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What if you were Mariam? Featured

My name is María, I’m Spanish and I’m 30. I’m not in a stable relationship nor do I have kids, maternal instinct hasn’t knocked at my door yet, and I’m not sure it ever will. It’s something that doesn’t bother me, I have time to decide whether I want to be a mother or not. A few years ago I had an abortion after getting pregnant because I didn’t use any birth control methods. Since then, with the advice of my gynaecologist, I have tried different methods until I found the most convenient one for me.

If we add a letter to my name and I become Mariam, the story changes. I was born and live in Kenya, although that is not significant, since there are stories like mine (or even worse) all over the world. A few years ago I was married and, as it is set out, my husband and I tried to have children. But it was not possible, I did not get pregnant. And of course it all pointed to me having a fertility problem. But I never knew for sure because my husband never allowed me to go to the doctor, and even if he did, I would have had to travel many kilometres and pay a huge amount of money for a gynaecologist to see me. Impossible for me... In addition, every month I had such terrible period cramps that I couldn’t go outside nor go to work as normal. Eventually, my husband left me because I couldn’t have children.

I am Mariam too, I’m Kenyan and I’m 32. I’m married and I’ve been pregnant seven times, although I only have three kids: a 9-year-old girl, a 5-year-old boy and a baby that was born a few weeks ago. I have always had problems during my pregnancies and, unfortunately, many of them have gone wrong, since I had several miscarriages in the early months of gestation. No doctor has ever told me why these pregnancies went wrong, I don’t know the causes of those miscarriages, not even if they could have been prevented… Since I could not afford a specialist to examine me and see if I had any problems, I still do not know what caused the multiple miscarriages. Besides my three little ones, I gave birth to two babies, what a surprise! I had no idea I was pregnant with twins, they never told me in any of the pregnancy check-ups. But, of course, how would they tell me if they just ran some blood and urine tests. When I gave birth at Lamu’s public hospital I was very scared, the doctor was sleeping while I had to give birth to my two babies on my own. I thought it had gone well but within a few hours the twins died… and I still do not know what the causes were or whether there was anything that could have been done to save them because nothing was ever done about it, no examination or anything of the sort. And that was all...

Yes, they do sound like the plot of a novel or a movie, a dramatic plot, the kind that leaves you with your stomach all tied up. But they are not, I wish they were!.

These two Mariam do exist.

And Fatuma, and Esha, and Nailois, and Khadija, and Madina...

And many other women

What if you were one of them?

Fatuma Yunus hospital

Health and access to quality health care are universal rights. Theoretically they are, but as with many other universal rights, not all the members of the population can exercise them in the same way: if access to health services is in itself a violated right and even non-existent in many countries and continents for the general population, it is even worse for women. We are invisible in this unequal world we live in.

There are thousands, millions of women who cannot make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health or about their overall wellbeing in terms of women’s health. Others do it for them.

To be a mother or not, giving birth in safe conditions for the mother and the baby, going to the gynaecologist, using some kind of birth control method, abortion with health guarantees, monitoring pregnancy… Seems basic, right?.

For them it isn’t.

When your social and family role is based on bringing children into the world without control or planning of any kind, when using a birth control method to prevent one pregnancy after another becomes an odyssey that you must hide from your husband, when at the age of 12 someone mutilates your genitals so that you can’t enjoy sex, when in your town there is no gynaecologist you can see periodically or punctually, when talking openly about sex is a taboo, when going out with a man implies that he will become your husband, when going to an specialist means investing a big portion of your salary… When all that happens…something is wrong and we must act in favour of women’s rights.

Today, May 28th and International Day of Action for Women’s Health, we must not forget about all of this, it is a day to start taking action.

Maternity Home Mujeres

At Afrikable we are already taking action. We are committed to women and their empowerment in all areas of their lives. In order to achieve this in the health area, we are building the Maternity Home, a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health centre where, in addition to providing training and awareness workshops on a variety of topics, women of Lamu will receive free and quality gynaecological assistance and give birth with health guarantees both for them and their babies.

Every day the right to quality health services becomes more of a reality and less of a utopia on the island of Lamu. They deserve it as much as we do.

So that the fate of being born here or there doesn’t determine our rights and become an unbridgeable gap, take action!

 

May 28th – INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH

 

Author: Marta Heredia | Translator: Sonia Moscardó

Read 441 times Last modified on Sunday, 16 July 2017 18:04
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ABOUT AFRIKABLE

Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.

 

In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.

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