Doubling contraceptive use in Senegal
Senegal has one of the lowest rates of contraceptive use in the world. Just 27% of women are using modern contraceptives. But that’s starting to change, thanks in part to the work of courageous healthcare providers like Dias Seck.
Overcoming barriers to contraception
Dias is a midwife with MSI in Senegal, who travels to remote villages around the city of Louga to offer reproductive healthcare. She remembers a young woman named Safi who arrived at the outreach site as they were closing up after a long day. Safi* was 25 years old, and already had 7 children, some born less than a year apart.
“She was very tired,” Dias remembers. “Her husband didn’t allow her to use contraception.”
Dias had had a busy day. She often travels 125 miles to reach remote communities with contraception, sometimes serving up to 100 clients a day. But Safi had found the courage to seek contraception despite her husband’s objections, so Dias invited her to come back the next day.
When Dias reached the outreach site at 8am, Safi was waiting for her. They had a long conversation about her options and hopes for the future.
“When the women don’t understand family planning, I make sure to explain everything to them very clearly,” Dias says. “All the methods, all the possibilities, so they can make their own decisions.” When Safi felt ready, Dias fitted her with an IUD.
There are many factors that keep women like Safi from using contraception. Often, for women in rural areas, the nearest health post offering contraception is simply too far away, which is why outreach teams like Dias’s are essential.
Lack of family support, low literacy, and poverty can also discourage women from using contraception. At MSI, 24% of our clients live in extreme poverty, and we offer low-cost or free care to ensure they can access contraception when they want it.
Changing lives for women in need
Dias continued to treat Safi for parasites, as well as treating one of her children who had fallen ill. Safi got stronger—and, for the first time, started making her own decisions about her future. “She told me that she wouldn’t give her husband another child,” Dias said. “She was very happy with my work, and I felt so good having helped her.”
Dias knows that when her clients are able to choose contraception, it impacts their whole lives. She says, “For women who have contraception, life has changed a lot because they now have time to educate their children, and to take care of their husbands and themselves.”
Dias took the time to really talk to Safi on a busy day—and it set Safi on a new path, one where she had control of her own life. Dedicated providers like Dias are making a difference in Senegal. Since MSI first began providing services in Senegal in 2011, contraceptive use has more than doubled. But our work isn’t done: better sex education and greater awareness of the benefits of contraception are needed to continue this progress. We’ll keep working until every woman who wants contraception can access it.
* Name has been changed to protect privacy