Sunday, April 5, 2009
In todays, NY Times globetrotting columnist Nicholas Kristof reiterated a fact. It's a fact that is steadfast and true, cannot be explained away and will not disappear no matter what the religious right espouses.
The fact is that without family planning, a woman, her family, her community and her developing nation cannot rise out of poverty.
A woman with many children must find and cook more food, care for more goats, water buffaloes, chickens, and cows, sew and wash more clothes, find more money for schooling, sit more hours with a sick child and spend more energy caring for the emotional needs of her babies. It really is a zero sum game. One woman divided by 2=1/2; one woman divided by 4=1/4; one woman divided by six = well...you get the picture.
And I've yet to mention the health risks: frequent pregnancies closely spaced lead to anemia and fatigue, risk of infections, and eventual, for many, uterine prolapse.
(Uterine prolapse is a HUGE problem in Nepal, and once the woman has suffered it she is likely to be booted out of the family and sometimes, the community.)
President Obama has lifted the ban on UN Family Planning and the programs which went grossly undersupported in last decade. The “unmet need” resulted in 70 million to 80million unwanted pregnancies annually, the United Nations says, along with 19 million abortions and 150,000 maternal deaths. That's a lot of families stuck in poverty! Obama's policy change is ...good news but not the total answer.
What else is needed? As it turns out, family planning is a complicated thing to accomplish. The distribution of condoms, pills and such without counselling and ongoing support are only minimally effective. Likewise, working with the men as well as the women is needed as much of reproductive behavior is cultural. In Nepal, as in many other countries, the women may not have much say in spacing their pregnancies.
Working with the youth is also required. The young people of Nepal will determine her future. And Nepal is lucky, there isn't much religious taboo against condom use and family planning. Or so I'm told.
Programs such as UNFP and CEDPA are doing good work in Nepal. What else is needed?
Your opinions, please...