“A CULTURE that does not respect life and is ready to sacrifice the lives of women and girls to maintain its identity is delusional and misguided.”
These are sentiments of David Lukama, one of the change champions for adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Reverend Lukama points out that thinking realistically and saving lives must be the core of cultural and religious values.
While advocacy on sexual and reproductive health and family planning is centered mostly on women, male involvement is critical to achieving desired results.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2012 that 287,000 maternal deaths occurred in 2010 with sub-Saharan Africa posting 56 per cent for the global burden of maternal deaths.
Men were also recognised to be responsible for the large proportion of ill reproductive health suffered by their female partners.
It is a generally accepted ‘fact’ in various cultures all over the world that the man, the father, is the head of the family unit and has enormous powers to veto any move deemed not in the best interest of his household.
Many times women cannot access family planning services in the absence of consent from their husbands, a situation that exacerbates low contraceptive use in Zambia.
From creation, God has placed the man before the woman. Whereas this fact elicits different views from proponents of gender equality, the fact still remains.
Ephesians 5:23 in the Holy Bible states that “for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body,” and reading further to verse 25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”
The follow-up verse is an injunction to husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, loving them as they love their own bodies.
Therefore, family planning demands maturity and acceptance of responsibility on the part of men.
The ability to make informed choices about one’s sexual and reproductive health is empowering, in that family planning presents an opportunity for enhanced education and participation in public life by women, including paid employment in non-family organisations.
Additionally, access to family planning services reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women, including those living with HIV, and results in fewer infected babies hence the practice of contraceptive use is significant.
Coalition of African Parliamentarians Against HIV and AIDS (CAPAH) Zambia chapter member Given Katuta has implored men to be responsible heads of family units and lead by example in promoting sexual and reproductive health for women.
Ms Katuta, who is Chiengi Member of Parliament, observes that if Zambia is to attain remarkable progress in reducing maternal mortality, and HIV infections, men must drive the crusade.
“Men are always heads in homes and they are supposed to be in the forefront of promoting the wellbeing of women. It is therefore important for men to take the lead in issues of reproductive health and contraceptive use,” she says.
Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) vice president Abidan Chansa has stressed the importance of male involvement in increasing contraceptive use among women.
Dr Chansa says, “In the African setup, most important decisions in a home are presided over by a man. If we involved men in family planning choices, and family planning education, we will be scoring a success and the men folk will understand what our women go through.”
“One of the successes that have been scored in HIV is that those women who go for their first antenatal visit with their partners, are given preferential treatment and they undergo couple counseling and testing, and this enlightens men in a lot of issues such that if there is need for them to take medication when they are found positive, it is much easier,” he says.
The bottom line is that men should take keen interest in family planning discussions and counseling generally to encourage or facilitate women’s contraceptive choice.
With the emphasis placed on the importance of male involvement in family planning, the onus is on men to stand up for the wellbeing of women.
I leave you with some of the readers’ comments from my inbox on last week’s topic.
I must commend you particularly for highlighting issues to do with our reproductive health. This should continue.
The issue of abortion has been very controversial not only in Zambia but the whole world and being one of those women who underwent unsafe abortions during my time at secondary school; the issue of putting an end to funding those NGOs spearheading unsafe abortions in Africa is close to my heart.
Just like Mr Mwale alluded to in your article, our leaders must stand by their promises to women. If truly they are committed to looking at the welfare of women in this country then our right to life must be protected.
We need to live, our daughters need to live and not die because a witch doctor recommended abortion using unconventional methods. I look forward to more articles on this topic.
I agree with you Mr Chimfwembe, leaders should learn to keep the promises they make. There is a tendency where leaders sometimes make decisions without consulting the people who elected them.
This ought to change if the world is going to be a better place for a woman to live in. If Americans stop funding abortion related activities, it is their own right to do so because that’s their money, our leaders should rise to the occasion.
MOTHER OF TWINS
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