Tag Archives: Daphne Mae Hunt

Happy Mother’s Day – Teaching Birth Control in Nigeria

Taken from an NPR story by The Kitchen Sisters.

With her 8-year-old son, Chris, who spoke Igbo, serving as interpreter, Daphne Mae Hunt taught Nigerian women a method of birth control that was in keeping with her Catholic faith.

In the 1950s there was a big push for birth control within the local government. The average woman in rural Nigeria was having eight or nine children. The Catholic Church wanted to be seen as a leader in the community, but wouldn’t support condoms. So the church endorsed the Billings Ovulation Method, a form of birth control that involves a woman monitoring her monthly menstrual cycles to determine when she’s fertile and when she’s not.

When Chris Abani was a boy, he toured the Nigerian countryside as an interpreter for his mother, Daphne Mae Hunt, who wanted to teach women about their menstrual cycles as a form of birth control. Courtesy Chris Abani

With a backpack full of pictures and charts, Abani and his mother would set off and go from door to door. It was Abani’s job to begin the conversation in Igbo.

“Everything starts with a greeting,” Abani explains. “I would say, ‘Good afternoon, mothers.’ You greeted a woman who had children in the plural. It would be followed by an apology from me because I was about to discuss something sacred, taboo.

“I am greeting you and saying that what I am about to tell you could be offensive because I’m about to break taboo. But this is what my mother wants me to tell you. What my mother’s bringing to you, she says, is a thing of glory, a thing of goodness, a thing of independence. And I hope you can listen.’ ”

“And here I am, this 8-year-old boy who they’re having to ask questions in Igbo for me to ask in English. But my mother didn’t think twice about it, because this is what women needed,” Abani says. “If the Catholic Church was going to ban condoms, she was determined that they would find this birth control information somehow.”

“It never struck my mother as odd that a young boy would discuss a woman’s menstrual cycle. She would always say, ‘Every good man needs a little bit of woman in them.’ “

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