Ppromoter Mey-Low-D Foundation about female condoms
The promoter of the Mey-Low-D Foundation
Bamenda, Cameroon, November 03, 2010
We are not trying to discourage people from what they have been using, but we are trying to introduce them to something new. We are not in any way trying to encourage promiscuous behaviour, we just try to be honest. When we talk to people about the female condom, we encourage them to talk to others about the product. We demonstrate to them how to use it so they can explain again to other people.
How do you promote the female condom?
We demonstrate the use of the female condom in events. As young people we know the rate at which young people have sex out there. Their parents may not even be aware that their kids are sexually active. Schools sometimes don’t allow us to demonstrate the female condom on campus. They believe in abstinance and don’t want us there. But we do not agree with this. When we are denied this opportunity, we nonetheless try to do so outside the school ground because we believe young people have the right to useful information concerning their health.
What are the reactions of those that have tried the female condom?
There have been negative reactions where people just marvel at the appearance and shape and size of the device and pay less attention to the important information being passed out on the product. One complained that in the course of using the female condom, he missed target and went in by the side. Others have said how pleasant it was using it. Women say sex was very enjoyable with it. They say it has solved the problem of bargaining with their partners about whether to use a condom since you can insert it two hours before the act takes place.
Most of the women using this devise have not complained about the men rejecting the female condom. A guy said the male condom constricts his penis, but having sex with a female condom feels like there’s no condom at all and ejaculation is freeer than with the male condom.
As a typically youth oriented organisation, how do you relate to the older people?
We have programmes like Campus Celeberty for youths where we invite parents to the concerts. There is also this programme called Talk Back At Home, which was inspired by the ACMS. This programme enables us to move from house-to-house bringing youths and parents together and promoting parent-child dialogue on HIV/Aids and reproductive health. The feedback was positive and we’ve decided to carry out this activity every year.
On Sundays, I usually go to social gatherings to talk to the women and to demonstrate how to use the female condom with an artificial vagina. Some of the women are shy to talk about this product to their children and will rather send them to me so I can talk to them about it. I encourage the young girls to use the female condom if they cannot practice abstinence and most especially the girls who stay out long. They can insert the female condom hours and could stay safe if they are raped.
Which IEC materials do you use in your promotional activities?
We mostly use pictures because people are very interested in them. We also give out a sample of the female condom itself because people want to actually study it before trying. We also use posters especially with adults because the pictures seem to shock the children.
Have you had the opportunity to talk to religious leaders and traditional rulers?
Yes we have. I have talked to church elders, but they seem to be against the idea of the usage of contraceptives, saying it is against their Christian principles. On the other hand, I try to advice them that health issues also have principles which if not respected, can cause HIV/AIDS irrespective of religion. This way we try to convince them.
How has ACMS helped you in promoting the female condom?
The ACMS training has really helped us to better communicate to the people out there and in case of difficulties; the ACMS comes to sort things out. They are always proactive and I feel covered and encouraged. ACMS gave us training and we in turn trained every member of the Mey-Lo D group. This has really helped. During sales we train all those at the sales points on how to do the demonstration and answer certain questions coming from the buyers. We also train group leaders, and they in turn teach their group members. The only problem is that we sometimes have shortage of materials like t-shirts and caps.
What is the trend of your sales?
At the beginning, we could sell only about six cartons per trimester. It went up to about nine cartons in the second trimester. Now we sell at least 12 cartons. We sell more when we make group outings. It’s a rule to put on the T shirt advertising Protectiv each time we go out. But our T shirts are worn out and need replacement because it is vital to put it on while out on promotion. I’ll also suggest that caps, ribbons, necklaces and even earrings could be made to hand out to the public during promotions. This will really help our activities.
There are those who will say you are promoting sex. What will you tell them in response?
I will tell them that with or without the promotion of this product, the people will still have sex, especially the young people who are very sexually active. So what I am doing is just tot help them to be responsible in their acts. When you visit hospitals you come across cases of HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and abortion. A lot of this happens because of ignorance. They might not be aware that they are able to protect themselves from such situations. We encourage abstinence for those who can do so and condoms for those who cannot.
I tell people that what we are trying to promote here is responsible sex. We want people, irrespective of their religious background, to feel free with their sexuality. We want them to protect themselves and prevent the spread of diseases. We make sure, than we have no moral complex from those who see us as sex promoters. No parent will be happy if the child contracts a disease or carries an unwanted pregnancy and most parents will be happy to know that their children are able to protect themselves.
What do people say about the cost?
People say the female condoms are expensive, but we try to explain that it is less expensive than going to get treatment in the hospital after being infected.