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#GirlontheStreet: How Did You Handle the News of Your Sterility and How Do You Deal with the Stigma?

Updated: May 13, 2020

This week, we are exploring the issue of infertility in women and the social stigma around being a sterile woman in today’s society.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “fertility is of particular concern in Africa because of the extent of the problem and the social stigma attached to it. The average infertility in Africa is 10.1% of couples, with a high of 32% in some countries”.

Interestingly, according to a report to the WHO by Dr Mahmoud Fathalla “although male infertility has been found to be the cause of a couple's failure to conceive in about 50% of cases, the social burden “falls disproportionately on women,”.

Sterile women are abused verbally and physically, cast out by family members, discriminated against in some cultural rights, denied opportunities, while they face divorce from their husbands, or have to deal with their husbands having children outside the marriage or with new wives. Many cultures in Africa still stigmatize adoption, surrogacy and other new age technologies developed to provide options for sterile women making the journey even more difficult for these women.

The WHO also posits that “despite their importance, infertility prevention and care often remain neglected public health issues, or at least they rank low on the priority list, especially for low-income countries that are already under population pressure”. A report on infertility discloses that “for most women in developing countries, infertility services are not widely available and IVF is not affordable. While optimal utilization of IVF is estimated to be around 1500 cycles per one million population per year, provision of the service falls significantly short in developing countries”.

So, despite the development in technology and the rise in solutions for infertility, women still face a lot challenges in trying to access these solutions to their problems.

With growing cases of infertility among women, leading to more cases of social stigmatization and in severe cases, domestic or sexual violence, abuse, suicide or even murder, there is dire need for the public and private sector to increase awareness creation and sensitization of people and communities on the reality of infertility and the availability of effective solutions for tackling this challenge, whilst also providing more support for families who may not be able to access these solutions.

Investigating further into the issue of infertility and the stigma around this issue, we hit the streets to speak to some survivors of infertility, to find out how they dealt with the news of their sterility and how they deal with the stigma around being sterile. Here are a few of the most intriguing stories we gathered:

Melanie, 29

I cried for weeks. I don’t think I have gotten over it yet. I still cannot believe I may never have children of my own. I don’t know how to tell my fiancé.

Kimberly, 31

The worst part of the experience was finding out that my husband went and had a child outside our marriage afterwards. I thought he was happy with our adopted child. I can’t even confront him about it. I’m scared he would leave me and my daughter to be with the other woman.

Janice, 34

In the beginning, my husband promised me that we would go through everything together. After the fourth miscarriage his tone changed. He said it was because of the pressure from his family. We got divorced a few months later. He is remarried with kids now. I am happy for him.

Rose, 28

Whenever I go out to family functions with my husband, everyone keeps making comments like “Don’t worry, God will do it”, or some random person comes to pray for us, or refer us to some pastor who can ‘break the yoke of barrenness’. We have stopped going to family functions. We are thinking of adopting soon. The process is a lot though.

Are you or anyone you know going through infertility and its stigma? Let us know how you are thriving in this situation. And, for more information on infertility and the options available to you, click here.


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