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Like women in many countries in the developing world, Senegalese women tend to have their first child early – too early than is healthy for their bodies, which are often not ready to give birth at such a young age.
The next babies come soon after that, and before long women find themselves still in their twenties with many more children than they would have wished, if they’d had the choice. In many societies including Senegal this is perpetuated by the value the community places on big families – many children are thought to demonstrate the man’s virility and the woman’s fertility, ensure income for the family, and ensure parents are well looked after in their old age.
Often though, women know better. Views are starting to change here, and women are increasingly choosing smaller families – if, that is, they can access contraception. Below, two women who have been able to do just this talk about what it means to them.
“I am only 29 and I have five children already – that is just too much. So when I heard that Marie Stopes was educating on family planning today, I didn’t hesitate to come. Now that I’ve learned everything about family planning, I’ve decided to take an implant.
“It will protect me from pregnancy for five years, they say, and that is just what I need. I want to take good care of my children, and that’s hard enough with five mouths to feed.
“Before Marie Stopes started working here, we could get family planning services in government clinics. But nobody really trusted them. Rumours circulated about bad hygiene, and about women who had got pregnant despite getting receiving a contraceptive method there.
“So all the women are very excited about Marie Stopes coming to our area. Their services are affordable, accessible, discreet and clean. In short: good for our health!”
“I got married when I was 13 years old, as the second wife of a much older man. At 14, I got pregnant for the first time. After giving birth, I didn’t get pregnant for years. My husband even thought I had some disease, until less than a year ago I got pregnant again.
“Now I have two children, and that’s enough for me. Life is not easy here in Senegal, you see.
“My husband works as a receptionist in a hospital, but he doesn’t earn enough to feed everybody properly. So I want to find a job too, and I can’t do that with too many children demanding my attention.
“I got an implant today, and my husband is okay with that. We are very, very happy that Marie Stopes came to our neighbourhood.”
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