Understanding family planning and contraceptive choices in Timor-Leste - an exploration of perceptions, misconceptions and realities

  • Heather Julie Wallace

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    Timor-Leste has made progress over the past decade in reducing maternal deaths, however the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) remains one of the highest in South-East Asia, at 557 maternal deaths per 100 000 livebirths. Research from other parts of the world demonstrates that maternal deaths may be reduced by 29% by ensuring access to quality family planning measures.

    Many women in Timor-Leste report an unmet need for family planning, and report that they want no more children or wish to delay their next child by two years or more. Despite this, over 50% of married Timorese women not using modern methods of contraception for family planning report that they do not intend to use these methods in the future. This qualitative research project was designed using feminist theory and de-colonising methodology, to explore some of the perceptions women of reproductive age have surrounding family planning and contraception in two districts of Timor-Leste. Eight focus group discussions and body mapping exercises enabled the researchers to hear the voices of 52 Timorese women, gain insight and understanding into their thoughts and beliefs surrounding family planning and contraception, and identify potential myths or barriers that exist in this domain.

    Findings from this project demonstrate that the choice to access contraception is not one women make independently. Rather, their choices are influenced by their worldview, where family, community and tradition may take priority over individual desire or need. Women are constrained by culture, tradition, religion and colonisation, and barriers to accessing contraception include status, level of education, geographical location, cultural practices and familial obligations. Husbands, parents-in-law, barlake, the Catholic church, reproductive health literacy and financial circumstances all impact on women’s engagement with and perceptions of contraception.

    The insights provided by this research may enable reproductive health providers to tailor their programs and services to women and areas of need, with the aim to improve women’s reproductive health and decrease maternal mortality.
    Date of AwardNov 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSuzanne Belton (Supervisor) & Ana Isabel De Fatima Sousa Soares (Supervisor)

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