We Should End Infertility Stigma
When I first heard the phrase "Anagwa mu mtengo wa papaya," I immediately thought of its literal meaning; however, I later discovered that it meant something entirely different. It turns out that it is a term used to describe someone who is infertile. There is a Lot of stigma surrounding infertility which doesn't get talked about enough. "Anagwa mu mtengo wa papaya," just one example of how infertility is embedded in derogatory words and phrases in our local languages and society. Fertility is highly valued in Africa, and everyone is expected to be fertile for some reason. When a couple marries, everyone expects them to start having children; if they don't, people start questioning them. Couples or people without children are made to feel inadequate.
Because of its prevalence and the social stigma associated with it, infertility should be a major concern in Malawi. Malawi, as an African country, has very strong cultural preference for high female fertility rates. Having children equates to being wealthy, and women have long been recognized for their reproductive role. You may agree with me that children are valued so highly that after a year of marriage, a new couple begins to feel pressure if they do not have a child.
When a woman marries, she is expected to take on the role of "mother." This expectation has pushed women to commit unspeakable crimes. In some cases, women will have sex with other men in order to protect their barren husbands from the ridicule that comes with being barren. Some women have lost money to witchdoctors or pastors who claimed to be able to heal them of their bareness.
In our society, infertility is recognized as a female problem. If a couple is unable to have children, everyone assumes it is the woman's fault and dismisses the possibility that it could be a man's fault. You may know some women whose marriages fell apart because the couple could not have children and the woman was the one who took the fall.
Providing sexual and reproductive health education could help reduce society's negative perception of infertility. It may also help to reduce the gender-specific burden of infertility, which is heavily borne by women. Uninformed people mistakenly believe that women are to blame for infertility issues because they are the ones who get pregnant and give birth. They believe that if there is a problem, it must be the women's fault. There is a need for intensive civic education so that people can make statements and decisions based on facts rather than opinions.
P.S resist the temptation to question married couples about why they haven't had children yet.