This week I will be blogging from the London Summit on Family Planning, organised by the UK government and the Gates Foundation. The ambitious aim is to provide family planning methods to an additional 120 million women worldwide by 2020. I have already blogged at length about this, so will simply give you all an impression of what this means for two of the women I met on my recent trip to Kenya.
Miriam is 32 years old and was at the Marura Village Dispensary in Laikipia District with her 3 month old son, Peter. She already has five girls at home and is struggling to keep them in school. Her eldest daughter will soon leave school, at age 13 years in order to train as a hairdresser.
When I asked her if she wanted more children she laughed loudly and made it very clear that Peter was to be her last child. She was exhausted, she could not afford to educate the children she had already, why would she want another child?
She had a swollen neck, and had been told that she would need an operation for which she is trying to save money. She was very worried that she would not be able to save the money for the operation, and having another child would certainly make this more difficult.
Miriam was attending the clinic to have her son vaccinated and would be returning to access contraception in order to prevent further pregnancies.
Jane has three children, a boy aged 22 years, and two girls, aged 15 years and 12 years. It is no coincidence that the age gap between her children is so large. Jane has been using contraception since her late teens. She had her latest implant in May of this year.
She told me that having contraception meant that her health and the health of her children was improved. She now counsels women in her community on the importance of spacing out the births of their children. She laughed and said,
“I am a good example to the women here. It would not be possible to advise on contraception if I had 9 children at home”.
Her eldest son has left school but the girls are still in school.
“We need to educate our children so that they can get good jobs and support their parents”
She is strong in her conviction that being able to space out the births of her children has enabled her to do this.
These are just two women in Kenya, but their lives and experiences mirror millions of other women around the world.