Faridah Nalubega: Champion for Contraceptive Choice

In her one-room house in Kampala, Uganda, Faridah Nalubega calculates what it costs to take care of a child. Then, she multiplies by six.

She thinks about the fish she will have to sell. The money she will make. She worries if it will be enough:

“I’m still young, but I have many children. The more they grow, the more they consume…And yet I earn very little.”

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Faridah, who is just 26 years old, didn’t want it to be this way. She planned to have two or three children—a number she felt she could afford with the money from her small fried fish business. But when she tried to get a contraceptive injection to prevent additional pregnancies, local health workers told her they had only birth control pills available.

The problem? Faridah couldn’t use pills. Her husband wouldn’t allow her to take them. So she returned home with nothing.

“I felt so bad because they couldn’t provide what I wanted,” she said. “And because I was provided a method I didn’t want, I ended up being pregnant. I didn’t want another baby.”

 

Faridah is one of an estimated 225 million women in developing countries who want to prevent pregnancy but aren’t using modern contraception. Though empowered with knowledge and information about family planning, she was unable to realize her reproductive rights and plan her future because of a lack of methods available at her local clinic.

In short, her path to reproductive freedom was blocked. Her choice was taken away.

And she wanted to know why.

The answer is not simple. Part of the problem could be weak transportation and inventory systems that make it difficult for her local clinic to stay stocked. Part of it rests with her national government’s failure to prioritize and budget for contraceptives. And part of it belongs to donor countries—including the United States—who are just not investing enough in reproductive health.

At each level, PAI and Faridah worked to remove roadblocks to reproductive health care:

Faridah told her story in PAI’s film, Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives, which documents the challenges at each level of the supply chain and identifies key areas for improvement. The film premiered in Kampala to an audience including female members of the Ugandan Parliament.

In the U.S., PAI also used the film with members of Congress, to push for greater contributions to international family planning and reproductive health programs.

And Faridah’s concerns inform our ongoing work around quality and access, ensuring that global efforts such as FP2020 are focused on the experience each woman receives when seeking contraceptives.

Faridah knows her story doesn’t have to be her daughters’ story. She wants her kids, when they grow up, to have better information about family planning. She wants a condom bank, where condoms are accessible even to young women who may be too shy or embarrassed to ask for them. She wants a full range of options, including long-lasting family planning like injectables and IUDs.

“Everyone in this community needs family planning,” she said. “It would help all women to space their children and have healthy families. And they would be able to look after their children well.”

PAI shares Faridah’s vision. We believe every woman has the right to choose the contraceptive method that works best for her. She has the right to find it, in stock, when she needs it. She has the right to the opportunity to create the life she wants for herself.

We’re working every day to advance these basic rights. In Faridah’s eyes, and in ours, anything less is unacceptable.