#Article (Archive)

Family Planning is a Right

Jul 16, 2008, 9:21 AM

In honour of World Population Day some very important discussion took place in The Gambia. The subject of this discussion was family planning or as it was more correctly and appropriately referred to during the event family management rather than planning. This is a very important aspect of the empowerment of women. We are thankfully moving away from the concept in The Gambia that a wife is the property of her husband and so it follows that a woman's body is her own property. She must be free to choose when she has a family and how large that family is. There a great fear on the part of many people that the free access to family planning on the part of women will lead to a fall in the birth rate and that this will adversely affect the population. This idea is again a hangover from the past. From 1951- 1975 the infant mortality rate was 50%. This meant that for every two children that were born one would die before the age of five. This meant that people, if they wished to have a family had to keep having babies. This day has thankfully passed. While the issue of infant mortality has not gone away by any stretch of the imagination the problem has decreased in severity since the 1950's. The latest figures from the World Health Organisation put the infant mortality rate at 17%. Unfortunately the practice of having many children has not gone away with the bad times. The result is a burgeoning population who in many instances cannot be supported by their families. Their families cannot afford to send them to school and they stay at home hungry and uneducated. This is simply not fair. When a married couple have the freedom to manage both the number of children they have and the amount of time between the birth of those children their lives and, more importantly, the lives of their children improve greatly.

The theme of this year's celebration of World Population Day was "Family Planning Is A Right".

This was a very appropriate title because it plainly and simply states the fact of the matter.

When the UNFPA met with the media to discuss these issues a question and answer session was held. During the question and answer session, access to contraceptives by woman was questioned. The representative from GFPA, Ms Haddy Mboge, retorted that, there are outlets created for easy access to contraceptives. She stated that a clinical test is carried out first before any woman is allowed to use contraceptives. This, she argues, will avoid possible bad effects.

Like all aspects of medicine contraception has come a long way from its humble beginnings. It is now a safe dependable way for both men and women to take control of their lives and their futures. The government must ensure with all due haste that all women in The Gambia have access to this vital service which is, as stated above, their right. The longer people are left without access the more children and women will suffer.


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