Ya Kazere had just delivered a strong, healthy baby. Her and her husband were grateful for a successful birth of their first child and were looking forward to growing their family together. Ya knew she should wait to have another child until she felt strong again, so she decided to speak with her husband about the option to go on family planning until they were ready.
The first time she brought up the discussion with her husband, he was completely against it. He said that family planning gives women an excuse to be unfaithful, a harmful rumor that has challenged women’s access to family planning for decades. So Ya decided to get family planning herself, without telling her husband.
The adoption of family planning can be challenging for many women in rural Togo due to widespread misconceptions that may prevent them from accessing the care they need. For instance, some believe that using family planning makes a woman infertile. Others believe that a woman will be unfaithful because she cannot get pregnant. These beliefs are not only wrong, but they take away a woman’s right to choose. And in most cases, women are left with little or no choice about their own bodies.
For the past five years, Integrate Health has worked with the Togolese Ministry of Health to bring healthcare closer to rural communities. By providing basic health services, such as family planning, rural women can avoid risky pregnancies and even death. Fortunately, Ya, like many other rural Togolese women, has a trusted Integrate Health-supported Community Health Worker who can help her, and her partner, make the right choice for themselves. Ya spoke with her local Community Health Worker, M’lowsa Kataka, who helped her decide what method to choose. M’lowsa referred her to the health center midwife to receive a contraceptive implant.
Soon after starting family planning, Ya began to suffer from side effects, and she frequently felt ill. She no longer could hide her symptoms and her husband discovered the truth about her choice to use family planning. For her safety, he told her to go back to the clinic and get the implant removed. Within months of the implant’s removal, Ya had three pregnancies within a year of each other, endangering herself and her children while also adding more financial stress for the growing family.
Ya knew that she needed to find a safe way to use contraception. She turned once more to her Community Health Worker, M’loswa.
Ya and her husband met with M’loswa and explained their situation. In response, M’loswa provided them with in-depth information about family planning methods, their side effects, and most importantly the benefits of family planning for their family. M’loswa explained that by using family planning, Ya and her husband could decide for themselves when they wanted to have a child and could give Ya the necessary rest she needs between pregnancies. Because she was from their community, M’loswa knew the reasons for the husband’s refusal and therefore knew exactly how to approach the situation. With patience and expertise, she provided Ya and her husband with concrete examples of other families who had successively practiced family planning in the community, with the families’ prior consent. After a few conversations between the three of them, Ya’s husband finally understood that family planning was beneficial not only for his wife but for the entire family. He was on board.
With the use of family planning, Ya and her husband have regained control of their lives. Ya’s husband realized that this choice has helped to ease his stress about providing financially for his family, allowing him to give his children the food and education they need to thrive. After their fifth child, Ya started using a family planning method that she renews every three months with the help of her trusted Community Health Worker. Ya and her husband are now saving money while focusing on their five children. In addition, Ya has regained control over her own body and feels that a huge burden has been lifted from her life and that she is now feeling lighter. “Just thinking about it makes me feel so good. It gives me peace of mind and makes me feel fulfilled,” she said.
Integrate Health, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, is working together to increase access to high-quality healthcare in Togo. By ensuring that women, like Ya, throughout rural Togo have access to family planning, more women and their families will gain the opportunity to choose a healthy and productive life for themselves.