By Leocadia Bongben
Yaounde, Cameroon- When the female condom was introduced years ago, its use was timid and many complained it made noise, but today, the demand for the female condom is on the high side as women take control of its use.
Figures advanced by the Cameroon Association of Social Marketing, ACMS, the structure that commercialises the female condom, more than 1,5million condoms were sold in 2013, indicating that the demand is enormous.
Amougou, nee Mofoue Augustine Bernadette has been using the female condom for the past three years and knows why the demand is on the increase.
“Initially the female condom made so much noise and women did not know how to properly place it, but now, they know. I move with it the whole day when i know I am going to meet my partner don’t want him to complain that it takes long to insert”.
With the female condom becoming more comfortable, Amougou on the September 16, Global Female Condom Day, negotiated for the NGO “Women, Health and Development”, FESADE to sensitise women of the Nkoa-Mbang market in the Mefou- Afamba division on the use of the female condom.
In this neighbourhood women joined the ‘Dance4Demand’ initiated by the RutgersWPF-Netherlands Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health, on the premise that, “young girls who are ignorant of the use of the female condom to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies bring to the world children without fathers”, Amougou said. These girls deliver between 13 and 14 years and the problem is linked to their lack of education, she lamented.
In this light, Clementine Menguele of the Apostolic Women Group underscored the importance of the female condom. “I tell women to use the female condom which is advantageous for us, economic, has a normal sensation and limits of sexually transmittable diseases”.
As a mother of seven she knows the benefits of the female condom to limit the number of children and she advices other women in her Church group to use and impose the female condom to their partners. “I took time to convince my partner, I refuse sexual intercourse if he does not use the female condom”, Menguele says.
Though initially the church refused contraceptives times have changed, the church and Christian are changing. “The condom is a way of ensuring health and through informal women’s meetings in the church we share information on the family and health profitable for society”, she added.
Not only women are adhering to the female condom men like Landry Akene advice that men should not be afraid of the female condom, but try it, saying it is practical for women acting like a bucket to contain liquid. He underscored the need for more campaigns given that in markets women get exposed to many illnesses through negligence.
On the occasion, Jean Pierre Makang , Inspector of Social Affairs, Sub-director for the Promotion of Women’s’ Rights at the Ministry of Women Empowerment urged women to take their sexuality in their her hands and operate her choices in liberty saying gone are the days when men imposed the male condom. He said women should focus on the use of the female condom for personal satisfaction, the family and couple.
The Global Female Condom Day was celebrated in the world on September 16 and Cameroon was part of the celebrations at the Nkoa Mbang neighbourhood to present the female condom, known to some and not to others, to show that the product is demanded as first choice protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Men and women already know the female condom, are trying it and adopting as their choice”, Urbain Abega, Programme coordinator at FESADE reiterated.
Yaounde-Cameroon-While NGOs advocating for the funding of the female condom rejoiced that government for once had budgeted for the purchase of contraceptives, their joy was short-lived as the earmarked money was eventually used to refurbish the Ministry of Public Health.
We learnt that the Ministry of Public Health opened a line in the 2013 budget of FCFA 30 million for the purchase of contraceptives which include female condoms among others.
While the ministry promised to increase the budget for contraceptives to FCFA 75 million, the initial amount however was channelled to refurbish the ministry engulfed by fire some months ago, Urbain Abega programme Manager of the Women Health and Development, FESADE has said.
Not that the idea of refurbishing the burnt section of the Ministry was bad, but NGOs say government should have searched for finances elsewhere.
With funders of female condom withdrawing in 2015, government needs to understand the importance of supporting the research, development and purchase of the female condom.
It is against the backdrop of the lack of funding that the 2014 Global Female Condom Day would be celebrated in Cameroon.
Nkoabang in Yaoundé would be the venue where the ‘Dance4Demand’ for the female condom would be staged alongside ‘condomised zones’ on September 16. The “Dance4Demand” campaign aims to demonstrate the need and desire for female condom.
The event to be organised by the NGO, “Women, Health and Development”, FESADE, in collaboration with the ACMS is set to be a fun and engaging way to educate the community.
Advocates maintain that the only woman initiated prevention option currently available against HIV, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and pregnancy is the female condom. It offers people of any gender who engage in receptive sex a way to take greater control of their health.
However, many people lack access to female condoms, an effective prevention tool which advocates for sexual health, HIV prevention and reproductive justice say female condoms are needed and wanted in communities.
FESADE last year worked in collaboration with other NGOs to contribute to the reduction of the cost of the female condom and has been working with traditional rulers in the Mefou and Afamba, Mehandan and Nfou with about 50 women to promote the use of the female condom.