What handicaps family planning initiatives in developing countries

One of the greatest problems facing developing countries is uncontrolled growth of population and the resulting poverty.

One of the greatest problems facing developing countries is uncontrolled growth of population and the resulting poverty.

Unprecedented growth of human population and the high increase of human numbers in developing countries like Rwanda have resulted into malnourished and dying children, slum growth, disease, illiteracy, social and political crisis and the general scarcity of all basic requirements. Overpopulation and its impact on environment, remains a great threat to world ecology. While the literate societies in these countries mostly opt for two or three children, the illiterates and semi-literates have numerous children. The family planning programme has thus remained a failure in the poor societies. The situation worsens when it comes to rural areas.

Illiteracy is responsible for the inefficiency in implementation or communication in poor countries. Condoms have become balloons for children to play with as the rural illiterate people cannot understand the essence of population control.

Rural illiteracy and ignorance is so strong to the extent that they don’t even give chance to listen to explanations about family planning. Sex education initiatives are intensely hampered by the rural folk’s illiteracy and general ignorance.

It is against this background that women regard family planning methods as sins and largely fear the use of contraceptives.

Illiteracy and ignorance has left a number of rural populations across the world; poor, hungry and in a state of hopelessness. They have irresponsibly produced many children that they cannot afford to support. These children have as a result, lived in a miserable state without any clear line of the future. They do not go to school and are subjected to work in the labour market so as to support their families when they are still babies.

They remain hungry as they cannot get enough to satisfy them. The big number of children is almost impossible to feed. They produce so many children that even the well-to-do would not feed.

In essence, hunger as the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food is exacerbated by lack of family planning. Hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness.

It is against this background that I undertook to travel upcountry to examine why, despite strong government campaign for family planning, women/families continue to produce many children. I had a long interview with one rural woman and here I tell the story:

Question: Tell me about yourself madam.

Answer: I am an old woman who is living here in the village as you can see. I stay with my grand children and one of my daughters who is not here.

Question: How many grand children do you have?

Answer: Oh oh… they are so many! (She looks around shyly searching for an answer) There are twelve because six died of different diseases. My daughter has nine children after losing three and my son has three children. My son died in an accident and the children are here with me.

Question: How about your daughter? Why do you have to stay with her and her children, here with you?

Answer: Man! you ask funny questions, these days we do not talk about men. Which man is ready to take a woman? None! All the children you see here have one mother but different fathers.

Question: How come your girl decided to have children in that way? Don’t you think it is bad and the practice can make her get infected with diseases like HIV/Aids?

Answer: She has no alternative. No job and no husband to cater for the children.

Question: Where is the mother of the children I see here?

Answer: I told you she does not have a job or any other person to care for her. So whoever gives her money is the man of the day. Whether this leads to HIV/Aids or not, it’s up to her.

Question: How many children did you produce yourself?

Answer: I had twelve but now I am left with three. They keep dying in many different ways. Out of the three, two are men who live on their own somewhere. And the girl is this one next to me (she points a finger in the direction of an equally old-looking woman).

Question: Tell me about the difficulties you encountered as a result of producing so many children. Don’t you think it contributed to the poverty you are experiencing today?

Answer: There are so many problems of course related to children especially when they are many. It was always difficult to get enough food for them; none went to school, and so many other problems. You can even see it today. I still face the same problems with my grand daughters.

Question: Have you and your daughter heard of family planning, and if you have, why do you still have so many children?

Answer: During my days of course I had never heard of family planning. But even then we still experienced problems of living. But as for my daughter she doesn’t seem to care and there she is… can you explain? (she called to the daughter, who shied away).

Question: Apart from the usual cooking and washing of plates, how do you spend your free time?

Answer: My free time? I do not budget time, any time is like the other except at night when I sleep.

Question: What makes you happy at times or most of the time?

Answer: Ehh (she laughs to tears and looks around to make sure that no body was listening) I am only happy when I get a drink, a beer (she whispers).

Question: Would you like to tell me anything beyond what you have just told me?

Answer: I have seen so many of your type come here to interview us but you have not done anything for us. Just give me some money and forget about the family planning. Even today if I had a man I would still be producing because I do not use any contraceptive. (She causes laughter as the daughter says that her naivety and ignorance does not know menopause).


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