Contraceptives that work for several years and can be hidden, such as IUDs, can give women greater freedom. Photo: Donna G, Flickr


Creativity improves Zambia's reproductive health care

In Zambia, a quarter of women in need of family planning do not have access to it. Despite challenges with stigma and a lack of information, great progress is being made that gives women new opportunities and conditions in life. The development magazine has met Linnéa Wallén, who has visited Zambia to study gynecology in the country.

The five-year anniversary of the global goals is fast approaching. One of the goals in the area of ​​health is to make reproductive health care, family planning and education accessible to all. Through Sida, Sweden has cooperated with Zambia since the 1960s. The countries have above all collaborated on the basic health of women and children. One of those who worked in the area is the midwifery student Linnéa Wallén, whom Utvecklingsmagasinet has met for an interview. She visited Zambia in the spring of 2019 for a close study of the work of family planning after women underwent an abortion.

- The goal of the trip was to gain knowledge about what women's healthcare and information on reproductive rights look like in Zambia. There is a great need to investigate how care is conducted. Both to see similarities and differences with healthcare in Sweden, but also to identify challenges and areas with potential, says Linnéa Wallén. 

Reaching out on contraceptive information is one of the major challenges in Zambia, and 27 percent of women is estimated to need family planning without having access to it.

One way to reach out to women is to hold information meetings about contraceptives in connection with child care checks, Linnéa Wallén explains. In this way, the care staff can take the opportunity to talk to the women who have had to travel several miles to get to the clinic. Another way to reach out is a mobile clinic in the form of a caravan. Information that the clinic will come to the area is then spread in advance via megaphone. The work at the mobile clinic is also characterized by great creativity that makes it easier for the women who come and visit it, says Linnéa Wallén.

- The midwives went with the caravan to give contraception in a rural community a good distance outside the larger city of Ndola. Outside the caravan, the staff arranged a children's disco, and had both dance competitions and prizes. This drew attention from the caravan to the disco, and the children did not notice if their mothers went into the caravan for a while.

Midwife Linnéa Wallén has studied the work of family planning in Zambia. Photo: Private

Like many other countries in the world, Zambia struggles with stigma around contraception. Linnéa Wallén explains that the spread of contraceptives is hampered by myths, lack of literacy and that in some cases women need a man's permission to use contraceptives. Despite the challenges, the need for increased knowledge about contraception is great. At present, only one in five women start using contraception after an abortion, says Linnéa Wallén. Many midwives are well aware of the stigma and have methods for how you can still highlight the benefits of different contraceptives.

- A midwife, for example, recommended a young woman aged 16-17 to insert a spiral because it would not be visible when she came home to the family, says Linnéa Wallén. 

The midwife was clear that the woman could continue to spend time with her boyfriend, continue to go to school and eventually start college. 

- The spiral would protect for ten years, and in that way the woman got a fantastic opportunity to build a future, says Linnéa Wallén. 

Despite the many and difficult challenges surrounding the work in health and reproductive rights, Linnéa Wallén provides an optimistic picture that indicates that collaborations all over the world lead to a positive development. She summarizes her impressions from the study with the insight into how similar people are despite the different conditions that exist around. All over the world, women are women, and with little money, much can be done to meet the needs linked to women's reproductive health.

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