Recently, Pathfinder International released a new video Female Condoms Are…My Power, My Protection, My Pleasure as part of a film contest about female condoms. Winners of the international contest, organized by PATH, the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), and the National Female Condom Coalition (NFCC), will be announced at Women Deliver 2013 this May in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Female condoms are an important part of protecting women from both sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Estrella Alcade, Pathfinder Mozambique’s Gender Officer, discusses why female condoms are important and what challenges remain.
What’s the biggest challenge to the female condom in Mozambique?
In Mozambique, the female condom is still quite unknown and not very accessible, especially when compared to the male condom. So, correct information is a challenge, as well as overcoming some social and cultural barriers. One social and cultural barrier: the female condom is not attractive and there are some myths and misconceptions about it. In fact, most women and men agree to have a negative impression at first sight!
So we have to work on information, accessibility, wide distribution, and breaking down cultural barriers to use.
What’s been the biggest success in you’ve seen in the work on the female condom so far?
As for the project we’re implementing, we see that when the female condom is introduced along with appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and in an environment where women can feel free and safe to discuss with other women about their doubts, fears and wishes regarding sexual and reproductive health, it is accepted and adopted as a positive method. It just needs some initial guidance and support at least in a stage in which is not widely known, people are not familiarized with it.
One of the biggest successes for the female condom users is that it has contributed to them knowing more about their bodies and themselves. With the female condom, women adopt a more active role in the sexual relationship vis-a-vis their partners. The female condom generally needs of a greater dialogue within the couples (than the male condom) which brings women to a more equal position in discussing their protection. As Deolinda expresses it in the film, it’s empowering: she decides.
When we see that some of the beneficiaries in the project (those that became female condom users after participating in the groups) have become activists and are passing the word for the promotion of the female condom and sexual and reproductive health in their communities, it makes us think that the female condoms are really valuable for them!
What’s been the response to the video in Mozambique so far?
So far, the feedback we’ve received in Mozambique has come mostly from institutions (national and international) working in the development field, especially those in the area of sexual and reproductive health and gender. And it is being very good! They first think it is great to talk about the female condom which is often under-looked! They appreciate the way the female condom is shown from the first person voice and the experiences of a young women, the fact that it includes men as well, the good example of parents (in this case mother) talking with their daughters and sons about sexual and reproductive health which is such a challenge. They find the film “fresh” and bringing a positive light to the female condom so often criticized as not having acceptance.
How do women get female condoms?
In Mozambique, female condoms are distributed by the national health system and are freely provided at the health facilities. Sometimes they are also accessible at women’s rights associations or those working with HIV & AIDS issues. However, it is still very limited and in most parts of the country almost nonexistence. Stock outs are also common which makes it unregularly accessible.
Female condoms can also be bought at some drug stores (pharmacies) although it is not really affordable for many, being the price is still much higher than the male condom.