New Age Islam News Bureau
25 May 2020
Princess Hind bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud
• Regional CSR Network Selects Princess Hind bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud As Global Ambassador
• Women Scientists from Egypt and Others Leading the Race to Fight COVID-19 Pandemic
• Number of Uniformed Women Personnel in UN Peacekeeping Must Be Raised: Indian Commander
• Inmates Kill 6 Others at Women's Prison in Honduras
• One of The Most Progressive Women’s Movements in The World Is Being Repressed by A NATO State
• Enough, Leave Honourably, Sabah PKR Tells Ex-Women’s Chief
• “Kunika Women Are Always Sick”: Views From Community Focus Groups On Short Birth Interval (Kunika) In Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Trio Of Indonesian Catholic Nuns Singing Eid ul Fitr Song Warms Hearts, Goes Viral
May 25, 2020
A video showing three Indonesian nuns singing a popular IdulFitri song went viral on Sunday, with social media users expressing their appreciation for the trio's demonstration of religious acceptance.
Titled “The Beauty of Living With Tolerance", the video was initially uploaded on Saturday to the YouTube channel of Catholic television station Hidup TV and shows sisters M. Eufrasia, Vincentine and Dorothea of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart singing "SelamatLebaran".
“After fasting for one month, giving alms according to religious teachings”, the trio sings. “Now we celebrate IdulFitri happily, let us celebrate Lebaran joyfully.”
Several users shared the video on messaging apps and posted it to their Twitter accounts on Sunday, where it drew praise from netizens.
Replying to @daprast @keranairmu
Makasih respect nyasuster✨🌙🙏🏻😘sukasuaranya. Indahnyaidupberdampingandansalingmenghargai✨🌙💯💐🌹😊🤗
8:06 AM - May 24, 2020
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“Thank you for your respect, sisters,” Twitter user @uki_ade3 wrote. “How beautiful it is to live side by side and honor each other.”
Replying to @daprast @bemabby_
10:10 AM - May 24, 2020
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“This video makes me want to buy the sisters a bucket of oporayam,” @assassinoftitan tweeted, referring to a dish of braised chicken in coconut milk that is traditionally served on IdulFitri.
Central Java Governor GanjarPranowo also reposted the video to his official Instagram account. “[Your] voices are beautiful,” he wrote in the caption. “Thank you.”
Many commenters said that the video was a breath of fresh air after incidents that indicated growing religious intolerance in the country over the past few months. These included several regions halting the construction of churches in response to protests from local residents, as well as the vandalization of a Muslim meeting hall in a predominantly Christian area of North Sulawesi.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for firm action to uphold religious freedoms in Indonesia while adding that this responsibility fell to regional administrations.
Regional CSR Network Selects Princess Hind bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud As Global Ambassador
May 25, 2020
JEDDAH: In recognition of her leading role advocating community services in the Kingdom, the Regional Network for Social Responsibility (CSR), a member of the UN Global Compact, has chosen Princess Hind bint Abdulrahman Al-Saud as the global social responsibility ambassador.
Commenting on her appointment, she said: “I am honored to be selected as an ambassador to support the fight against the pandemic.”
On March 25, the Regional CSR Network launched a campaign to support the international response to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The drive will continue until June 25.
“The campaign is to advocate international efforts to combat COVID-19 with Arab participation and community leaders were chosen as global ambassadors to spread useful information to members of the community through various channels to combat the virus,” said Princess Hind on RotanaKhalijia’sSayidaty show last April.
Princess Hind, a long-time champion of community service, considers volunteerism an honorable means to give back to one’s community by utilizing skills and efforts of young men and women and fighting hand in hand with authorities against the pandemic.
“Anyone can participate through signing up on the networks’ website and request to document their (volunteer) efforts that must exceed 20 hours,” she added.
Through the “We all are responsible” initiative launched by the Saudi Ministry of Health, she called on volunteers to play a role that could make a positive impact on their communities.
As a community leader, she has personally participated in a campaign “we help and assist” where she delivered medications to patients of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh.
Women Scientists from Egypt and Others Leading the Race to Fight COVID-19 Pandemic
MAY 24, 2020
In the minds of many, the world of science is a man-dominated field. Many schoolgirls and schoolboys still struggle today to name more than five women scientists, let alone one.
Despite the fact that women form 70 percent of workers in the health and social sector, they remain under-represented in the industry’s leadership, constituting 30 percent of C-suite teams and 13 percent of CEOs, according to the UN.
However, it is also important to note that the participation of women in science and leadership is macro-critical, meaning that it is an important factor in boosting the overall development of society.
Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Rania Al Mashat has been very vocal on the importance of highlighting women’s participation as macro-critical, recently stating at a virtual webinar that “41 percent in scientific researches are led by Arab women, with 45 percent in Egypt.”
During the webinar, titled “Horizons of Scientific Research and Knowledge Economy in the Arab World,” Al Mashat noted the significance of a knowledge economy and technological infrastructure in advancing productivity and human capital.
“This is an opportunity for technology-based entrepreneurship, which through innovation and creativity, can provide solutions for Egypt’s sustainable future and progress towards a competitive and inclusive economy”, she said.
They overcame barriers such as discouragement by teachers, lack of role models, and disproportionate domestic work and caring responsibilities. While the pandemic may cause the loss of lives and the collapse of economies, there are hopes that it will also advance and highlight women’s progress in the world of science.
To allow control of the exposure, Mostafa also noted that “having an in-house test also reduces the burden on the state laboratory, says Mostafa.”
The scientists worked for three days to develop the rapid test, which is based on a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) “that amplifies a small sample of genetic material obtained from the mouth or nose,” Mostafa told Assharq Al Aswaat.
Dr.HebaMostafa completed her M.D. at the Faculty of Medicine, Alexandria University in 2004, before moving to the United States where she earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology in 2014 at the University of Kansas.
She was recently welcomed as Assistant Professor of Pathology and Director of the Molecular Virology section of the Medical Microbiology Laboratory at John Hopkins in July, 2019.
Even before it was officially declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, African American Dr.Kizzmekia S. Corbett has been leading a team of scientists in America at the National Institute of Health to find a COVID-19 vaccine.
Corbett revealed in a recent interview that her team is currently in the first phase of clinical trials, testing around 90 people, which will be followed by the next phase for 500 people and then 5,000 to test the vaccine’s ability to protect people from the COVID-19 infection.
Dr. Corbett received her doctorate in immunology and microbiology in 2014 from the University of North Carolina, and has over ten years of experience studying diseases such as SARS amid its pandemic and already created vaccines for SARS and MERS.
Dr.RinkeBos, a principal scientist at Janssen who specializes in vaccines against viral infectious diseases, and HannekeSchuitemaker, Ph.D., global head of viral vaccine discovery and translational medicine for Johnson & Johnson
Listed among the World Health Organization’s labs, Dr.RinkeBos, a principal scientist at Janssen and who specializes in vaccines against viral infectious diseases, and Dr.HannekeSchuitemaker, head of viral vaccine discovery and translational medicine for Johnson & Johnson, have been leading the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine.
Both scientists are at the first stage, where they have already produced several possible vaccines to test and are selecting the best from the ten.
“Johnson & Johnson is committed to having produced 1 billion doses by the end of 2021. That’s if we have a vaccine that will become available to people during the year, of course,” Schuitemaker told Vogue.
Number of Uniformed Women Personnel in UN Peacekeeping Must Be Raised: Indian Commander
25th May, 2020
United Nations, May 25 (PTI) Efforts must be made to significantly increase the number of uniformed women personnel in the UN peacekeeping missions, an Indian woman commander stationed in Congo has said, underlining that they serve as role models for girls and women everywhere.
Women represent only four per cent of the total UN military peacekeepers, Captain Preeti Sharma, Commander of the Indian Female Engagement Team (FET) with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), told PTI in a video interview from Sake town.
“Currently, there are very less female peacekeepers in the UN. If you have to address 50 per cent of the world’s population, then it is very important that the number of women uniformed peacekeepers is increased to enable UN peacekeeping missions to effectively address challenges faced by women and girls,” she said.
“A bird cannot fly with a single wing. If women are not empowered and uplifted, it is not possible for any society to progress,” Sharma said.
The FET from India comprises 22 women peacekeepers and it began its deployment with MONUSCO, considered one of the most challenging peacekeeping missions under the UN flag, in June last year.
The FET "is not a police unit but an attachment with the Army. We are doing the same job which the Army performs” in remote areas, she said.
India is the fifth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to the UN Peacekeeping. It currently contributes more than 5,400 military and police personnel to peacekeeping operations in Abyei, Cyprus, the DRC, Lebanon, the Middle East, Sudan, South Sudan and Western Sahara as well as one expert to the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.
The Indian women peacekeepers in Liberia were hailed by the UN for their leadership for being an inspiration for the Liberian women to join the police force.
Sharma, who is due to finish her tenure with MONUSCO next month, said that a nation cannot progress and develop if half of its population is left behind and not empowered.
Increasing the participation of women in the UN peacekeeping is crucial in addressing challenges faced by women and girls such as security concerns, medical and educational issues in nations where the missions are serving.
“It will also help address and remove the leadership crunch. When women lead from the front, young girls and children view them as role models and take inspiration from them to achieve their own dreams and aspirations,” she said, ahead of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, observed every year on May 29.
India’s deployment of the FET is in line with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ priority and initiative to ensure increased participation of women peacekeepers in the UN.
Sharma and her contingent are from the SashastraSeemaBal, one of India's Central Armed Police Forces. Their duties and responsibilities with MONUSCO entail area domination patrols, quick reaction force, escort missions and long-range patrolling.
The team also goes to remote areas and outskirts of the towns and villages for patrolling and provides on-ground assistance as well as medical services, she said, adding that they specially take note of problems being faced by women and children and report those to the concerned authorities.
Sharma said that her team has undertaken several initiatives such as self-defence programs, language training, skill development, computer programs to help the local communities, especially the woman population.
“The women and girls were not able to fulfil their aspirations and dreams due to security issues. We started a self-defence program for local females in schools and villages and it was very enthusiastically received.
“When I lead, girls and women get inspired. Seeing women in uniform motivates them. They come up and ask how they too can join the police and military and serve their nation,” Sharma said, adding that seeing women in leadership roles inspires young girls to dream big and fulfil their aspirations.
“If women and girls are able to uplift themselves with the help of our motivation, it will be a great contribution by us to this society,” she said, emphasising that women bring a unique value and perspective to the peacekeeping operations.
As Sharma readies to head back to India after the completion of her tenure, she said that she has gained tremendously from the experience.
"It is said that people should strive to be better today than what they were yesterday. This experience has made me a better person today from what I was yesterday,” she said, adding that her message to the local community is that women should come forward and lead for the tremendous benefit of the country and the world.
"There are challenges everywhere, these are the challenges that take you to the next attribute which is courage, whether it is moral courage or physical courage,” she added. PTI YAS CPS
Inmates Kill 6 Others at Women's Prison in Honduras
25th May, 2020
A group of inmates at a women's prison in Honduras used a fire to distract prison officials and murdered six other prisoners, authorities said Sunday.
The National Penitentiary Institute said in a statement that the incident began around 11 p.m. Saturday when an inmate set fire to an area at the prison north of Tegucigalpa where two newly encarcerated women were undergoing a 14-day quarantine for the new coronavirus.
Amid the confusion, a group of inmates broke out of two other cells and headed to the prison gymnasium, where they killed six other women who had recently entered the prison.
Honduran prisons, which often hold rival gang members, are notorious for violence, though usually in lockups that hold men. Nineteen inmates died in a December riot at the Porvenir prison in central Honduras and 18 died in another incident at the prison in Tela, along the Caribbean coast.
One of the most progressive women’s movements in the world is being repressed by a NATO state
24th May 2020
A new wave of repression against women in Bakur (the majority-Kurdish area of NATO member Turkey) took place on 22 May.
Turkish police detained women from the Rosa Women’s Association, the TevgeraJinên Azad (TJA – Free Women’s Movement) and the Peace Mothers. Homes were stormed after midnight, and the office of the Rosa Women’s Association was raided. In total, at least 18 women were arrested in raids across Amed (Diyarbakır).
Now, more than ever, we need to act in solidarity with women in Bakur. And in the words of a good friend there, “let’s grow women’s solidarity together”.
According to a document seen by The Canary, lawyers involved in the case questioned the women’s involvement in a range of activities from supporting hunger strikes in 2019, to involvement in a rally for International Women’s Day on 8 March (pictured in the image above).
Prosecutors in the case are also claiming that certain slogans are illegal, such as “Jin jiyanazadi” (Women, Life, Freedom), “don’t interfere with our free will”, “no to isolation”, and – quite spectacularly – “women want peace”.
But there is another disturbing element to the case. On 5 January, 21-year-old GülistanDoku went missing in Dersim. And women across Turkey have been putting pressure on the government to find out what happened to her.
In February, The Canary visited Jin News, a media organisation run entirely by women. The women we interviewed highlighted the case as the sort of story they investigate because they aim “to reveal things that the government wants to hide”. This is risky work in Turkey. They told us that 14 “free press” women were in prison, nine from their organisation. According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey is “the world’s biggest jailer of media professionals“.
Doku had been missing for 27 days when we talked to Jin News. Jin News had been to Dersim to interview Doku’s family and friends. The women said that “the government doesn’t do anything” and set out some crucial facts in the case:
Her boyfriend was a soldier. The boyfriend’s dad is in the police. So the government wants to protect them. The last call was with her boyfriend, and the last video was with her boyfriend. He hasn’t been investigated or arrested. There are many CCTV cameras in Dersim. They could find her. But because they want to protect her boyfriend, they don’t do any searching. They just search the river and make out that she committed suicide.
And it seems the police aren’t happy with women investigating and asking questions about Doku’s disappearance. Because interrogators questioned the women about their campaigning around the slogan “Where is GulistanDoku?”.
it opposes… the draft law to pardon child marriages and to pardon rapists which agree to marry the child. If children are seen eligible to marry on their own solid will why is the right to universal suffrage granted at 18? Putting children in the position of giving childbirth is in fact the atrocity of this century.
Under the increasingly dictatorial and fascistic government of RecepTayyipErdoğan, women’s rights are being eroded at a national level. In January, a so-called “marry-your-rapist” bill was introduced, meaning men who rape women can avoid punishment by marrying their victims.
Representatives from the organisations targeted were present at the conference, as well as some of the women who were detained. A representative from the Rosa Women’s Association spoke. She explained that the organisation had been set up around a year and a half ago to “work on ending violence against women”, including offering abused women psychological support and helping them finding shelters.
In Mardin, we had a case where a kayyum [a ‘trustee’ put in place by the ruling AKP party to replace an elected mayor] appointed… was selling women to other men. We informed organisations and now there is a court case opened against him. We’re following this court case.
The Saturday Peace Mothers were also present at the conference and we visited them separately during our time in Amed. They are a group of women who meet every week to remember and demand answers about their children, who were ‘disappeared’ by the Turkish state. They hold pictures of their missing children and have traditionally gathered in the street to hold vigils.
Repression from the Turkish state means that these women are no longer able to meet on the street. Their gatherings have been banned by the Turkish authorities. In August 2018, police arrested 47 people, fired tear gas, and used water cannons against the mothers in Istanbul. Some of those attacked were in their 80s.
The mothers we met in February told us about their struggle to escape male domination. One mother from Istanbul told the conference her story:
I was always at home, washing dishes. But with this movement, I realised who I am…There are still mothers who can not leave their homes. We need to go to them and say ‘let’s go out together’. If a woman knows that she can go out, she’ll go to demonstrations and the government will be scared of all the women on the streets. It will be very powerful.
Although every mother has a tragic story of lost, disappeared, or imprisoned children, their vitality and resistance shines through. As another mother from Hakkari stated:
We don’t have anything to be afraid of. Our children are imprisoned or have been killed. The state has already done everything to us.
This new wave of repression follows a continuous pattern for Kurdish citizens across Bakur. During the local elections in 2019, the left-wing HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) won back municipalities seized by Erdoğan after Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt. He had replaced 100 mayors with AKP kayyums (‘trustees’). The Canary was told 94 of these mayors were from the HDP. A large number of elected mayors, including all those from the big Kurdish cities, were imprisoned.
Despite hope from the newly elected mayors that history wouldn’t repeat itself, the operation against Kurdish mayors began just five days after the election. Since then, in total, Erdoğan has replaced mayors in 45 out of the 65 municipalities that the HDP won. There are now 21 mayors in prison.
But this new wave of repression, targeted at women and their organisations, is particularly sinister in a climate of increased violence and oppression against women.
Women in Bakur are not only fighting for their autonomy against a backdrop of repression, they are providing an example for women everywhere. The Kurdish women’s movement is at the forefront of the women’s struggle worldwide. Lipservice isn’t just paid to women’s equality in the Kurdish freedom movement; equality isn’t something that can be sorted after other struggles are won – it’s a central foundation that is visible in every aspect of organising. And it shows. Not just with the women at the conference we attended but in the movement’s political structures. For example, the HDP has female and male ‘co-chairs’ to ensure there’s equal representation for women across the party.
But these women need our solidarity. The Turkish state is afraid of the power of these women. And they need to know their struggle is not being ignored and that we are making a noise about their repression. Whether it’s joining the campaign to Boycott Turkey, educating people about the Kurdish women’s movement and the Kurdish freedom movement generally, writing to politicians, or targeting the arms trade, there is something every one of us can do to ensure Turkey can’t get away with repressing women fighting for equal rights.
She is right. And it’s through our collective and international solidarity that we can raise our voices together, speak out, and make sure that one of the most vibrant and progressive women’s movements in the world isn’t silenced.
Enough, Leave Honourably, Sabah PKR Tells Ex-Women’s Chief
May 25, 2020
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah PKR today warned its former women’s chief Rahimah Majid against making “baseless accusations” against the party president, a day after she claimed Anwar Ibrahim had caused the collapse of the PakatanHarapan (PH) government by his “desperation” to become prime minister.
Disciplinary bureau chief SazalyeDonol also urged Rahimah to leave PKR “honourably”, saying her suspension was in accordance with the party constitution.
He told FMT that Article 41.6 of the constitution states the right of the central leadership council to suspend members until investigations by the disciplinary board are complete.
“Paragraph 5 of the letter that Rahimah received explicitly stated that she would be given the opportunity to explain to the disciplinary board, which would call her in the near future.
“This means that the board, upon completion of its investigation, would have issued a summons along with the charge against her. But with arrogance, ego and recklessness, she blamed the party president for the fall of PH.”
“Kunika Women Are Always Sick”: Views From Community Focus Groups On Short Birth Interval (Kunika) In Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria
24 May 2020
In Northern Nigeria, short birth interval is common. The word kunika in the Hausa language describes a woman becoming pregnant before weaning her last child. A sizeable literature confirms an association between short birth interval and adverse perinatal and maternal health outcomes. Yet there are few reported studies about how people view short birth interval and its consequences. In support of culturally safe child spacing in Bauchi State, in North East Nigeria, we explored local perspectives about kunika and its consequences.
A qualitative descriptive study included 12 gender-segregated focus groups facilitated by local men and women in six communities from the Toro Local Government Area in Bauchi State. Facilitators conducted the groups in the Hausa language and translated the reports of the discussions into English. After an inductive thematic analysis, the local research team reviewed and agreed the themes in a member-checking exercise.
Some 49 women and 48 men participated in the 12 focus groups, with an average of eight people in each group. All participants were married with ages ranging from 15 to 45 years. They explained their understanding of kunika, often in terms of pregnancy while breastfeeding. They described many disadvantages of kunika, including health complications for the mother and children, economic consequences, and adverse impact on men’s health and family dynamics. The groups concluded that some people still practise kunika, either intentionally (for example, in order to increase family size or because of competition between co-wives) or unintentionally (for example, because of frequent unprotected sex), and explained the roles of men and women in this.
Men and women in our study had a clear understanding of the concept of kunika. They recognized many adverse consequences of kunika beyond the narrow health concerns reported in quantitative studies. Their highlighted impacts of kunika on men’s wellbeing can inform initiatives promoting the role of men in addressing kunika.
The term “child spacing” is sometimes used synonymously with family planning, usually implying use of modern methods of contraception [1, 2]. Women and men at the household level, however, might distinguish between child spacing and family planning; they might favour child spacing and be hostile to the idea of limiting their total number of children [3, 4].
A short interval between successive births can have adverse health consequences irrespective of the total number of children. Short birth interval is linked to adverse perinatal outcomes for the next child, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and small for gestational age babies . In some populations it may be linked to stunting . An analysis of data from demographic and health surveys suggested that almost three million deaths of children below five years of age (about 35% of the total under-five years mortality) in developing countries in 2003 could have been averted if all birth intervals had been at least 36 months .
Evidence of adverse maternal health consequences is less clear, but short birth interval might increase the risk of maternal death, anaemia, and uteroplacental bleeding disorders [6, 8]. In 2007, the World Health Organisation recommended an interval of at least 24 months between a live birth and the next pregnancy, thus an interval of at least 33 months between two successive births .
Short birth intervals are common in Nigeria, where 62% of women reported an interval between their previous two births of less than 36 months, and 23% an interval of less than 24 months . The mean birth interval in North East Nigeria is lower than the national figure . Short birth interval is a well-recognised concept in Northern Nigeria where the majority of the population is Muslim. Kunika is the Hausa term that describes a woman becoming pregnant before weaning her last child. Islamic teaching promotes birth spacing to protect the health of mothers and their children and advises that a woman should not become pregnant before weaning her previous child. The recommended length of breastfeeding is two years, so this means avoiding pregnancy for about two years after a live birth .
Toro LGA in Bauchi State in North Eastern Nigeria borders the restive city of Jos. Most of the Bauchi State population of around five million people are Muslim, and the predominant ethnic group is Hausa. Family size is large, and polygamy is common. Some 57% of women in Bauchi have no education, compared with 36% nationally . Use of contraception is low: just 5% of married women aged 15 to 49 years in Bauchi use any modern method of contraception, and 21% are described as having an unmet need for contraception, compared with figures of 12% using modern methods and 19% with unmet need for contraception nationally .
We designed the focus group guide to explore several issues. What do women and men in communities of Toro LGA understand by the term kunika? What disadvantages and advantages of kunika do they perceive? Do they perceive kunika overall as a good thing or a bad thing? What factors might push people to practise kunika?
A senior female and a senior male member of the Bauchi research team piloted the guide with a female and a male focus group in one community in Toro LGA. We made minor modifications to the guide based on the experience of this pilot. Additional file 1 contains the final version of the guide.
The research team selected six communities to reflect the spread of urban, rural, and remote locations across Toro LGA, excluding communities with security concerns. Team members from Bauchi State, familiar with local customs and traditions, visited each of the six communities to meet the village chief and council, and arranged to conduct the focus groups in a neutral venue, often the school.
A trained woman from the local research team used the guide to facilitate the focus groups of women, with another trained woman taking detailed notes of the discussions. Similarly, two trained men from the local team facilitated and recorded the focus groups of men. The training of the facilitators stressed the importance of remaining neutral, not voicing their own views, and neither endorsing nor challenging views expressed by focus group participants. We did not use voice-recorders during the focus group discussions. The facilitators were graduates and had several years of experience in conducting focus group discussions.
The facilitators conducted a total of 12 focus group discussions: one with men and one with women in each of the six communities. The discussions lasted about an hour and were in the Hausa language. The reporter took detailed notes in Hausa during each group discussion, including some verbatim quotes, and the facilitator and reporter finalised the report on the same day, soon after the discussion ended. They translated the report into English.
Analysis followed the phases of inductive thematic analysis proposed by Braun and Clarke . The lead author, who has experience of field work and data analysis in Nigeria, went through the reports to search for meanings and patterns. She extracted key quotes and points raised in each group. She then grouped points to identify themes and sub-themes and discussed these with another author (AC). In a member-checking exercise  the local research team reviewed and finalised the themes.
In total, 49 women and 48 men participated in 12 focus groups in six communities, with an average of eight people in each group. All the group participants were married, with ages ranging from 15 to 35 years for women, and 25 to 45 years for men. Few of the group members had beyond primary education, and many of the women did not have any formal education.
Oh! I think kunika is a situation where a child is not properly breastfed. The mother becomes pregnant while the baby is still sucking breast milk. (Female focus group).
Participants in all the groups considered that kunika is harmful for the mother and leads to medical complications. They referred to the many physical health problems experienced by “kunika women”, the local term for women who become pregnant soon after their last delivery.
Whenever a woman gives birth her uterus becomes weak. If she frequently gives birth, it will become weaker and weaker. (Male focus group).
It sometimes causes miscarriage or forces the woman to abort the pregnancy. This may lead to danger for both the child and the mother. (Male focus group).
Group participants also mentioned mental health problems for kunika women. They said that kunika women are stressed and may become depressed and unable to take care of themselves and their babies.
She will be in a lot of tension, especially when she is watching her child become malnourished because of a lack of breast milk. (Female focus group).
Focus group participants referred to children born after too short a birth interval as “kunika children” and agreed that these children face health risks.
It becomes a calamity. I once heard that a woman, who had experienced frequent kunika, was terribly worried about the health of her children. She prayed to God to spare even one of her children, because they were all sick. (Male focus group).
Participants also highlighted health risks for the preceding child, since the mother will have to wean this child early when she becomes pregnant again.
Even though the baby is small, the mother will have to wean him or her early. This can make the baby sick and sometimes it leads to the death of the baby. (Female focus group).
It affects the child’s health because the child is taken away from breast feeding while he is not taking any solid food. Therefore, malnutrition and deficiency are definitely going to occur. (Male focus group).
Apart from early weaning, some people pointed out that the preceding child is neglected and poorly because the mother herself is ill and weak, and unable to look after the child.
Ahh! The pregnant woman will be very weak and the child she is nursing will be weak and malnourished at the same time. (Female focus group).
Definitely, the pregnant woman will neglect her baby. She can’t cope with the stress of pregnancy and taking care of an infant. (Female focus group).
Participants explained that pregnancies at short intervals create a big financial burden on the family. With more dependent people to feed on the same income, families may suffer food shortage. Families of kunika women also spend more on health care for the pregnant woman and her children, because of the health impacts of kunika on women and their children.
Even if the husband is well-to-do, kunika will make him poor because he has to make double efforts to take care of the child, the pregnant woman and the unborn child. (Female focus group).
It causes poverty because you will sell all your food stuff to get money so that you can settle the hospital bill. You will become poor, you will not have food to feed the remaining children, and the sick one may die, so it’s really a terrible thing. (Male focus group).
The increased financial burden mainly affects men, who are the main breadwinners. They struggle to keep up with the demands of a rapidly growing family, as well as having to provide money for naming ceremonies of children born in quick succession.
Let me tell you something: even the husband will not be able to take care of his family. Kunika causes families to become very large. (Female focus group).
The responsibility of the naming ceremony and other expenses falls on the man. Any time you get kunika, you will get sad and frustrated. The man will just hate the woman. (Male focus group).
Male focus group participants highlighted how kunika may cause mental and even physical health problems for men as well as women.
Participants frequently expressed that kunika creates discord and friction within the family, and they described mechanisms for this. The husband is under stress to provide for a large family. The money is not enough for his growing family and he has to look for an added source of income. He doesn’t take care of his wife and starts neglecting her. The wife, on the other hand, is weak and neglects her children and her house. She is frequently ill and might be depressed. All this creates a toxic environment in the family.
My sister, kunika contributes to family conflicts. The husband doesn’t care about the needs of his wife during pregnancy, she is left to suffer and bear the consequences alone. (Female focus group).
It leads to misunderstanding between husband and wife. She may not perform her domestic responsibilities very well because she has a little infant and she is pregnant as well, and her husband still needs her to do the work. You see, there will be a conflict. (Male focus group).
The frequent pregnancies can lead to sexual problems between the man and the woman. The man may lose interest in his frequently pregnant wife. The tired and depressed woman might lose interest in the husband. The husband might force sex with the wife.
It triggers conflict between couples because most times a man forces his wife or insists to have sex with her, and since she is pregnant, she will be upset. (Male focus group).
It is not conducive when there are many children: there is no place to lay their heads, sleeping becomes a problem. (Female focus group).
The focus groups noted that kunika is not socially accepted in their communities. People make fun of kunika women. One reason for this might be that people associate kunika with frequent sexual activity, which in a conservative society like Bauchi would be a matter of shame and embarrassment.
A kunika woman is always ashamed of herself. Sometimes she doesn’t even want her family to know that she is doing kunika. (Female focus group).
Asked about advantages of kunika, focus group participants said that they did not consider it had advantages at all. The facilitators probed further, asking why it still happens, despite nearly everyone believing it to be a bad thing, with many adverse consequences. The discussion focused on three areas: some people choose kunika; kunika is an unintentional consequence of frequent sexual activity; and kunika is simply the Will of God.
For some people, having more children translates as having more helping hands in the family. Children help with household chores, and they earn money when they grow up. For some men, a larger family is a source of pride.
It is an advantage for a woman to do kunika to complete her deliveries quickly otherwise it takes her a long time before she completes her family. (Male focus group).
Polygamy is usual in Bauchi and focus group participants identified competition between co-wives to have more children as a reason why they might practise kunika. Wives with more children are entitled to a larger share of their husband’s property.
Women do kunika for competition. They gather a lot of children quickly so that they may benefit from inheritance. (Male focus group).
Co-wives may also compete with each other for their husband’s attention and care. The wife who gives birth in quick succession is seen as the one who has his love and attention.
Participants in men’s groups said that kunika happens because men have frequent sex with their wives. They may force their wives to have sex with them.
See, different people have different levels of sexual desire. A man who has high desire won’t give any break (to his wife) and he will enjoy himself. (Male focus group).
As Muslims, if a man wants to have sex with his wife, whether she likes it or not, she must obey. If she doesn’t obey, she will be among the people on whom Allah’s wrath will fall. (Male focus group).
It is the men that are lacking self-control. How will you deny a man his rights if he demands? No way at all. (Female focus group).
Let me tell you my sister, the husband is the chief and master of kunika. If he stops doing it, the woman won’t have kunika. (Female focus group).
Men and women in our study had a clear understanding of the concept of kunika. They were unanimously of the view that kunika is a bad thing and described many adverse consequences. They went on to explain why kunika still happens, intentionally or otherwise.
In the Muslim, predominantly Hausa, communities in our study, many women and men defined kunika as a woman getting pregnant before weaning her previous child. This coincides with the advice of Islamic scholars that a woman should avoid pregnancy while breastfeeding . While this is compatible with the WHO recommended inter-birth interval of 33 months , few participants in our study mentioned the number of months between pregnancies when explaining their understanding of kunika.
Quantitative studies have reported significant associations between short birth interval and adverse health consequences, particularly for the second child [5,6,7,8]. Participants in our focus groups recognized these direct health risks for the second child, but also stressed the risks for the mother’s health, which have been less apparent in quantitative studies . In addition, they described indirect effects on the health and wellbeing of the immediately preceding child, of other siblings, and of the father. Quantitative studies have not examined these effects.
Men’s groups in our study described how kunika could lead to mental and physical health problems for men, including depression, hypertension and impotence. This is a new finding. Other studies on birth interval have not reported concerns about the effect of short birth interval on men’s health, possibly because many of them were limited to women participants [23, 24, 26]. When men did participate, the focus of discussions was on the implications of birth spacing on women’s health and well-being . In conservative cultures, such as in Bauchi State, men are usually the main decision makers in a household, including decisions about the number and spacing of children. Discussing the health problems for men associated with kunika could be a useful way to draw men into the debate when seeking ways to reduce kunika.
Participants in our study recognized adverse consequences of kunika going beyond health. They described a crippling economic burden on the family: other children experience neglect and couples experience conflicts and stress as a result of limited resources. Men and women in North West Nigeria and India also stressed the economic burden imposed by short birth intervals [4, 25]. This economic hardship may be part of the reason for the effects of kunika on child nutrition and mortality [5, 6].
The social taboo associated with short birth interval described by participants in Bauchi is common in other settings. Carael reported that a woman who has short birth spacing is called Kulikiza (lit. Lazy woman) among the Havus , while Ferry reported that communities in Senegal use the word Neffe (meaning misfortune on the Wolof language) for a woman who becomes pregnant before she has weaned the previous child .
Despite the recognized disadvantages of kunika, it remains common in Bauchi. Participants in our study explained why some people choose kunika despite the risks: it builds larger families and the additional children can be a useful source of help and later of income. A study on child spacing attitudes in North West Nigeria reported that people choose short birth interval because rural communities consider children an asset because they work in the farm and provide help around the house . In Kenya, a traditional community group endorsed short birth interval because it means more children in the family and children are a source of pride . Some men in our focus groups also alluded to a large family as being something to be proud of. Another reason for choosing kunika mentioned in our study was competition between co-wives; this is important in a society where polygamy is common. Dean reports from a study in Kenya that competition between co-wives may decrease birth intervals .
According to our participants, kunika also happens inadvertently. They described it as a consequence of frequent (unprotected) sex, and linked this with women’s inability to refuse sex with their husbands. In a study on attitudes of Nigerian men regarding reproduction, men and women agreed that it is men who mostly decide when to initiate sex, the duration of abstinence from sex, and the number of children a couple should have . Some women in our study were fatalist about short birth spacing. Similarly, some women among the Bani-lju tribe, part of the Havus living on mainland west of Lake Kivu, do not think that it is possible to avoid or to delay a pregnancy because conception is preordained by God .
Our findings are context-specific; they reflect what communities in Toro LGA, in Bauchi State, Nigeria, know and think about kunika, but we cannot necessarily generalize these findings, even to other similar settings, and we cannot assume that people in other settings share these views about birth spacing. Translating from the Hausa language to English before thematic analysis of the group reports may have lost or reduced meaning.
The expressed views of ordinary women and men confirmed that they consider kunika a bad thing, with many adverse effects. We have subsequently explored with community members their knowledge about causes and prevention of kunika as part of an effort to co-design ways to reduce this concern .
Women and men in communities in Toro LGA, Bauchi State, have a clear perception of what is meant by kunika. Their rich understanding of its adverse consequences goes well beyond the relatively narrow health concerns reported in quantitative studies.
Including men in the discussions revealed their concerns about effects of kunika on men’s health and wellbeing. In the Bauchi context men continue to dominate decision-making about reproductive health; the findings from these focus groups will help us to promote male involvement in seeking ways to reduce kunika.
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