By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire

Parents hold a remarkable influence on their children even if their wards would come of independent age. One factor that is still hampering such parents is the allowance to let their youth access contraception for the promotion of good health and preventing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

The lack of accurate family planning information has perpetrated the presence of myths and misconceptions circulating about contraception. Youth and health workers in Neno and Ntcheu districts have openly questioned parents about why they still believe contraception causes infertility amidst plenty of evidence and testimonials that have dispelled this myth for a longer period now.

Ruth Samuel from Chapita Village, TA Mlauli in Neno district who is currently supporting FPAM in mobilizing youth to access family planning information and services at assigned service delivery points, claims to have started using contraception at an early stage “I started using family planning when I was in Standard 6 but after completing form 4, I comfortably gave birth to a healthy baby, although I passed through a lot of intimidation, castigations, condemnation, and the same detractors are now speechless to see me breastfeed,” Samuel shared her story during SBCC demand creation training at Chifunga TDC hall.

Samuel and Veronica Kapichi

In Neno, TA Dambe, Olive Enock 23, now using a five-year implant, claims that she started FP in 2018 when she was in Form 1 at the age of 15 at Neno Parish Secondary School and upon completing her Form 4 class, she successfully gave birth to a healthy baby who is two years and four months now. “I should thank my boyfriend because he was fully informed of the dangers for girls to giving birth at an early stage. Our relationship started when I was 15 but he encouraged me to start with injectable contraception,” said Enock, during a community engagement meeting at Dambe court.

The fears that go-to girls if they start using contraception before their first birth is self-compromise to one’s fertility is flowing like wildfire but girls who have adequate access to contraception information and a direct link to health workers have shown to challenge and repel this fake threat. Faith Msamba, 17, from Gomeya village, TA Makwangwala in Ntcheu district, who works as a peer mobilizer for the youth to access Sexual Reproductive Health services at FPAM mobile clinics, shared her contraception testimony during FPAM organized community discussion and open days in the district. “We cannot lie that youth should only abstain. They are having sex that is why we have cases of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. I don’t think it’s time for the youth to choose sickness over good health. Choose contraception if you want good health and achievement of educational and career goals,” Msamba said during a community engagement meeting at Group Village Headman Gomeya curt in Ntcheu.

Faith Msamba during a community discussion

“Time has completely changed for parents and guardians including chiefs and religious leaders to denounce the need for youth to access FP and other sexual reproductive heal information services from different service delivery points.

During our time, our parents could bear more children and through extended families, life was very normal. Today, there are more nuclear families, and to let youth start to bear children before they are mature and independent financially, it’s creating family problems including maternal death that come with young girl’s birth complications and poverty which challenge parents to take care of the extra family members,” said Joshua Kwachera, who graced FPAM Nsiyaludzu and Bwanje open days in Ntcheu as a guest of honor.  

Young girls who opt for contraception do not have an easy path to sustain access to family planning services, especially when they are known to be unmarried. Olive Enock who is on three-year implant contraception indicates that hearsays cannot save any life. What is important is to partner with supportive people including health workers. “I can testify that had it been that my husband I met at Neno Parish Secondary School in Neno did not introduce me to contraception, we could have started having children before we even finished secondary school education,” explained Enock.

“My friends were mocking at me and my parents were never happy because they feared I would end up barren. I became so afraid and got back to Veronica to explain my fears about my relations and she encouraged and assured me that I would still give birth no matter what because contraception does not cause infertility. While in Form 2 secondary school class, I switched from pills to a three-year implant. After five months, I started having heavy menses that could spill in our compound and my parents just became furious because they said the family planning method was actually removing my uterus,” Samuel expressed her panic then. “But Veronica Kapichi, our family planning Youth Community Based Distribution Agent still encouraged me to get to the hospital to access side effects management services. Later the menses normalized and today I’m a model of the entire village.” Samuel added.

Most rural areas are crowded with “cultural and religious beliefs” that also hinder youth access to contraception. Narrated Heath Surveillance Assistant for Dambe health center, Kalawa Ng’oma. He added that “There is a need for more parents, chiefs, and religious leaders to be taught and linked to health workers to learn more about family planning services because we have some parents who have never used modern family planning methods and they may not understand the benefits attached.”

Family Planning Association of Malawi through N’zatonse Phase IV project is providing comprehensive information and integrated SRHR/HIV/GBV services through mobile clinics and community health workers predominantly targeting youth, men, and women in Neno and Ntcheu districts.