Why Somalia refugee women take contraceptives in secret

A new study indicates that a Somali refugee woman with tertiary and secondary education is  more likely to use a contraceptive than one with primary or without formal education.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Most married Somali refugee women aged 15-39 years in Nairobi County use family planning contraceptives in secret.
  • The women take them without their husbands' knowledge as it is the men who decide whether they should be on a contraceptive or not.

Most married Somali refugee women aged 15-39 years in Nairobi County use contraceptive injection and pills because they are unnoticeable to their spouses who decide when they ought to have them.

This is based on a study by Dr Eliphas Gitonga, a population and reproductive health expert and lecturer at Kenyatta University.

His study sought to establish the use of family planning methods among married Somali refugee women aged 15–39 years in Nairobi County.

He sampled 605 women from Kamukunji, Embakasi, and Ruaraka sub-counties of which 26 per cent reported using some form of modern family planning. 

The injectable (33.1 per cent) and daily pills (24.4 per cent) were most popular because “the women would take them without their husbands knowing as it is the men who decide whether they should be on a contraceptive or not. And so having them without their approval is a recipe for domestic violence,” he explained.

The commodities are, however, least (5.4 per cent) used by the teenage wives (15-19-year-olds).

Dr Gitonga who released the findings on January 18, 2023, during a media breakfast meeting, said cultural dynamics of the community marrying off their under-age girls, prompted him to study the utilisation of the commodities among them even though the National Reproductive Health policy (2022-2032) disallows issuing girls below 18 years with contraceptives.

The use of the birth control methods was most popular among the 30-34 year-olds recording a 33.3 per cent uptake followed by the 25-29 year-olds at 31.4 per cent.

Formal training

Among those aged 35-39 years, 29.8 per cent used either form of the contraceptives with 25.9 per cent of the 20-24-year-olds following suit.

The study indicates that a Somali refugee woman with tertiary and secondary education has a higher likelihood of using a contraceptive than one with primary or without formal education.

Those with no formal training least used the modern family planning methods at 23.7 per cent slightly lower (23.8 per cent) than the women who have reached primary school, drawing an 8.3-8.4 per cent gap between those in lower and upper quantile of users.

The women who have gone through secondary and tertiary institutions most used the contraceptives recording a 32.1 per cent uptake.





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