Women Make Change

A Family Matter: Saving Papua New Guinea’s mothers

A doctor in Papua New Guinea finds that involving men in family planning is the key to reducing maternal mortality.

Filmmaker: Alex Finn

Dr Edith Kariko and her colleagues in Papua New Guinea are dedicated to bringing information about family planning options to villagers in the Highlands region. 

When we talk about sex, or sexual reproductive health, it's a taboo and very sensitive area. What we try to do is add comedy, cause there's a lot of dirty jokes in the society and people respond to it.

by Edith Kariko, medical doctor

In these remote villages, which lie many kilometres from a paved road, people have to travel long distances to find family planning assistance.

The result is that families are often larger than either the women or men want, and bearing more than four children presents a significantly increased risk of maternal mortality.

It also means that women are less able to obtain paid work, it becomes harder for children to go to school, and the land gets divided into ever small parcels between the kids.

Kariko’s family planning team use creative techniques such as comedy theatre to get the message across about the options available. 

Many of the men end up choosing to get a vasectomy, a simple five-minute operation. In the past few years, there has been a 7,000 percent increase in vasectomies and in this film we follow a man as he makes a choice about going ahead with the operation.

As we follow the work of Kariko and her team we also track the hard economic data and research that indicates the effects of family planning and its impact on the wider community and the country at large.