Child Brides Get Their Lives Back With Family Planning [analysis]

Nalongo Ruth Naluggya Kamulegeya, 35, is among hundreds of economically-empowered women in Luweero district, thanks to family planning.

Naluggya failed to use the pill as a contraceptive and, lucky for her, her husband agreed to have a vasectomy. Vasectomy is a permanent method of birth control for men, where a man’s reproductive tubes are severed in a minor operation.

Naluggya, a resident of Kakabala, Butuntumula sub-county, told The Observer she failed to use the pill since her husband was often travelling for months. She would get off the pill in her husband’s prolonged absence, “but when he returned, I was too excited and forgot to take the pill. I ended up with unwanted pregnancies”.

The Kamulegeyas ended up with eight, poorly-spaced children, including two sets of twins.

“We couldn’t get enough time to look after our children since the demands like education, food, health and shelter were too much,” Naluggya said.

Naluggya said in order to work harder and provide for their big family, her husband Yusuf Kamulegeya agreed to a vasectomy.

“Kamulegeya got a vasectomy ten years ago, and he has never complained of any side effects. Our last born is 10 years old and we look young since we have no stress of unplanned pregnancies,” she said.They now even find time to go out and relax after work.

Naluggya was forced into marriage when she was 13 years old, after her father abandoned them and denied them an education,seeing no value in educating girls. He was more interested in marrying them off to rich, old men. By the time she was 14, she had her first child and kept producing every year until a friend aised her on birth control.

“But I ended up missing them and continued conceiving,” she said.

Naluggya is now a poultry farmer and engages in other businesses.

NABUKO’S SEARCH FOR A BOY

Harriet Nabuko, 38, on the other hand, started giving birth at the age of 13 due to lack of school fees. She gave birth to 11 children of which only eight are alive. Nabuko of Kamira sub-county, Luweero district, said she produced 11 kids in her quest for a boy child.

“My husband’s family pressurized me to give birth every year because they wanted a boy whom they considered to be the heir and didn’t want girls. However, after producing a boy, my husband [wanted] at least three [more],” she said.

When she heard Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) aising women to use family planning methods in order to empower themselves economically and space their children, she used bilateral tubal ligation to stop giving birth permanently.

“People allege that it makes women lose their sexual desire. In fact I am now more sexually active than before, since I have much time to meet my husband unlike before when I was always busy with children,” she said.

NALUMANSI SURVIVED DEATH

Scovia Nalumansi, 29, whom I found in Katikamu health centre III after the birth of her third child, also appreciates using family planning for the last six years. Nalumansi, also a poultry farmer in Wobulenzi, said she got married at 14 years and narrowly escaped death after getting complications while giving birth to her first born.

“I was young and couldn’t manage to push and yet we were very far from the main hospital. By the time we reached the hospital, the baby’s heart was not beating we both survived death narrowly,” she said.

“After giving birth, I was introduced to family planning and I have managed to space my three children and have no worries of unplanned pregnancies,” she said.

CAO LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Amos Kalema, 65, the deputy Chief Administration Officer Luweero district, said he is a father of six and has practiced family planning with his wife for the last 21 years.

“Our last born is 21 years. We have managed to take our children to expensive schools since we budget for them. We are living a decent life and we have enough time to look after each other,” he said.

“However, they should do more research into the side effects [such as] losing sexual desire, over-bleeding in women who use injections and growing fat or too thin in some women,” Kalema said.

According to the Guttmacher Institute report 2014, early marriages are the lead cause of teenage pregnancies in Uganda. At least 90 per cent of the teenage pregnancies are among girls who are married before the age of 18.

Twenty-four per cent of female youths aged 15 to 24 have had an abortion complication because they did not use family planning methods. Although there are few studies on abortions, some 297,000 abortions are performed annually, with 85,000 women treated for complications, according to the report titled Unintended Pregnancy And Abortion In Uganda.

The report also says, inadequate access to reproductive health services is a contributor to teenage pregnancy. Three in 10 (31 per cent) girls aged 15 to 19 report having an unmet family planning need.

However, Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity ministry as well as some religious leaders have opposed the campaign to promote family planning.

“The provision of contraceptives to the women is totally against our Qur’an teaching on marriage. We can’t allow it,” Sheikh Twaha Ssemwanje told The Observer.

The Catholic church has also always been vocal in its teachings against using family planning. According to Reproductive Health Uganda’s National Aocacy Officer Linnet Agnes Awor, the organisation is empowering women on the importance of family planning to personal development.

“We have equipped them with skills of baking, farming, saving through their women Saccos and also supporting them with bicycles to solve the challenges of transport,” she said. On March 12, Awor handed over 45 bicycles worth Shs 13.5m to 45 champions and pressure group members of women reproductive rights aocacy in Luweero district.

Source : The Observer

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