Nine years after female condoms
(FC2) were introduced in Malawi; they were not being utilized as envisioned. According to 2013 Ministry of Health Reproductive Health Unit Report, the uptake of female condoms in Malawi has stagnated to only one million pieces annually. In Balaka district, Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) was able to distribute an average of 3000 pieces per annum for the past years.
However, the female condom is the only available female initiated method that provides multiple protection against a wide range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and unintended pregnancies. As this is not enough, Female condoms also increase the level of women’s empowerment.
What could have delayed their best utilization to meet the unmet prevention needs? Was it because female condoms were not rolled out under a robust Information Education and Communication strategy? or potential users did not prefer using it? Or was it because of power relations between men and women including the relative social and economic status.
In Balaka District where a reasonable number of people are not well-educated, cultural and superstitious thinking dominates; there is a negative perception towards the female condom among men and women.
YONECO currently is sustaining some project activities for female condom Education Project which was embarked in April, 2014. The sustained project activities contribute towards increased demand, access and use of female condoms by both male and female sexually active groups.
To achieve this, YONECO has established community structures and trained female condom champions in 12 health centres across the district. The Champions engage women, men and the youth in smaller and larger groups and use formats such as education sessions, community dialogue sessions.
With the interventions mentioned above, YONECO in Balaka District has managed to successfully distribute 29,594 Female condoms within 9 months (from April to December 2014). This means, on average, YONECO was able to distribute 3, 288 per month which not long ago was the total number of pieces distributed annually.