Reproductive health and economic development are two sides of the same coin
As the pandemic forces tens of millions of people back into absolute poverty, it is more important than ever that private and public organizations invest in both.
Wanting your children is the most important indicator of a successful family. It is also the best way to reduce the termination of pregnancy.
On International Women’s Day, it is important to keep in mind that in low-income countries, family planning is also a key component of sustainable economic development.
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Smaller households, with births spaced according to the ability to properly raise children, contribute significantly to lifting households and families out of poverty.
This is only possible when communities, especially women, learn about reproductive health and have the social power to put what they learn into practice. This usually means an independent source of income that allows them to influence and control sexual activity and plan birth spacing.
This is exactly what is happening in communities around the world, including Nepal, Burkina Faso, India and Haiti.
For example, adolescent girls and women in Nepal and Bihar, India are taught menstrual hygiene, the importance of avoiding child marriages, get a full education and not drop out of school. The program also emphasizes the benefits of waiting to have children and then spacing the births. Participants in the program receive help for gynecological problems, such as uterine prolapse, which is more common in women who have had multiple births and who work hard and laborious jobs like farming.
The power to work together
Earning an income can be the catalyst for women to find their voice. In many isolated rural communities, women are unable to interact with their neighbors and they often have no say in their communities.
Women build relationships through reproductive and other health training and savings and loan groups. In these groups, women donate small amounts each month. When credit is accumulated, they take out small loans at very low interest rates to pay for schooling, health care, improved farm implements, livestock, and to start small businesses.
Once women start earning money, start their own businesses, and have the means to provide for their children, they gain confidence and confidence. start speaking in more public forums.
Agriculture provides livelihoods for 68 percent of the Nepalese population, accounting for 27 percent of the country’s GDP, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics of Nepal. Women make up 80 percent of farmers in Nepal, since most men leave for higher paying jobs in the Gulf States.
Although the pandemic has had an impact on this phenomenon, women remain the main workers on these farms. Through savings and loan groups, these women move from subsistence farming to profit making, expand their farms and create more opportunities for their children.
In Bihar, India, the 299 newly created savings and loan groups have led to the formation of a women’s federation of more than 4,600 women. These women formed a network to help other women learn about reproductive health and family planning. But it went much further than that.
The federation has helped build the confidence of women and now some are running for political office, postponing marriage, starting small businesses and attending college. As soon as the pandemic struck, the women of the federation started a business sewing masks and manufacturing disinfectant at home. The members of the federation are leaders of their communities and are active in advocating against the dowry system, child marriage and the ban on girls’ access to education.
Community health volunteers
In Burkina Faso, reproductive health training is provided by community health volunteers (CHVs). These women organize and lead training sessions on reproductive health, HIV / AIDS, antenatal and postnatal care and more.
Critically, CHWs also present to women savings and loan groups. For example, in Burkina Faso, Mali and other African countries where we work, women generally do not own land or livestock. Loans from savings and credit groups are used to buy small animals like chickens and fish and seeds to grow fruits and vegetables.
Overtime, these independent sources of income play an important role in gender relationsincluding planning of children. The confidence and skills they gain as CHWs, members of savings and loan groups, and as community mobilizers also help them grow their farms and expand into other businesses.
In the ravaged violence Haiti, where women often do not have access to government-run health clinics, CHWs travel from village to village to give advice, help refer people to clinics and act as trusted neighbors .
Women who participate in reproductive health and livelihoods programs come to have the knowledge and economic situation within their families and communities to plan the number and timing of their children. This is essential for reducing child malnutrition, with its suffering and lasting impacts on the ability to learn and work. Over time, investing more in fewer children builds the capacity for more productive, better-paying and more satisfying jobs.
Family planning and sustainable economic growth are two sides of the same coin. Like the pandemic forces tens of millions of people back into absolute poverty, it is more important than ever that private and public organizations invest in both.