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Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Starts with Providing Choice

By Lucky Gondwe

“Women in my community are now able to do many different things apart from just staying at home and thinking that because I am a woman I can’t do anything else .”

Annastasia lives in the Chimwankango area of the Mchinji district. Her village lays just on the edge of Malawi’s border with Zambia. Her journey to the closest health centre took her around four hours to reach by foot.

Annastasia is an avid user of contraceptives. “I started using contraceptives after I had my second daughter. I wanted a way to prevent me from being pregnant again until my children were a bit older.  In 2000, we tried for a male child and we had a daughter, sadly she died right after she was born. We tried again in the next year and had who is now my last born daughter.”

When it comes to how contraceptives have helped Annastasia and her husband, she said that “Contraceptives have given my husband and me control over when and how many children we want. I would have had a tubal ligation done long ago; we want to try just one last time for a male child.”

Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM) provides high quality contraceptive choices to over one million women living in the hard to reach areas of Malawi. These are women in communities where they have little to no control over child spacing. When women don’t have the control for when they have children, it leads to high levels of maternal and infant mortality rates. 

Because of BLM, over one million women now have control over their sexual reproductive health and their own lives. And that includes Anastasia.  

For the access to contraceptives that BLM provides, Annastasia says that “Women in my community are now able to do many different things apart from just staying at home and thinking that because I am a woman, I am just going to take care of the kids at home now. Now we are able to run small businesses and make a living.  We are now able to contribute towards helping our children having access to things like education, so that they have lives that are better than we had.”

Annastasia has experienced how contraceptives have helped her and is an advocate in her community for using them.

“I am always encouraging my friends to use contraceptives. When there are gathering I am always willing to talk about contraceptives and the benefit they bring to my life. My first born daughter got pregnant when she was still in school and had to leave school and get married. My husband and I want our children to have the best possible futures, to live better lives than we did. We know a large part of achieving this is by helping them get an education. I thus encouraged my daughter to go back to school.  She now uses the implant so she does not have any more children until she is finished with secondary school at least.”

Having access to contraceptives has helped changed Annastasia’s life for the better. Now she is instilling this wisdom for her daughter so that she can have control over her health and life. 

Lucky is a 2015-16 Global Health Corps Fellow and Social Marketing Fellow at Banja la Mtsogolo.