“I will first go to my people (family and Community) and share the good news (about family planning). I also want to take a method. I want to work with you so that I can undo all the damage I have caused. I feel bad and will not rest until I visit communities and preach about family planning. I will pray to God for forgiveness .”
These were the words of Christy Esom, a family planning critic turned advocate.
Christiana Namdi Esom hails from Kakwagom-Irruan in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State. Christy, as she is fondly called, is the first of three children. She is well known in her community and has lots of female friends. She aspired to have eight children (to make up for her mum’s inability to have more children), be a good mum and a supportive wife to her husband.
To actualize her dream of having eight children, Christy resisted family planning including friends and relationships that thought otherwise. Commonly held myths and misconceptions in her community that family planning made women sterile and infertile further fueled her distaste and antagonism for family planning. As a child, Christy grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories, so, hearing these myths from her grandmother and trusted family member made her believe them without question.
Christy made a personal commitment to discourage anyone considering contraceptives. She used her position as Prevention Program Officer for youths with a popular non-governmental organisation (NGO) to organize groups of young ladies and sensitize them against family planning, condemning it as dangerous.
However, on the 13th of June 2017, Christy had a life-changing encounter with Marie Stopes Nigeria outreach team. On the said date, the outreach team worked at the health post in Kakubuk Community, about 7 kilometres from Kakwagom, Christy’s community. She got the information and decided to visit the outreach site to challenge the team and discourage prospective clients. Before unleashing mayhem, Christy decided to listen to the general health talk and counselling.
Gbam!!! That was the beginning of her transformation. She learnt for the first time the facts about family planning and became very curious to learn more as the veil of ignorance began to fall from her eyes. Christy enquired and got details of Marie Stopes Nigeria office address in Ogoja and visited the office where she met Garand Friday, the Outreach Community Mobilisation Officer (CMO) who walked her through the benefits of family planning and answered all her questions.
After this encounter, Christy became sober for all her attacks against family planning. When asked by Friday what she had decided to do. Christy said, “I will first go to my people (family & Community) and share the good news. I also want to take a method. I want to work with you so that I can undo all the damage I have caused. I feel bad and will not rest until I visit communities and preach about family planning. I will pray to God for forgiveness”.
On 22nd November 2017, Christy took up a method at Mbarakul Health centre, Ogoja LGA. Garand, the CMO later absorbed her as volunteer mobilizer in Ogoja and part of Boki LGAs where Christy worked as a community-based mobiliser (CBM) supporting mobilisation in over 15 communities including her community.
She continued her support as community mobiliser and Family planning advocate until January 2019 when Christy applied for the position of Community Mobilization Assistant for Cross River State and was successful. She is now a full-time employee of Marie Stopes Nigeria, supporting Public Sector Strengthening (PSS) channel in Cross River State.
Christy is married with four children and would often show the site on her arm where she has an implant to show her clients that she is practising what she preaches.