economic potentials of those areas. Here once again the decisions of men, who usually dominate policy making in developing and poor countries, directly affect women and here is why. Men fight wars yet a lot of women and children are the direct victims; young girls and women are exposed to rape and violence in times of war. Women are still giving birth in IDP camps in Nigeria today. Does it mean there is so much room and luxury for consummation and pregnancies? Don’t the men care that these women who are already misplaced are actually struggling to survive than make more babies? For a woman to conceive, it takes a man to happen.
Chief Eze Duruiheoma (SAN) went ahead to highlight in his press briefing that while many women in Nigeria are aware of Family Planning methods, only about 15% of the married women actually have access or are using a contraception method. The question then arises as to why women would be aware of family Planning methods and yet not apply any? This question takes us to the third point.
3)     Cultural and Religious Impediments and Sexual/ Domestic Violence: the desire for a male child has driven a lot of women to having more children than they bargained for in Nigeria today. The pressures of a ‘male child’ as the preferred child are either induced by the husband himself or his family members or the woman or her family members. Some religions do not accept contraception for married women or men. In addition some men do not care whether it is safe or unsafe to meet a woman at a particular period in her cycle. In some cases too some women who used a method of family planning have been asked to remove it by their husbands. Some women are pregnant today because they were raped (forced) by their husbands. Same applies to teenage girls. Some Nigerian men even try to water down rape and call it ‘little force’. After all she left her home to visit you. Yet, as promiscuous as an Igbo he-goat (Mkpi) is, it cannot mate with a female goat that is not in heat. Equally there is stigmatization for rape victims especially when it’s a young girl. These problems drive the woman to seek unsafe abortions, and several unwanted pregnancies and the pangs of unplanned pregnancy, labour childbirth and nurturing of the newborn, which brings their lives to a halt for a period spanning over a year or in worse scenarios, adolescent pregnancy, and death.
In Igbo culture even today, some women target to have 10 children so that they can kill ‘ewu-ukwu’ for them.  A goat probably costs about 25,000 naira. Are we saying that the pains of labour and ten ventures into the mouth of death for ten children are valued at 25,000 naira?
WHAT THE REAL MAN MUST DO
What men must do is simple. Men must lead in the drive for the use of any of the healthy contraception methods compatible with his woman. As every adult reading this treatise may be aware, they include; withdrawal method, condoms, injectable(s), and other healthy methods. Like Okonkwo we must put aside our masculine ego and look inward to protect our women. We must offer our shoulders for the woman to lean on. Men must begin to see Family Planning and birth spacing as a couple’s affair. Most women will be thrilled to be accompanied by their men to Family Planning centers all over Nigeria. Apart from learning about it, men must strive to put into practice some of these methods together with their wives.
Certainly nothing is more beautiful to behold, than a pregnant woman who happily prepared and planned for her pregnancy with her man who loves and supports her. She blossoms with the freshness of new life in her. And because the man is involved from the start the childbirth and nurturing of that child stands a higher chance of success. Men should take it up and lead with Family planning and Birth Spacing. It is actually economical especially in this time of recession. Family planning equally gives the man’s woman opportunity to recover her delicate body faster and looks good. So if you want a cute wife, please indulge in Family Planning.
The most important specie in our humankind is the woman. How can we not see then that her education should be a priority? Men must encourage their women to be educated because when a woman is educated and works, she actually contributes to the family welfare and on a larger level helps in the general growth of the economy of the society. Religious leaders must also come out to meet other opinions on a common ground rather than take an extreme position on contraception.
Men must equally support the campaign against sexual and domestic violence against women in any form. Men must become like Okonkwo and protect their woman from pregnancies-without spacing or from ‘accidental pregnancy’- even though I am still struggling to find the accident in the act that leads to pregnancy. When men stand by their women, the woman’s heart will be filled with gratitude and joy like Ekwefi. They will know they are safe with their children. Women will wait through the harrowing process of childbirth as long as their men are lovingly in full active support and it was planned. When Men stand with women; their tender hearts, like Ekwefi’s heart, will remember the days when they were both young. Sweet thoughts will come to life. Women excel when they know their men loves them and protects them all round and supports their ventures.
The plus side is; happy is the man who puts a woman in this mood. I tell you my men most solemnly; the things you will gain cannot be comprehended in prints. Then you will enjoy looking for the loose ends of cloths with confidence and freedom. So let’s be the man and solve the problem of Family planning. Our women will smile and blossom again.
Chijioke Bruno Okere.
Bruno is a Public Affair Officer with the National Population Commission in Imo State. He loves editing novels and reading poetry. Bruno is a Man.
Sources:
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, 1958.
Duruiheoma, Eze. “Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing
            Nations”: Abuja, 3rd July, 2017 (Press briefing on 2017 WPD).
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “Family Planning Summit”: London, 8th February,
            2017. www.unfpa.org. (pg 1-2).



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