Back in the days in my early 20s, I had a friend. Let’s call her Miriam. Miriam had never set foot in a gynecologist’s office but ironically, she claimed to know a lot about sex, contraceptives and relationships.
She and I had been friends since high school. We used to hang out a lot and share our experiences of being women.
As we sat down in my living room, Miriam seemed a bit squirmish in her seat and I couldn’t help but ask.
“What’s up girl? You look a bit uncomfortable. You okay?”
It’s as if I had woken her up from deep thought.
“No girl. I have been on my period for 2 weeks now and I’m scared,” she says with a concerned look on her face.
Miriam had a bad habit of popping emergency contraceptives way too often. It became worse when she got into a relationship with this guy, she had met a year before.
“Did you take those pills again?” I asked her.
She nodded in agreement. You see, Miriam was a people pleaser. She was the type of person who would go the extra mile to make other people happy at the expense of her happiness.
And that is why I didn’t like Chris, her boyfriend. He was bossy and full of himself. Chris knew Miriam was a people pleaser and thus, took advantage of her.
“Chris hates condoms. And honestly, I don’t mind taking the pills now and then,” she said.
Let me reiterate that statement for you. What Miriam meant when she said now and then was every freaking weekend.
Which brings me to the topic of contraceptives and how most of us learned about them.
Like most Kenyan women, Miriam and I first came across the emergency contraceptives topic in our campus hostels.
Fresh from upcountry, we were vulnerable. All of a sudden, we were exposed to all these new topics. Sex, contraceptives, and relationships.
All these topics were taboo to talk about, back in the village but suddenly, we could talk about them freely.
Parents Don’t Teach their Kids about Contraceptives
As the popular Swahili saying goes, “Asiyefunzwa na mamake hufunzwa na ulimwengu”.
And that is exactly what happened to my friend Miriam and I. Our peers taught us about contraceptives.
99 percent of the time, the information most women learn out here without the guidance of their mothers or a gynecologist is usually wrong.
Our first introduction to the emergency contraceptives was that it was a quick fix if you had unprotected sex.
And that’s what we went with, up until the moment in the living room with Miriam complaining of her two-week-long period.
Our parents ignored the need to have the contraceptives talk with us by assuming that we didn’t need the information.
If you were street smart, you went by college and university pretty easily in protecting yourself from unwanted pregnancies.
However, the unlucky ones dropped out as soon as the first year of university due to pregnancies.
The cycle of misinformation on contraceptives is very much in our society, though. I see it even in women who are as old as 30 and 40.
I once overheard my 37-year-old auntie and her friend share experiences on the different types of contraceptives they were using. And from the little (by the way, it’s so little) I knowledge have gained from reading on contraceptives and trips to the gynecologist, they exchanged a lot of misinformation.
Our School Systems Are Failing Us
Times have changed. Kids are now more curious and adventurous. As much as we don’t want to admit it, kids as young as 10 are sexually active.
That is why we have so many teenage pregnancies in Kenya.
Our school system is failing us because it ignores the fact that our kids are exposed to sex at a very young age.
To avoid a lot of misinformation and unwanted teenage pregnancies, the topic of contraceptives and sex education should be introduced in our schools.
Back to Miriam
“Would you mind taking me to the hospital to see if everything is okay?” Miriam asked me.
Of course, I can’t say no since we’ve been through so much together. Since none of us had ever been to the gynecologist, I asked my other friend Rachel who had a 2-year-old kid at the time to accompany us.
The next day, the three of us went to see the gynecologist.
Miriam was checked out by the gynecologist, given some medication of which I think was supposed to stop the bleeding.
Afterwards, she was taken through the various options of safe contraceptives. After a few trials, I am happy to say that Miriam finally settled on contraceptives that worked for her.
There is a lot of misinformation and also the lack of it when it comes to contraceptives.
We need to step up as a society and address the issue of contraceptives and normalize talking about it to our kids.
If you are a young mother, don’t assume that your kids don’t need this information. You have to step up and teach them early before it’s too late.