Women (most especially young girls) are mostly disadvantaged when it comes to sexual and reproductive health outcomes, this is made worse when they have no education and/or no independent source of income as they come to the ‘negotiation table’ with no refusal/assertive skills as well as no form of preparedness for the outcome that follows their action or decision. A true life story narrated below helps to put this into perspective.
Bunmi (not real name) 19, lives with her parents and 3 other siblings plus 2 children of her own in a one room apartment in a rural community in Ogun State, Nigeria. Her parents are illiterates artisans, she dropped out of school because of paucity of funds as lack and hunger was their everyday reality.
She had the first child at 17 and Hakeem (not real name) her boyfriend at that time who impregnated her denied paternity. After persistent pressure from family, Hakeem accepted the child as his.
On the child's first year birthday, Hakeem came around to visit Bunmi and her parents. He was warming and charming as he came to visit Bunmi and the baby at her parents' house. Hakeem acted responsible on the day of his child's birthday. He gave Bunmi's parents N2000 for the upkeep of the little boy and gave Bunmi N500 as "pocket money". Later that day, Hakeem called Bunmi aside and guess what…had sex with her!
I wish that was the end but like all stories that have a sad ending it isn’t. Bunmi got pregnant again and when this ‘bobo’ was told, he denied being responsible for the pregnancy, that while having sex with Bunmi he ‘withdrew’ outside of her and so the pregnancy couldn’t be his.
Well, fast forward to 9 months later she had the child and again her parents and some concerned individuals went to Hakeem's house to let him know his son had arrived. Once again, he denied paternity of the child and told Bunmi to look to another person for the paternity of her child and not him. He claimed that there was no way the child could be his since he “withdrew” and discharged on the floor and not inside her while they were having sex.
He faced Bunmi and dared her to deny his claims. Amidst tears, Bunmi told her parents that truly he “withdrew” and they all left shamefaced and the matter came to an inconclusive end.
A few months later, Hakeem got married to another young girl and Bunmi was left to bring up the 2 children with no means to a stable source of income and to the poverty and lack she grown up in and gotten used to.
Hacey Health Initiative is building partnerships and working to ensure that girls like Bunmi in rural areas and from disadvantaged backgrounds see silver linings behind the dark clouds and that irrespective of the poor reproductive health choices they have made and the poor outcomes they are now faced with, the situation does not remain bleak forever and they are able to rise above the events of the past and go on to learn skills and become masters of their trade such that they are able to fend for themselves and earn worthy incomes and be better positioned to be masters of the future they want.
by Winifred Imoyera