Three remarkable speakers spoke about the challenges providing contraception to women and girls in Kenya, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea on Wednesday 22 June 2016 at the Symposium: Fertility Features at the State Library of New South Wales.
Sandra Katumo spoke in depth of the cultural challenges facing women and girls in her native Kenya. Sandra has seen that, for the important role of women in supporting families, the number one way is to educate about family planning and to provide preferred methods.
She told stories of misconceptions men hold about contraception – e.g. women become sterile – and the pressure that many wives sustain from their husbands to have many children despite the lack of medical services and challenging economic and family situations. These women frequently resort to secretly accessing contraception, when attending clinics for their children. Women in rural areas are significantly more disadvantaged in accessing both education and contraceptive services. Sandra is WPF scholarship winner and National Council of Women Awardee and is doing a Master of Nursing at the University of Sydney.
Dr Kirsten Black is Associate Professor, University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital: joint head of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Neonatolgy at the University of Sydney. Her interest is how best to provide contraceptive options to women in low resource settings.
Kirsten has been supervising research in the Asia Pacific regions and spoke about Somoa. She stated that many of the cultural challenges Sandra described in Kenya, particularly among men with little or no real education about contraception and the many benefits to women and their families, were very similar among the Pacific Island communities. Education about contraception is the foundation of change. Collecting accurate statistics to assist in planning is even difficult due to access to people and their comprehension of the issues. In 2017 Dr Black will undertake research on contraceptive use in PNG where prevalence rate hovers around 24%. The research will be funded by Women’s Plans Foundation.
Dr Julia Newton-Howes AM, CEO of CARE Australia, talked about the Safe Motherhood project which CARE is conducting in Timor Leste. Like other developing countries, physical access around the country is difficult, both for women seeking to access family planning and for aid workers in the field.
Dr Newton-Howes is an advocate for aid and development, focusing on the critical importance of gender equality.