“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In the Life” is Jumoke, and she’s a midwife. She talks about challenges women face with contraception, why women need more people in power speaking for them, and the best part of her job.
I wake up at 5 a.m. every day and depending on my mood, I either work out or do yoga. However, there’s none of that today because I’m tired and can’t wait for my day to be over. I go through the motions — brush my teeth, have my bath, wear my cloth, and my day begins.
At work, patients are waiting for me, and I don’t get to drop my bag before I start attending to them. The complaints are usually almost the same after women adopt a contraceptive method. It’s either they haven’t seen their period or they’re experiencing unusual bleeding.
Because menstruation is seen as a sign of fertility, women panic when it doesn’t come. Sometimes, you’ll hear their partners say things like: “it’s not good for a man to have sex with a woman that hasn’t seen her period.” Other times, [some] women are worried because of their religion. For Muslim women, excessive bleeding affects their prayer cycles — you can’t pray during your menstrual cycle — which in turn affects them psychologically.
One part of my job involves helping these women find a solution so they can go home happy. The other part is counselling and calming them while we try to find the solution.
My dilemma today is counselling the Muslim couple in front of me. The wife recently converted to Islam, and her husband thinks that she’s using excessive bleeding as an excuse not to pray. My job is to explain how contraceptives work to him and convince him to be patient with her. I’m just wondering about the best place to start my shalaye.
I can tell that today is going to be a long day.
Young people aren’t given proper sex education, so we’re having a lot of issues. I hear a lot of women say that they use Postinor or Post-pill to prevent pregnancy, and it makes me sad. These pills are meant for emergency cases and they fail. If women knew where to get contraceptives, they’d be better informed and wouldn’t have to marry people because of pregnancy.
I don’t blame anyone because of how this country is set up. Many times, the only places to learn about contraceptives is where there are old women or pregnant women. You shouldn’t have to wait until you’re young and pregnant before getting access to this information. That’s why I’m thankful that sites like Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes, Honey and Banana, Reprolife and Sid initiative are making things easier.
When I’m not working at my 9-5, I run a social enterprise focused on young women. I provide contraception services to women who don’t have time or can’t afford to go to the hospital. Today, I’m meeting up with a client to advise her on a method that’ll make her life easier. Nothing excites me more than helping a woman live her best life.
It’s either people don’t listen to women or they are not patient enough to listen to women issues. I’ve seen people offer to do a maternity app or USSD, and their target is Makoko community. But in Makoko, new wives or mothers are not allowed to use phones because the men think it encourages promiscuity. So, who’s getting the information? If they took the time to ask what women need, they’ll know that it’s not these things.
Women need things like education and access to financing. Education influences the use of contraceptives, and finance ensures the uptake. Some women can’t afford to pay the bulk fee that government hospitals usually want to collect at once, while some don’t even know what to do. And not a lot of health workers offer contraceptive services. I keep wondering why there are no services that fill this gap instead. That’s why I think no one is listening. One hill I’m willing to die on is that women need more people in power talking for them so that money can be pumped into women’s issues.
Until I get to a position where I can do anything, I’m going to be content with helping women live their best lives. Anytime I start to think too much, I remember the babies that come for immunisation and how they’re gaining weight. This gives me joy and lifts my mood.
Whether they are having sex regularly, once in a while or not at all, I tell women to never be ashamed of their libido. The most important thing is for them to be conscious of what they need. Women younger than thirty need vaccinations against sexually transmitted infections like hep B and cervical cancer. I also advise sexually active people who don’t plan on having a baby to adopt a contraceptive method. Confidence in your sexuality allows you to be conscious of what you need so nobody can ride you or make you feel ashamed. Once you’re past that, everything falls into place and the confidence reflects in every area of your life. Nobody can come and use nonsense to stain your white.
Today, I’m thinking about how much I enjoy my job.
My best days are when a woman comes to me anxious, and at the end of the day, she leaves better. I think my purpose in life is to tell women: “Oya come, bring your headache and give it to me.” Helping women makes me so happy.