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Empowering women

Family planning helps refugees regain control of their lives

Zara, a 25-year-old originally from Darfur, lives with her husband and children in the Bredjing refugee camp in eastern Chad. They are among the 40,000 Sudanese in the camp unable to return home due to continuing instability and violence.

Married at an early age, Zara found herself pregnant every year—her first four children were born one after another. Caring for a large family made life in the camp all the more difficult. She had no time to earn extra money and her husband’s income was not enough to provide for the family.

Zara’s situation illustrates a dilemma faced by many refugee women in Chad and elsewhere—the lack of access to family planning. At the Bredjing refugee camp, the International Rescue Committee is providing critical health services that include contraception in addition to pregnancy and delivery care.

Displaced women and girls are at high risk not only for unintended pregnancies but also miscarriage, rape and unsafe abortion. To make sure women like Zara receive the care they need and deserve, the IRC works with local health care providers and community volunteers to conduct outreach campaigns to educate communities about family planning.

Women in a health clinic run by the IRC in Chad
“Now that I am using family planning, I am able to work, whether in the field or selling small things in the market,” 25-year-old Zara (center) said. Photo: IRC

The IRC also provides counseling for women and their spouses so that they have the information they need to make informed decisions.

After attending IRC counseling sessions, Zara took control her life and broke the cycle of unplanned pregnancies. She did have another child, but this one came at a time of her choosing, fours years after her last child was born.

“Now that I am using family planning, I am able to work, whether in the field or selling small things in the market,” she says. “I am able to save small amounts of money to better feed my children.”

The power to plan pregnancies is helping countless displaced women and girls regain control of their lives, take better care of their children, and improve their family’s livelihood.