Watching Twitter react to the conversation on Sauti Sol’s new soulful song - Nerea, I was impressed to note there were women and men bold enough to ask about the lack of Nerea’s view on the matter.
From Zawadi Nyongo to Sitawa Nafula to Naisolal - they’ve got that base covered - wonderfully. However the song itself and the tweets on Saturday evening, took me back to a series of shows we did on the Big Breakfast with Jalang’o a few years ago.
The topic was abortion and for two days we only allowed the men to call in. I’m going to stick with the men and the narrative as it stands in the song for now. Hear me out.
Abortion is often treated exclusively as a women’s health issue. Most of the research on the topic deals with the female party involved in an unwanted pregnancy. This is in part because, let’s face it, the women’s perspective is more important, as it’s ultimately her body and her choice, but also because the female party involved in the abortion is the patient seeking medical intervention.
So doctors and researchers can reach out to them directly for feedback, surveys, etc., with greater ease. Contacting the so-called “impregnators” is not so simple.
This male perspective, which has no finger pointing, needs to be heard if this debate and the conversation is to go anywhere. I’ve always said, you can’t make any progress if you leave half the party behind.
In regards to sex, we seem to think there can only be one voice in this matter; yet it takes two to do the deed.
On that morning as we discussed “Abortion; the men speak”. One of the first calls we aired that morning was from a gentleman who stated; “I’m a father of three, none of them alive.” You would have paid money to watch Jalango’s face as we both sat there and let him finish his statement.
Our second call came from a guy whose girlfriend had terminated a pregnancy barely a week before. His voice was heavy with raw emotion. “She wouldn’t let me go to the clinic with her or anything, and also didn’t want to speak to me for a bit around the time it was happening”.
You could tell that he was acutely aware that a possible child had existed. He sounded lost, angry and small. Emotionally, I think it’s much harder on the guy than people are aware. Then there was the gentleman who told us he still had the ultra sound scan tucked away in his drawer.
I was interested to learn from one of our listeners that a few international publications were ahead of Jalang’o and I, and had actually published stories from men. It’s strange how we now publish abortion stories on women and never once ask the guys.
I got this one from “The Root” and I feel most of us can relate.
“The day of the abortion, I left to pick her up at 7am; the appointment was at 9am. I went into the house, and it had the feel of an execution, which is another reason I wanted to get it done when she first told me. Early on, it feels like its just a pregnancy, it’s just a thing, it’s not a person. But as weeks go by, you see more babies and pregnant women than you have ever seen in your life—you just see them everywhere.
I paid for it. It was $200. By now we were back to being friends again at least. There were not a lot of guys in the waiting room. There weren’t a lot of people in there, maybe seven or eight, but me and another guy were the only guys there. When they called her to come to the back, it was rough for me. I think it may have been about 45 minutes. She comes out and she had been crying, which of course was a really hard thing for me to see. We stared at each other, and she says, “OK, let’s go.” I felt a sad relief. It was bittersweet. It doesn’t leave you”.
I know the trolls are about to jump on this one, but hear me when I say, pregnancy and abortion doesn’t happen to women alone, and we need to be equipping both genders with the tools to talk about and deal with it. We must have the ‘Nerea conversation’ soberly while listening to each other or else we’ll get nowhere.
Unwanted pregnancy is not a topic that should be discussed only behind closed doors between women and doctors. Equipping boys and girls with an education that explains pregnancy and contraceptive responsibility as an issue for both, is crucial.
I do remember one thing that Jalang’o said during that call-in show on abortion. “Men need to take charge of their manhood and sexuality. You see, once she is pregnant there is nothing and I mean nothing you can do. Should she choose to keep it – she will, even if you don’t want the baby. Should she choose to terminate the pregnancy she will, and there is nothing you can do.
What a man can do, is take charge of the relationship and if he can’t control that, he must take charge of his sexuality and his manhood.” Because once the deed is done – no amount of calling out to ‘Nerea’ will help.
Statistics show that 450,000 women terminate pregnancies each year in Kenya. The issue isn’t whether or not they can and whether or not it’s right – it has been done – 450,000 times. In fact, ‘Nerea’ will tell you, the fastest cash you’ll ever get out of a man is money for an abortion. Therefore this new vibe from Sauti Sol is news to her.
The issue is, how do we move forward. Sexual and reproductive education is a must and proper information about contraception is necessary. We can’t continue to pretend that we won’t listen to both these options and hope there will be no abortions.
If we will not find time to educate our nation on the matters reproductive health, if we continue to pretend that contraception is an ugly conversation – then let’s get ready for more abortions – ‘Nerea’ will sing her rejoinder soon and you may not like it.
But the conversation is on and for that, I can’t thank Sauti Sol enough.