The power of choice: a tale of two mothers

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13 Dec 2013

Jahanara and Khadeja live in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They only live a short distance from each other but in reality they live worlds’ apart - their experiences of life have been very different.

When choice came too late

Jahanara is 30 and lives in a slum area of Dhaka. She was married at 12 years old and had the first of her seven children shortly after. She didn’t know anything about family planning back then. “If we’d been educated we would have used birth control.”

Bringing up seven children has taken its toll. Jahanara gets up early every day to cook then goes to six different cleaning jobs across the city. “My health has been damaged and having so many babies has worn me out. I have no strength left.”

Jahanara’s tough situation became worse after her husband died. Unable to cope financially and provide for all her children she was forced to send two of her young daughters away to work as maids - she hasn’t seen them since.

Jahanara wants to make sure her 16-year-old daughter doesn’t have the same life so she's urging her to delay marriage and children. “I say to my daughter when you are ready, have two kids. It’s enough. I won’t let her have the same miserable life as me.”

Miles away, worlds apart

Just a few miles across the city, Khadeja’s life is very different. She is 28 and lives with her husband, son and mother-in-law.

Khadeja and her husband decided to wait for a year after marrying to start a family. She was able to get the pill from a family planning clinic run by Marie Stopes International in the factory where she works.

When Khadeja returned to work after having her son she was able to discuss contraception options with one of our nurses again.

Khadeja and her husband have a good quality of life today, and are able to plan for their family’s future. “Without the pill we’d have had lots of children by now and it would have been impossible for my husband to support us. Our family is small but we are happy.”

Delivering through political uncertainty

During this last year, the political situation in Bangladesh has deteriorated dramatically. Hartals aren’t new in Bangladesh but this year they have increased in number and violence shutting down transport networks and businesses and paralysing the country.

We’re proud to say that Marie Stopes International continues to operate during this incredibly difficult time finding ways round the strikes in order to provide much needed family planning and maternal health services to the women of Bangladesh.

If you would like to support Marie Stopes International and help us continue improving and saving women’s lives around the world in 2014, please donate here.

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