Irene was in her final year of secondary school when she had her son, now four years old. She didn’t manage to take her school leaving certificate then, and was left feeling like her efforts in primary school had been quite futile.
She decided to start using family planning after the birth of her son, choosing three-monthly depo-provera injections offered by the community-based distributor of contraceptives in her village.
To earn money, Irene grows seaweed and sea cucumbers through an initiative supported by marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures. She describes how their private sector partner, a company called Indian Ocean Trepang, provides juvenile sea cucumbers for local farming teams to grow out to adult size in community-managed pens.
Irene also has a small business selling products that she sources from outside of the village, with her mother looking after her son while she’s away. Thanks to these efforts, she’s been able to build a large house with four rooms, buy several goats and pay for her son’s school fees.
Irene isn’t yet married but she’s very clear about one condition before she gets engaged; that she can continue to use contraception until she’s ready to have another child.
She even approached a lady in her community with limited resources and many children to support, as she felt sorry for her and wanted to speak to her about family planning.
The lady was wary: “According to the rumours here in this village, using contraception will destroy your body so I’m fearful about it.” Irene explained that this is only a rumour: “I’m using the contraception that you’re scared of and you can see that I’m healthy, there hasn’t been a change in my body and I’m able to do many activities!”
Irene said to the lady that if she’d like to try family planning, then she’d happily accompany her to the community-based distributor of contraceptives. The lady agreed on the condition that she would speak to her husband first, who accepted willingly, saying that he didn’t want his wife to suffer anymore. Irene then went with her to the community-based distributor, where she got her contraception. This lady is still happily using family planning today, and Irene continues to help by reminding her of the follow-up appointments noted in her medical book as she’s unable to read.
Find out more about Blue Ventures’ holistic work supporting coastal communities in Madagascar to manage their marine resources sustainably and empowering women to take control of their reproductive health.