Positioning Female Condom In Contraceptive Bundle
By Leocadia Bongben
Women in some years could relax and enjoy sex taking their destiny in their hands without fear of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies by taking the female condom to the next level.
Martha Sisi, a commercial sex hawker has inserted her female condom and lays ready for her fifth client and like her colleagues, she attends to about ten customers a day.
This is just one sector besides married women and adolescents where the demand for the female is high and where there are concerns about reproductive health with many cases of abortions and other related issues.
The female condom is essential in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and promoting health for the woman but more for sex workers to better carry out their activity.
Michelle Mbiaga of Horizon Femmes an Ngo in Yaounde says, “We used to give out 2 condoms per commercial sex hawker per day and we have increased the number to 4, which is still not enough for a minimum of 20 ladies we receive in our centre per day”.
“The demand is increasing and in a year about 9000 female condoms are distributed. If Cameroon could promote the female condom stock outs can be forgotten”.
As the demand keeps increasing firms are into research to produce the best confortable female condoms acceptable like the male.
Saskia Husken, Rutgers Advocacy officer (an international NGO advocates for reproductive and sexual rights) says there are four World Health Organization WHO, approved female condoms in the market.
Some 10 years ago the female condom was found to be making plastic-like noise, but since 2007, there is a new material in the market, smooth, soft, lubricated and doesn’t make noise anymore. “This has changed though the myth still persists; Husken says as she shoves aside one of the misgivings associated with the female condom.
The female condoms available are Femidon, produced by a Female Health Company available in more than 140 countries for several years and Cupid available also in Cameroon, made of natural robber latex inserted with a ring.
In March last month, WHO approved two more responding to quality standards, HLL Velvet, made of natural robber latex, and Women’s Condom, made of very thin plastic inserted by means of a small capsule which dissolves in the female body during intercourse and much or little lubricant can be applied at the convenience of the user.
The panty condom is one of the innovations underway not yet approved but an idea that seems to draw interest of women given that it is actually a pant with a condom stuck to it and not removed during intercourse. “Looking at the preferences of women and men, it a panty with a small condom placed inside and which unfolds itself in the female body”.
With a variety of female condoms available it is expected that competition will lead to price reduction opening up access to the product.
Though the female condom is better taken into consideration since 2003, more than 3 million distributed in Cameroon by Association Camerounaise pour le Marketing Social, ACMS, the needs are enormous Cameroon still grapples with stock-outs, accessible and availability.
The snag is that maternal, infant and adolescent health programmes and projects have been financed by donors who only allow Cameroon to choose form its variety of projects and programmes.
International donor funding is dwindling and there is need to look within the country for funding both in the public and private sectors.
The Global Financial Facility, GFF- a trust fund with money available for urgent work is set aside to coordinate better funds spent on reproductive health and Cameroon is among the 12 countries to benefit from the facility-looking at how to organize their own funding to keep reproduction health issues on the radar.
Cameroon launched its programme to ameliorate maternal, infant and adolescent health last year May 2015 and would get the assistance of donors, World Bank and other partners from 2015-2030 to reflect on how to turn the tide on maternal mortality and ensure protection of adolescents against HIV/AIDS and early pregnancies.
To turn the tides in bring down maternal mortality that has almost doubled from 430 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 782 in 2011 meaning about 7000 women lose their lives every year due to pregnancy related causes, one method often neglected is the female condom- a key method for women’s health.
FESADE, Femmes-Sante-Developpment, an NGO in Yaounde in collaboration with other civil society organizations are mobilizing communities on the advantages of the female condom and advocating for the female condom to be part of the priorities in the document Cameroon is going to submit to the GFF.
Following a study on the state of the female condom FESADE Coordinator, Urbain Akono Abega maintains that government has a clear vision concerning the female condom in ameliorating reproductive health but the policies are not translated into concrete actions.
The budget for reproductive health estimated at FCFA 100 million per year fluctuates despite the needs to the tune of about a billion and sadly too, what is set aside at times is used for other purposes than purchase contraceptives.
With the GFF, the manner of addressing maternal health problems is set to change as Cameroon is given the opportunity to define its priorities and explore ways of financing them.
Civil Society Organizations, CSO have been integrated in the preparation of the GFF document with the sectorial strategy pilot committee that gives orientation having nine CSO representatives who wish not only to be part of the conception but also monitor implementation process.
Since 2009, Rutgers has been working in Cameroon with a local partner FESADE within the programme universal access to female condoms in programming and advocacy.
FESADE and its partners during an advocacy meeting in Yaounde on March 28, took the commitment to ensure that the female condom and other contraceptives are introduced in the national strategy of family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.
More efforts, financing and promoting for years are needed to promote the female condom in maternal health but, hospital reception, prenatal care and training of midwives, caesarian delivery are other issues that have to be ameliorated in the reproductive health package.
Government has put in place measures in its strategy to reduce maternal mortality that are already implemented at the emergency unit of the central hospital but more needs to be done.