‘Walks in my working lady after 8 days of unannounced holidays; obviously I was infuriated as hell, who wouldn’t be? The whole house had come down to a chaos without her. Still furious, I asked her what urgency made her vanish like this; and I was already expecting a similar answer about her kids being ill, husband not well, or some sudden death in her distant family or so. But she sat down and burst into tears…
She had been expecting since 3 months and hadn’t informed me because she knew I would lecture her on family planning and taking breaks between pregnancies to focus more on her health, hence she kept quiet. Recently she had developed some complications which caused her immense lethargy and body pains (no wonder she was always complaining of back aches and wasn’t swift in her work), her health had been deteriorating and her improper food intake had caused her to grow weaker. This eventually resulted in her miscarriage and the complications were such that it affected her urinary tract, in turn causing a painful infection. The days she took off were due to her miscarriage and unbearable pain which prevented her from getting up from the bed.
Listening to this I felt horrible for being angry with her on not showing up but now I felt even more anger for her husband, who would rather spend his salary on “Dum Durood Walay Baba” on some chants for another baby boy, than spend on a nutritious diet for the existing members of the family. It angered me to know why was he or his family blind about her health and kept putting her through the torture of miscarriages again and again totally ignoring her health, I wondered if she was willing to go for it again or would she consider putting a stop to this in future. But she vaguely responded, “Kia karsakte hain baji?” [What can I do, sister] and I was left baffled, she still couldn’t understand the dangers of frequent miscarriages that she’d face later in life and also, I could see that she had absolutely no say in the entire process, though it was her body enduring it! ‘
I’ve quoted this incident that I came face to face with some time ago and remember how my mother had gone to even speak with the woman’s mother in law about the precarious-ness of the situation but all in vain.
All of this came back to me while i recently participated in a social media campaign led by Greenstar Marketing , which is a family planning and women’s health organization that aims to create awareness among rural and urban families guiding them on safer and healthier planning for having children. The issue to be highlighted in the campaign was around the thought how women do NOT have a say in such a personal decision in most cases and how it’s expected of them to simply behave like a child-making machine who would pop out kids every now and and then, completely ignoring her health factor or how weak her body grows due to no rest. Initially this issue was made a religious concern that how it was totally against Islam to control something conceived naturally and fertility is God’s decision, but then again, over doing those things ain’t permissible either specially if it’s affecting ones health and in every cause of life, a woman has equal right to speak for herself, be it education, marriage or childbirth, she has all the rights to decide whether she her body is ready to take on to something so big so soon or if she needs to wait. In most cases, the pregnancies are unplanned because the natural method of controlling is still used widespread and the modern methods of birth Control are merely used by 22% of women only [Wikipedia] due to lack of awareness, hesitation, cost of methods being high, etc. Although the Mother Mortality Rate (MMR) in Pakistan has fallen slightly over the years, which indicates a small percent is looking into safer methods of family planning but still only Afghanistan is below Pakistan in ranking from the neighboring chunks.
A woman’s ability to decide for her pregnancy has a direct impact on her mental and physical health because the readiness of the body is linked to the internal emotions, if she is willing and happy to go forth with the process, her pregnancy will be relatively easier. Abortions are also one of the major causes of unplanned conceptions and frequent or early childbearing, which is another greater risk for womens health. It weakens the body and increases the risk to have a baby in future.
Better family planning reduces chances of unintended pregnancies, infant mortalities, prevents STI’s live HIV/AIDS, enhances children growth and education, slows population growth etc. There are multiple options available to control conceptions without harm,
Most people are hesitant to approach this subject to lack of awareness, fear of experience, little or no concern for the woman undergoing the trauma, gender biased barriers, cultural or religious opposition, limited access access to contraception particularly the poorer section of society. Which is why GSM came up with a toll free helpline for easy access, called Poocho, you could dial 0800-11171 anytime to request a visit from their representatives or get quick help on your concerns.
Since these issues mostly prevail in the lower middle or lower strata of the society, it’s incumbent on us as individuals to inform those we know in our surroundings about this, it could help them in some way surely.
Lastly, before I end this article, understand this message personally and spread it, that a woman is not just a medium for bringing children into this world, her good health is extremely necessary for post birth care of her child, for its good upbringing and good future. She is the backbone of the house, and that needs to be in good shape to hold everything together. Please don’t mess up with her body that she owns entirely by herself and has more right on it than anyone else could, include her in decisions of family because without her, there is no You.
Follow tweets, information and people’s participation on the topic under the hashtag #NoMenWithoutWomen or their account on Twitter: @GreenstarSM