The SheDecides movement starts from the principle that every girl and every woman can safely exercise her right to decide for herself what she does with her body, with whom she shares her body and whether she wants to have children. Not being able to have children hinders women’s right to choose. Addressing infertility—and
the subsequent involuntary childlessness—is about expanding women’s and men’s choices and opportunities to lead fulfilling sexual and reproductive lives. We call on all engaged in the SheDecides movement to put infertility on the agenda, to support women (and men) who wish to have children but are unable to.
-Infertility often leads to gender-based violence, including abusive treatment by husbands, in-laws and other community members, domestic violence, abandonment, and divorce.
-Childless women and men often suffer from social exclusion, stigmatization and discrimination.
-In some communities, they may not be considered adults or elders, losing the social advantages that come with the status, due to not having children.
-Childless people may lose their social security as they have no one to take care of them in old age or when sick.
-Infertility often leads to economic hardship, as childless couples often spend their incomes on ineffective ‘shopping around’ in traditional and biomedical health care.
-Infertility can lead to disruption of family life through polygamy, as husbands seek new partners in order to have children.
-Infertility may lead to additional health risks—exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—as people with fertility problems may attempt to conceive extramaritally.
4. Few SRHR & HIV initiatives address infertility
–Invest in preventing infertility by preventing STIs, HIV, postpartum, postabortion and iatrogenic infections and sensitizing people about the possible long-term consequences of these infections.
It is essential to raise awareness about the existence of male infertility AND that male infertility is not the same as sexual impotence, to avoid blaming women only and to involve men more in medical help seeking.
Support groups for women and men suffering from infertility and involuntary childlessness (self-help groups) are important to decrease the pain, feeling of loneliness and burden of infertility, as recent research in Kenya and Ghana* showed.
*Conducted with a Small Grant of Share-net International
–Better inform infertile people about their condition and support them to cope with infertility.
–Invest in decreasing the stigmatization of infertile women and men, for example by setting up public campaigns that make affected women and men visible, educate and create empathy.
-Support improving the systematic public health delivery of low-cost diagnostic examinations and treatments (to treat infections, hormonal treatments, or artificial insemination).
– Make high-tech treatments more accessible and available for infertile couples (like In-Vitro Fertilization). These treatments are currently only offered in private clinics at high costs and are inaccessible for most people.
Initiatives to support the introduction of more affordable IVF should be supported and further developed (e.g. The Walking Egg Foundation, the only non-pro t organization aiming to increase infertility care in resource-poor areas).