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Africa, Let’s Break The Silence on Infertility!

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

When are you going to have children? You know you are not getting any younger? We want to see our grandchildren soon. What is the use of your wife if she will not give us heirs? What kind of man are you if you cannot have children? Maybe someone has cursed you? Sound familiar?

Once upon time while taking an Uber in Uganda; I was fortunate enough to share my work on infertility with the driver who happened to be male. On hearing this, he shared his dilemma with his wife. For 4 years, they had been trying to have a child. I inquired on whether they had sought medical help to diagnose the issue, to which he replied that they had not. He was clearly distressed and from what I could tell, he was convinced that his wife was the problem. In seeking solutions, he decided to start searching for a “suitor” in the hopes that maybe she would be able to give him a child. To make matters worse, he was unamused by the fact that he spent so much money on the wedding and now, his wife cannot give him children. This is not an unfamiliar story.

These are the everyday alarming assumptions and comments that men and more, so women face when having challenges in starting their families. On a continent that has the highest fertility rates, it is not surprising that many cannot imagine a scenario where having children is not as straight forward as it is painted out to be.

I hate to break it to you but turns out, 1 in every 4 couples in Sub-Saharan Africa is faced with the challenge of infertility. It is a major reproductive barrier worldwide affecting an estimated 186 million people and 50% of cases are related to male infertility. Sadly, the consequences of infertility in the African context are often severe, especially for women. Infertility in our societies can lead to a loss of status, social isolation, domestic violence, marital instability due to extra marital affairs and economic disempowerment.

However, we – as the next generation would like to break the silence on infertility! In the 21st century, where information is abundant, there should be no excuse for naivety and acceptance for injustices such as those described above. It is important to note that just like any other part of the human body, the reproductive system may face challenges and that is nothing to be ashamed of or shy away from.

We would like to see a future where respect, sensitivity and compassion are employed when approaching loved ones facing infertility. Firstly, by opening up our eyes and educating ourselves, inquiring with compassion and when one is ready, being willing to provide a supportive fence around them. Let us not judge one another, we have greater value beyond our ability to bear children. Let us be open to seeking help, considering alternative lifestyles and becoming a more inclusive society.

This is the work that Infertility Voices strives to do. We are a supportive organization committed to all persons touched by infertility through open discourse, community support, information sharing, advocacy and policy action. Together, we aim to work collaboratively with individuals and organizations from all spheres and backgrounds to break the silence on infertility, while endeavoring to positively support and provide better resources for this worthy cause.

Margaret Mutumba MPH, PhD (c)

Founder | Infertility Advocate

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