Maasai men prefer family planning despite resistance

Friday September 29 2017
pic masai

Times have changed and it is men now who guard against unplanned pregnancies.

At llkurot village in Arumeru District, men are apparently abreast of family planning and they are determined not to make any mistake about it.

However, women in the area are still reluctant to use contraceptives, believing that they cause serious problems as far as their reproductive health is concerned.

Nonetheless, the men have made up their minds. They want families they can easily take care of.

Currently, the women in the area have a high birth rate, delivering between seven and 12 children with some losing their lives during delivery.

After a national-wide sensitisation about the importance of family planning, the men at Ikurot are not taking anything to chance.


According to Tanzania Demographic Profile of 2016, Tanzania is ranked sixth in Africa’s population data with a fertility rate of 2.7 while the current population stands at slightly over 45 million, it is expected to grow to 134.8 million by 2050.

The current contraceptive methods use stand at just 32 per cent.

Demographic index indicates that the country’s birth rate stands at 36 births per 1,000, according to the 2016 estimates.

Family planning benefits the health and wellbeing of women, children, families and communities, and is a key component of sexual and reproductive health.

Effective, timely contraception and birth spacing have far reaching benefits for individuals, families, villages, their environments and livelihoods. A pastoralist from Ilkurot village, Mr Lenyai Kivuyo said he had two wives, but one died several years ago in an accident, living him with at least seven children.

However, Mr Kivuyo disclosed that despite going through a rough time financially, his wife cannot come to grips with the fact--she wants more children.

He said his sorry financial status is down to drought that caused majority of his livestock to die, thus making him dependent on farming, which is also not productive enough due to in-sufficient rains.

“In recent years we have had the opportunity to undergo training on family planning and its importance to my family development as well as health wise,” he said.

However, he says that his wife has refused to use other kinds of family planning methods on grounds that contraceptives cause cancer, infertility and several other health issues.

In view of this, he said that he now bears the burden of ensuring that he knows his wife’s menstruation calendar to avoid causing another pregnancy.

His case is not different from George Zakayo, a resident of Sarunga village who says that he has three wives and 16 children.

“While I had no problem having as many children within my means, government officials have been training us on the importance of family planning, which I am taking very seriously de-spite my wives wanting to have more children,” he said.

Meanwhile, a widow from Ilkurot village, Sarah Saitoti said that she had nine children with her husband, but two died during child birth.

She says that her husband died from a car accident five years ago and as tradition demands, her brother in-law now takes care of the family.

According to her, she is free to start another relationship with a man of her choice and continue with reproduction.

She explains that she is the first wife to her departed husband and the second wife had two children before his demise.

Ms Saitoti revealed that the second wife is in another relationship and has been able to have three more children, making a total of five.

According to her, she has had two more children since her husband died and still plans to have more as long as she is still healthy.

“As for me, I am not ready to use these strange family planning methods because I fear falling sick,” she stressed.

Unsafe abortions

Termination of pregnancies can be risky to a woman’s health. Unsafe abortions and their complications are a major cause of maternal deaths and illnesses.

Approximately 70,000 women lose their lives annually as a result of unsafe or incomplete abortion and many more suffer complications.

Infertility due to tubal infections resulting from unsafe abortion is common in some areas, thus using contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies is imperative as it reduces the number of deaths.

For his part, 150 cell-leader and member of Sarunga village at Olkokola ward, Gidion William said the villages have been receiving training from various government institutions including Olturmet District Hospital, the districts reproductive and child care unit, but majority have ignored the training because it is considered to be against the Maasai tradition.

Family planning affects people in many ways. Most fundamentally, it advances human rights.

Voluntary family planning helps women and men secure their rights to decide freely and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have.

Family planning supports the rights of the girl child to remain unmarried and childless, until she is physically, psychologically and economically ready, and desires to have children.

Family planning supports the rights of all people to accurate, unbiased information on contraceptive methods that can help them achieve their re-productive preferences.

Yet, in many countries, despite possessing these inherent rights, women and girls often bear more children than they want or at times when they are not planned.

In 2012, the year for which the most recent data are available, approximately 85 million pregnancies, representing 40 per cent of all pregnancies globally, were unintended.

For her part, Arusha district reproductive and child health care coordinator Butolwa Bujiku said that since 2013 the uptake of family planning services in the district has increased from 27 per cent to 40 per cent in 2017.

This is despite Tanzania’s fertility rate being high as population is growing at a rate of 2.7 per cent per annum.

Ms Bujiku says that a lot of women do not want to take contraceptives on grounds that they cause cancer, infertility as well as deformity in children.

“We conduct different training pro-grammes, but the uptake is slow de-spite majority of them having more than five children,” she said.

Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDEC) director, Ms Margreth Mussai said it has been difficult to reach the Maasai community because most of them are nomadic pastoralists.

She said the government has come up with initiatives that aim to empower the women because an empowered woman empowers her household economically.

According to reports, the government has increased its budget allocation on family planning to ensure the service is adequately provided in the country.

In this year’s financial budget, the government allocated at least Sh14billion compared to Sh5billion in the 2015/16 budget.

According to World Health organization (WHO) there is need to increase awareness on family planning because it saves the lives of women and children and brings many benefits to the family and community and enhances the ability of couples and individuals to exercise their basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.

Family planning also changes behaviour and can prevent major reproductive health problems such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies and high-risk pregnancy.

People need to change attitudes and beliefs towards family planning be-cause it prevents millions of preventable deaths.