Why family planning is still one of the eight UN millennium goals is not a mystery. When one goes to villages like Siruguppa in northern Karnataka, it is not unusual to find families with 5 children and more.
We are living in 2012 – a generation which encourages family planning and free access to contraceptives. But even with this practice, if one is to see a village lacking family planning, it’s time to take matters in hand.
Family Planning is not just about having more than 2 or 3 children; it’s also about having children they can afford to bring up in a proper environment. It’s about transmission of HIV and other sexual diseases. It’s about reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. It’s about eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. It’s also about achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality. It’s about much more because one factor overlaps another when talk about family planning is on.
Family Planning plays a big role ranging from national economy to domestic issues. Especially in a small town like Siruguppa, the affects are more evident. Upon reaching Siruguppa for a week and talking to the people there, I realized family planning is a major issue among other problems residing there.
Almost all the people that I talked to had more 3 children – some had up to 6. Most of these families didn’t have enough funds to send their children for schooling. They’d rather have them earn money instead of sending them to government schools.
Mrs. Rajiyabi, a local shop owner in Siruguppa who has 2 girls and 4 boys. 2 of these boys are working and the other 2 are in college and school. Her husband abandoned her some 12 years ago and since then, she’s been taking care of her family alone. The girls don’t study because she needs them to take care of the house when she’s travelling to stock up for the shop. The 2 boys work in garage and they make 500-600 Rupees in a week. The woman makes 100-200 Rupees in a day with her shop. Moreover they’ve taken loan of 50,000 Rupees from the government so they have to pay 4000 Rupees installment every month. She said that sometimes they run out of money for food for 7 members. It was indeed a very heart wrenching experience talking to Mrs. Rajiyabi. There must be many more families like hers, where no family planning has resulted in a difficult task to earn a square meal.
But slowly this issue is being tackled according to the Sayed Chand Pasha, Child Development Project Officer in Child & Women Welfare Department in Siruguppa. He said the government is trying its best. According to him educated and official people have 1 or 2 kids only. The BPL and labor class family are more likely to have more kids because there’s no way they can learn about family planning. He stressed on illiteracy being the main problem.
Mr. Sayed said that the health department supply condoms but they don’t know how to use or what its benefits are. So the main problem is awareness here. He said if we collect people and tell them, it won’t help. We will have to go from house to house and ask how many kids they have, how they’ll take care of their kids and ask why they want so many kids. He said that most people say it’s their destiny to have number of kids. Even among Muslims, they consider family planning a sin. He said that operation is a sin among the Muslim brotherhood.
He added that women don’t even know how much gap should be kept between each kid. A 4 year old will be holding her hand; a 2 year old will be playing in her lap while few months old will be in her womb. So he said that men should be aware about the usage of condoms while women needs sex education.
The newer generation knows the importance of it. After talking to Miss Nija who said there was no family planning before but the newer generation knows about it, like her sister who got married 3 years ago.
Mr. B Nagendra, Medical Store Clerk in Siruguppa also mentioned that the government does a lot to spread awareness through education in hospitals and roadshows. Therefore post 2007; more and more families have been planning ahead.
K. Lakshmi, Supervisor of Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) in Child & Women Welfare Department threw some light on the Bhagya Lakshmi Bond Scheme. In this scheme, families who have a baby girl, gets 1 Lakh Rupees. This scheme is for all the families who have 1 or 2 daughters. It doesn’t apply to families with more than 2 girls. Also this scheme is only for BPL families. After 2 kids, the doctors urges for sterilization so the population stays under control and not many children are born in the same family. This scheme started in 2006.
After talking to the people and officials in Siruguppa, I believe the main problem lies in illiteracy and lack of awareness. If the government tries to work towards these issues, as it is doing now, then family planning will soon become a tradition in this town – a healthy tradition.