5 November 2011

Tanzania: Women Can Do Better in Birth Control


The world's population reached seven billion just a few days ago. And by now, we are already way beyond that figure by hundreds of thousands.

But while we are celebrating the newborns, the United Nations Population Fund, says a world of more than seven billion has implications for sustainability, urbanisation, access to health services and youth empowerment.

But what does this mean for a country like Tanzanian? For me, it means a tragedy.Of course everyone loves babies. But giving birth is one thing and raising them well another.

In Tanzania, the population has jumped from 6 million in 1961 to 45 million today. And with 71 per cent of the nation under the age of 30, the UN is predicting that ours will be the 13th most populous country, with 138 million come 2050.

There is really no problem with having more and more babies, except that we simply do not have the resources anymore to take care of the of 138 million people.

Already, unemployment and poverty rates are too high.

At the same time, our education and health systems are already overwhelmed. So, instead of ululating that more babies are on their way, we must be very worried about the chaos that is forthcoming. We must act now to ensure sustainable population growth.

One way of doing this is by empowering women to have a say in family planning. They are the ones who deliver babies. Besides, the population explosion is due to early marriages and cultural status of women, which does not allow them to speak and be heard on matters related to family planning.

But if only women could be empowered with education, they could have the guts, to have a choice in their reproductive health.

As we see today, everyday across Tanzania, hundreds of schoolgirls become pregnant, bringing their learning to an end.

A third of Tanzanians aged 10 years and above cannot read or write, and those women with no education have an average of 7 babies. Women with a primary school education have 6 babies on average and those with secondary and higher education, just three babies.

Furthermore, half of all women have given birth by 19 years of age, and 70 per cent are married by 20. It's time to empower women to be able to have a say in family decisions. As the old saying goes, "When you educate a woman, you educate society. "

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