Case study

Giving women a choice in Malawi

How UK aid is helping women like Christina to plan their families and escape from poverty

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Not just about giving birth

Thirty-five-year-old Christina Moffat has 5 children. In her native Malawi a woman has, on average, 6.3 children during her reproductive years.  

Maternal health is not just about giving birth. It is also about giving women a choice about whether, when and how many children they have.  Twenty percent of births in Malawi are unplanned and 35% of women, Christina included, do not want more children. Many just want more for the children they already have.

Valuable advice

Christina first met outreach workers from Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM) - Malawi’s largest family planning organisation, supported by UKaid - in 2005. At the time, Christina had 3 children, and didn’t want any more. BLM’s outreach workers were going door to door to take family planning services to women like Christina, who had no access to clinics. After discussions with BLM outreach workers, Christina decided to go on the pill to prevent further pregnancies.

However, without access to transport, Christina found she was often unable to collect her pill supplies, and she went on to have 2 more children. With 5 young children to care for, Christina had no time to work in the field to grow food, or participate in village development projects. Without a regular income, she could not afford to buy clothes for all her children.

An effective solution

With further advice and support from BLM, Christina chose tubal legation - a long-acting procedure that prevents a woman from conceiving.

Her youngest child, Thomas, is now at nursery school. Christina secured a job at a chicken farm close to her village, which gives her enough money to look after her family. She has also joined an income generating group in her village that rears goats for sale, and she raises pigs of her own to sell.

With the income she now makes, Christina can send all of her children to school and has bought bedding and utensils for her home.

Key Facts:

*DFID recently signed a 6 year partnership with Banja La Mtsogolo (BLM). BLM’s 6 year programme of work commenced in July 2009 and aims to reduce maternal mortality and rapid population growth and combat HIV/AIDS in Malawi. DFID is providing £11.85m to BLM for family planning services in the period 2009-2015.

*BLM is a member of the Marie Stopes global international partnership - www.mariestopes.org

*In Malawi, 807 women die per 100,000 live births.

*A woman in Malawi has on average 6.3 children during her reproductive years. Compared to other selected countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, such as Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, fertility in Malawi is high. 

*Fertility is strongly associated with education levels. Women with no education have almost seven children, whereas women with secondary education have fewer than four children.

*The average age at first birth is 20 years. Teenage pregnancy is reported at 35%.

Published 21 December 2010