Pressing Ahead With Empowering Women

Jun 16th, 2017 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York.

[path.org]

[path.org]

A new product is being touted as a game changer for women’s health, giving women a new and easy-to-use device in the contraceptives and voluntary family planning toolkit.

Unless you follow issues related to women’s reproductive health, you may not know that some 225 million women in developing countries around the world want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods. Reasons for non-use include cultural barriers, lack of access to family planning services and information, and not having partner support.

This situation is about to change for the better, as a self-injectable contraceptive method called Sayana Press – touted as an “all-in-one contraceptive” – will soon be rolled out and approved for use in more than 40 nations.

Some quick facts about Sayana Press:

  • Each injection lasts for three months
  • The injectable can be stored without refrigeration
  • Cost – approximately $1/dose

Here in Uganda, Sayana Press has the support of the national government, which was a pilot country on use of the self-injectable. This is a good thing in a country where 4 in 10 births are unplanned. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the high levels of unintended pregnancy and unplanned births in Uganda is mainly due to nonuse of contraceptives by women who do not want a child soon.

Under the pilot program, rural women showed much interest in the self-injectable. Use of modern methods varies greatly according to women’s social and economic status. In 2011, only 13–16% of Uganda’s poorest and least educated married women used modern contraceptives, compared with 38–39% of the wealthiest and most educated women.

Dr. Dinah Nakiganda, the commissioner of reproductive health for the Gulu district in northern Uganda, noted how important this new injectable can be for women, stating “Innovative approaches are essential to help one to have children when they are ready. But also because contraception gives them power to take control of their bodies, lives, careers and continue with school. It reduces unwanted pregnancies.”

To ensure that this product reaches the populations in greatest need, the government has trained up to 2,000 village health teams to sensitize and educate women on proper usage of the contraceptive. According to Dr. Nakiganda, “the government is committed to ensure that more community health workers are trained.”

Of course, educating and involving men is also critical. Though Sayana Press allows women a certain amount of discretion and independence, family planning services work best when there is complete communication amongst all parties. But unfortunately many women have a need to hide their need for contraception, and this injectable provides women control over their own lives and bodies.

 

unfpa

 

In an interview for a local Ugandan newspaper, Betty Nabulesa, a 35 year-old woman, recounted how she had had three unplanned births because the nearest health center was far away and expensive to get to and had long lines to receive products, and thus she was often off and on contraceptives. Nabulesa participated in the Sayana Press pilot program and said it changed her life . “I am in charge now,” she said. “I inject myself from home, in the bathroom or anywhere. If I ever have another child, it will be because I want one.”

There is a lot of hope that the Sayana Press self-injectable will help get more women to the point where Betty Nabulesa is – healthy, in charge of her life, and prepared to have a child, if and when she so chooses.

 

Suzanne York is Director of Transition Earth and is currently in Uganda researching organizations implementing the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach.

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