The message of Women Deliver: Do everything possible to stop poor women from having large families
KUALA LUMPUR, June 6, 2013 (C-FAM) - In the grand ballroom, conference attendees gasped at a video in which a woman said she had twenty-two children. The message was clear – we must do everything we can to stop this.
And so it went for four full days, attendees at the Women Deliver conference got a full dose of why and how to address the “unmet need” for contraception and “safe abortion” to prevent poor women from having so many children that put their lives at risk and keep them poor.
Organizers largely ignored any message that did not fit with the primacy of contraception and abortion. Presentations that went off message were given little notice, poor locations and bad time slots. Ignored groups traveled to Malaysia hoping to gain support for essential healthcare needs for women and girls beyond the selective agenda of the sexual and reproductive rights gatekeepers.
One doctor from Nigeria told the Friday Fax, “The majority of women who have died from complications of childbirth in my state in Nigeria carried a wanted pregnancy,”
Dr. Lawal Oyeneyin, Chief Medical Director for Mother and Child Hospital, brought a documentary to Women Deliver that shows how his hospital’s focus on mother and child health is a model for Africa.
Family planning advocates have been successful in driving strategy for development assistance that assumes multiple pregnancies are due to a lack of access to contraception and that the majority of pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted. In 2013 the U.S. government directed more funding to family planning/population control programs overseas then it did for maternal and child health.
“Our data tells us that out of the over 17,000 deliveries in three years of running the hospital less that four percent have been grand multiples - women with more than four previous deliveries,” reported Dr. Oyeneyin.
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“I feel the most powerful means of ‘population control’ is an emphasis on girl education to tertiary level and improvement in child survival strategies so women in villages don't feel the need to have so many babies when they are sure the babies will survive to adulthood to cater for them in their old age,” he continued.
A second effort sidelined at Women Deliver was menstrual hygiene management. Generally ignored by sexual and reproductive rights activists, menstrual hygiene management has been left to others to champion though it is important to ending discriminatory practices.
An expert panel reported on the obstacles surrounding menstruation that alienates millions of girls and women from their families and homes due to beliefs that they are unclean during this time of month. In some regions girls and women are forced to sleep outside their homes, cannot use the family water tap and are at risk to violence as they travel to distant alternate water sources.
Limited hygiene products, lack of water sources, and poor sanitation leads to regular absenteeism from school and work, with some adolescents leaving school permanently.
A teenage girl from Bangladesh gave a firsthand account of the challenges young girls face reporting knowledge of girls so desperate for hygiene supplies that they have been known to trade sex for clean cloths.
Reprinted from C-FAM.