More choices for women
“When I was up-country [in Burundi], I saw a man wearing a female condom as a bracelet – he did not know what it was. I thought ‘why is it that people do not know what female condoms are?’.” says Nadia Ndayikeza, 29.
This was one of the moments that helped inspire the female condom project, an initiative conceived by Nadia with support from the Link Up programme.
Link Up is an ambitious project which is improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of more than a million young people in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Uganda. The project is funded by the Government of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BUZA).
Nadia’s aim is to give women the “power to choose”.
The first step is carry out research with health centres. She is exploring the availability of female condoms compared to male condoms and then comparing the availability to the demand. The hypothesis is that the demand is not being met.
This presumption is coming from the fact that female sex workers are proactively asking for female condoms, and because of this they will be one of the first two groups that the project will reach. “Female condoms are important because of double-protection” explains Nadia, i.e. preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
“According to sex workers, you can agree with someone to use a condom but they may take it off during sex,” she says. “In this case when a client agrees to use a condom they would choose to wear a female condom instead of a male one so they have more control to make sure it stays in place.”
The second group that the project will initially target is women living with HIV. This group is easy to access as they regularly visit the health centre for check-ups and Nadia is keen that these visits also addresses their sexual and reproductive health needs.
She will start work in five provinces and hopes the project will then extend into other areas, eventually going nationwide and reaching all women.
“I want to see female condoms available like male condoms, to give women more choice.”