By Sennah Akoi Markjackson
In Kenya, just as with other African countries, there is the cultural belief that a man’s fertility belongs to the community as a whole. The result is that anything and everything to do with our fertility is an issue of collective concern. They say “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well, where I come from, the village also wants to control the decision not to have a child.
I come from the county of Kakamega, in Western Kenya, and my neighbors were not amused when word went around about my involvement with World Vasectomy Day, 2016. My tribe, which God in his infinite wisdom planted me in, were fast and furious with the deriding chide of, “We are ex-communicating you from the Luhya Community.” Apparently, I had committed a taboo by associating myself with the very word “vasectomy,” and the ramifications for this “crime” could only be assuaged by my being ex-communicated from the community.
For crying out loud, it’s the 21st century! Much, if not most of what our fore parents ascribed has been rendered irredeemably obsolete. I understand that in the past, surviving childhood was not assured, and an entire community could be wiped out by an outbreak of an ailment like Chicken Pox. Life then was defined by survival, and siring children was a matter of chance, and the community had to protect an entire generation. Then, people weren’t focused on the quality of life, but just survival.
In those times, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, survival of the fittest, made a whole lot of sense, but today being fit means adapting to change. The world in which I will raise my children is vastly different from that of my parents. We need to open our eyes without fear to new ways of creating a family. In today’s Kenya, we don’t just aim to survive but to thrive. I don’t believe anyone has ever lost their eyesight by looking at the brighter side of life.
Let me be clear my beloved Luhya community, I am deeply loyal to our people and our ancestors, but I say this with a caveat as I hereby acknowledge that I commit the “felony” of adapting to new thinking on matters concerning the size of our population. To that end, I am open-minded about vasectomy as a means of family planning.
At age 33, having not yet fathered a child, let alone married, I stand condemned before the people of my Luhya Community, and I do so without apology. We live in a community where it is normal for a man to have sired more than one child out of wedlock before marrying, and it is normal that he will not only continue siring more children with his wife when he marries but with other women outside the marriage as well. That is a choice I will not choose for myself.
In our region, there is the legend of Akumu Akuku Danger, a serial polygamist who married more than 100 wives, thus ending up with an entire village of children of his own. This, to me, is mind-boggling. Personally, I suggest that our legendary Kenyan polygamist—whose popularity of late in the matter of “love” is only rivaled by South African President, Jacob Zuma—was a ripe and ideal candidate for Vasectomy.
There are many beautiful places in the world, but Kenya isn’t just any country. No, history hugely favors us as this is the land where human evolution took hold. To be precise, it was in Turkana, in northern Kenya where humanity took our first steps, 1.5 million years ago. This means that from the beginning Kenya was an influencer on humanity and has facilitated human advancement. There were only thousands of humans then. Now we are 7.4 billion, and counting. We were there in the beginning, and now as the world is overwhelmed by the “success” of our species, it clamors for our attention. Not only should we be leaders in our country, but leaders to Africa and the rest of the world.
In Kenya, just as it is elsewhere, male chauvinism continues to rear its ugly head concerning family planning. Look around you. It is both a selfish and ignorant assumption that family planning is solely a woman’s responsibility. We are both equally responsible for raising our children and should be equally responsible for bringing life into existence. I commit to assuring that my children’s life be of higher quality than my own, so I commit to being equally involved with my wife in matters of our shared fertility.
As I write, vasectomy is the only certain family planning method that allows men to take personal responsibility for contraception. The other two options available, condoms and withdrawal method, are not secure. Let’s be honest; withdrawal never worked with our fore-parents, and it won’t work for us either. We all realize that in that moment, we are at our weakest, is the worst time to think about “protection.” Condoms, although better, still fail 18 of 100 men who rely on it as their primary form of contraception.
Vasectomy is simply the separating of the vas deferens that delivers the sperm and leads to impregnation. I choose to call it the “Incision Decision.” Personally, if and when I ever choose the “Incision Decision,” my only preference is that the vasectomist be a lady. Still, being a typical African man, the idea of another man messing around with my essential parts doesn’t augur well with my ego.
The fact is, a vasectomy is effective, and under certain conditions, a potentially reversible method of birth control. It takes 15 minutes or less, it is simple, and it causes no pain. It is also less expensive than any other form of birth control available or having a child, thus lowering the burden on my beloved community and country. At a time when we are celebrating the quality of life over quantity of children, this decision can have a positive impact on sustainable development.
Kenya is famed for being the cradle of mankind. We are renowned for our exceptional athletic abilities. We are the home of MPesa, the land of lions, the birthplace of noble laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai as well as the birthright of Barack Obama. Our heritage is one of champions and pioneers. We cannot give into fear or ignorance or old thinking that no longer serves our present or our future. No, we are pacesetters, influencers, and bold believers in a new ethos that embraces the birth of a new movement. So, long live World Vasectomy Day in Kenya. Long live my people and our future!
We can’t do it alone. Join us. Visit our web page, like our Facebook page, connect with us on Twitter, and if you can, please consider supporting our crowdfunding campaign. Share your vasectomy stories, get a vasectomy if the time is right and help us spread the movement as we commit to building sustainable vasectomy programs the world over.
Donate to build a sustainable vasectomy outreach program in Kenya! We’re looking for $35,000. Will you help?
About the Author: Sennah Akoi Markjackson is an Independent Filmmaker, Poet, Writer, and Photographer with a bias for Humanity as a Societal Justice Advocate.
Photo: Sheila Gabeya