This is a blog published by Population First as part of its communication and advocacy efforts. Through "Laadli Oh Meri Laadli" we plan to reach out to a number of people from media and other sectors. The aim is to create a platform for sharing of information, discussions and exchange of views on issues relating to gender and social development.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Building resilience by investing in
Dr Shiny Varghese
Image: Gaon Connection
While Greta Thunberg, a Swedish
teenage environmental activist has been championing the cause of climate change
and many nations have lent support to her cause, there still needs to be a
concerted effort to act against climate change which requires investment in sustainable
infrastructure for quality services
and high political commitment. Change will not be possible with only leaders or
activists like her speaking for the cause, but the community needs to come
together to build a carbon neutral world. In most countries, rural women and
girls face myriad challenges and bear the brunt of climate related disasters, we however tend to forget the
important role they play in building climate resilience. The International Day
of Rural women recognizes “the
critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in
enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and
eradicating rural poverty”
Rural women and girls play a very
important role in agriculture, food security and nutrition, land and natural
resource management. Globally, one in three employed women work in the
agriculture sector which is time and labour intensive. These women are however
neither adequately recognised nor compensated for their work. They also have
limited or no access to stable and secure working conditions and social protection (International Labour
According to Oxfam (2013), around
80 percent farm work in India is done by women. Women and girls are also
responsible to collect fuel and water in most households which are arduous
tasks and pose risks to their health and well-being. They also hamper their
ability to get good education, access to livelihood opportunities and be
In Maharashtra sustained drought has
resulted in crop failure, groundwater level depletion, increased climate risks,
food insecurity and uncertain cash flows in
absence of diversified livelihoods. This has made farming economically unviable
for small and marginal farmers. Women and girls have suffered the most when
access to natural resources and agriculture has been compromised. Women farmers
are as productive and enterprising as their male counterparts, but have lesser
access to land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high valued agri-food
chains and hence no control over financial matters.Socio-cultural barriers and discriminatory
norms further hamper women’s access to productive resources and undermine their
hard work even though their workload is increasing due to out-migration of men. Most gender and development indicators
reveal that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and in turn
experience poverty, exclusion as well as the effects of climate change.
The United Nations calls for
empowering rural women as a pre-requisite for fulfilling the vision of Sustainable
Development Goals (SDG’s) and this year’s theme for the International Day of Rural Women, "Rural women and girls building
climate resilience" reiterates the fact that a sustainable future is
unthinkable of without involving rural women and girls.
One of the most effective and
efficient ways to tackle threats posed by climate change is by addressing
gender inequality. Realizing that financial independence is a crucial element
of empowerment which will enable women to address gender inequality and respond
to climate change, we at Population First initiated a program titled Action for
Mobilisation of community health initiatives (AMCHI). One of the many aims of
the project is to improve women’s access to employable skills. It was felt that
this would enable them have access to resources and in the long run empower
them to take decisions at the individual, family and community level.
In 45 villages of Shahapur Block
of Thane District, a program on vermi-composting was initiated. The program not
only addressed issues related to declining agricultural yield by promoting
organic farming but also created rural women entrepreneurs. Through this
initiative, 45 vermi-composting units were created and are being run by 450
women across 45 villages. The program has not only improved women’s financial
capacity but has also helped in promoting leadership which is essential to
reduce the effects of climate threats.
empowerment of women by prioritizing sustainable livelihoods and rights will
play a critical role in women adopting low – carbon technologies, spreading
knowledge about climate change and help respond to climate change through
agricultural production, food security and natural resource management.
Agriculture Organization. (2018). Climate Change: United Nations Climate
Change Conference. FAO.
Organization. (2017). Trends for Women 2017. Geneva: World Employment
Picture Source: UNMIK UN Mission (unmik.unmissions.org)
In 2012, the
United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child
to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality and
discrimination faced by girls around the world. This day provides an
opportunity to highlight, discuss and take action to advance rights and
opportunities for girls everywhere.
We at Population First have been working to empower
adolescent girls in Shahapur Block of Thane Districtas part of our Action forMobilisationof Community Health Initiatives (AMCHI)
Project. As part ofthisprogram wesensitise families and communities to
create an enabling environment for girls to be enrolled and retained in schoolso that they canreach their full potential.We also work towardsenhancinglife skills of adolescents bybuilding their health, social and economic
perspectives ongender andincreasingpossibilities of their leadershipatthe communitylevel. We do this by providing adolescentgirls with information on physical, sexual
and reproductive health and linkingthem to appropriate services.
International Day of the Girl Child wewould like to sharesome feedbackfromthe ground. Theseare the stories of ouradolescentgirlsfromAmbarje village of Shahapur Block of Thane
Thirteenyear oldPranali, who is studying
in the ninth grade, takes pride in stating that she is part of theEnjoy Groupof adolescent girls formed as part of theAMCHIproject. She says“we are a total of42members in the group. As part of the group meetingswe were given information on a range of
subjects. It was for the first time I attended a session on body mapping and
got to learn aboutbody parts especially
the reproductive organs.I would like to attend more such sessions
as there is no other place from where we can get information like this. Even
our teacher at school does not talk to us about these issues”. She further adds
that the facilitator creates a nurturing and learning environment in the group
andtheydo not hesitate to ask even the most
Pranali’sfriend, 13 year oldAkankshaadds; “menstruation is
a subject that is never discussed either at school or amongstfriends. At the group meeting we were told about why menstruation
occurs, how to maintain hygiene during our periods and how to wash and dry menstrual
cloth and dispose menstrual pads. We were
also informed of a scheme about low cost sanitary napkins being available through
the school. We discussed this with our teacher, who after a fortnight helped us
get these pads. Each girl can now buy a packet of six pads for seven
The sessions have not just helped the girls to understand their
bodies and physical health requirements better, but also built their communication
and negotiation skills as shared by Praṇali who says “we were told in the sessions that
we should eat green leafy vegetables, salads,peanuts, jaggery and channato help improve our haemoglobin levels”.At school we get a peanut and gur ladooevery day, however the ladoo tastedvery bad. After the session we formed a
small group and informed our principal about the same. We told her that the ladoo was so
bad that most girlswere throwing it
every day. She talked to the person in-charge of the Ahaar scheme andensured that the ladoo we get tastedbetter. We could do this only because we
got the information that such a ladoo is good for improving our health and learnt to put our point of
view to our teachers and adults clearly.”
commit to invest in our elderly…this International Day of Older Persons
Consultant, Population First
ageing is an inevitable consequence of the demographic transition experienced
by most countries across the world. Declining fertility and increasing
longevity have resulted in an increasing proportion of elderly persons aged 60
years and above. As per the 2011 census, India had around 104 million elderly
persons – 53 million females and 51 million males. The number of elderly in the
60+ age group is expected to increase to 320 million by 2050, constituting 20%
of the total population. Given the nature of demographic transition, such a
huge increase in the population of the elderly is bound to create several
societal issues, magnified by sheer volume.A majority of the people at 60+ are socially and economically poor. Elderly
women are more vulnerable on all fronts compared to elderly men. Nearly three
out of five single older women are poor and about two thirds of them are
completely economically dependent.
elderly are more vulnerable due to poor health. A high proportion of the
elderly reporting poor health are the oldest old (Age 80+), poor, illiterate
and widows. A recent study
shows that a significant percentage of the elderly have acute and
chronic morbidities. Morbidities are more prevalent in elderly women compared
to elderly men, especially in urban areas. The study also showed that nearly
two thirds of the elderly reported suffering from at least one chronic ailment
like arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. They also
lack access to health care facilities.
vulnerability of the aged is aggravated by urbanization and a recent shift from
the joint family system to nuclear families. This has a huge impact on the
psychological and emotional health of the elderly, leading to neglect, lack of
respect and sometimes abuse and exploitation.
has traditionally been the primary source of support for the elderly in India.
The elderly depend
primarily on their families for economic and material support. In spite of the
strong preference to live with families, one in ten elderly women lives alone.
With nuclearization of families, the traditional support system for the elderly
is dwindling, making them even more vulnerable. Social isolation amongst the
elderly is another critical issue of concern.
The profile of
elderly indicates low level of educational attainment particularly amongst
elderly women. Over half the elderly report not having formal education with a
higher proportion, almost two thirds amongst women.
among elderly men in India is as high as 39% as against 11% amongst women.
Although work participation amongst women is low, they contribute to family
chores enabling other adult family members to work. A majority of elderly (71%)
work due to economic necessity and not by choice. This is particularly true of
elderly women. There is a close link between current work participation and
poverty and illiteracy.
Older women are particularly
disadvantaged, facing structural, social and economic inequalities throughout
their lives. The experience of widowhood in Indian society is generally
associated with many deprivations and has many implications for the health and
well-being of older women. Further, certain
traditional widowhood practices result in situations of violence and abuse and
pose a serious threat to their health and well- being. Widowhood is one
of the leading factors associated with poverty, loneliness and isolation, as a
widow suffers indignity, often losing her self-reliance and respect. Many
widows are ignored by both family and society, including their own children and
are left to fend for themselves.
Poor health, age
related morbidities, income insecurity, illiteracy and physical and economic
dependencies are factors that tend to make the elderly, especially elderly
vulnerabilities of the elderly, the Government of India drafted the National
Policy on Older Persons and has initiated and implemented several programs and
schemes for social, economic and health security of older persons.However access to these schemes and programs can
On this International
Day of older persons, it is important to focus immediate attention on
creating an enabling environment and decent living for the elderly, especially
women. For this, it is suggested that Government, Multilateral agencies and
Corporates invest in:
studies to understand increased morbidity and disability amongst elderly women,
despite their longer life expectancy.
greater resources for geriatric care, especially care of elderly women.
health promotion programs with outreach facilities and other services such as
medical insurance to meet the long term care needs of elderly women.
financial insecurity amongst the elderly women by formation of Self-Help Groups
(SHG). These SHG’s would be formed with an objective of improving their
livelihood and enabling them to become economically active through small loans
and other required support.
convergence between various government departments for improved access to services
and schemes for the elderly
and assuring the participation of elderly women in the process of development.
laws that discriminate against women with regard to property and inheritance
rights, providing housing support for elderly women who are property less and
creating employment opportunities for them free of discrimination.
training programs to build life coping skills of elderly women.
services for older disabled women and disabled women who grow old.
India (2012), ‘Report on Status of Elderly in Selected States of India, 2011’
Why is women’s right to safe and legal abortion
Manager, Population First
“My husband does not use any contraceptive method
and I am very afraid of undergoing a sterilization operation……I did not want another
child and hence wanted to get an abortion done when I became pregnant……however
the doctor in the Government hospital refused to provide me with abortion
services as I did not have an ultrasound report and he suspected that I had
come after sex determination……I had to then go to an unqualified local health
service provider to get my pregnancy terminated”, a woman from a vulnerable
community of a city in Punjab, who had severe complications after an unsafe abortion.
Abortion services have been legal in
India under certain conditions since the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act
was enacted in 1971. As per the Act, abortion is legal if
the continuation of pregnancy would involve risk to life of pregnant woman or
cause grave physical and mental injury, including pregnancy due to rape; risk
of physical and mental abnormality in child and contraceptive failure. They are
legal up to 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancy can be terminated by a registered
medical practitioner registered with the State medical register.
Unfortunately in an overzealous effort to implement
the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, the law pertaining
to sex selection, implementing authorities on various occasions instead of
monitoring sex determination, target abortion services, not understanding that
abortion is not the cause of the problem of sex selection, it is only the
consequence of it. This misunderstanding and a perceived quick fix
solution, has on various occasions resulted in restricting women’s access to
safe abortion services, especially second trimester abortion. Anecdotal
evidence has shown that in order to curb sex selection, access to abortion is
being limited by:
Restricting access to medical abortion, with
pharmacists refusing to stock medical abortion pills.
Pregnancy tracking, to ensure pregnant women don’t
undergo sex selective abortion, thereby compromising on a woman’s right to
legal abortion for genuine reasons.
Suggestions that contraceptive failure should not be
included as a condition for second trimester abortion.
Provision of abortion services only if followed by
Reactions such as the above have
increased challenges faced by women in accessing safe abortion services, with
most women commonly resorting to unsafe abortions at the hands of untrained
A recent study undertaken by the Guttmacher
Institute brought out that around 15.6 million abortions take place in India
every year(Guttmacher Institute, 2017). The study also revealed that of the total
abortions done, 81% abortions were medication abortions, and with access to
abortion, especially medical abortion getting restricted, a very large
percentage of women seeking medical abortion would access facilities that are
unsafe and illegal adding to the burden of maternal morbidity and mortality. It is estimated that around eight per
cent of maternal mortality occurs due to unsafe abortion. Abortion related complications especially those arising from
unsafe abortions are also the third major cause of maternal deaths, after haemorrhage
While it is extremely important to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal diagnostic techniques Act, to prevent the practice of
gender biased sex selection, the Medical termination of Pregnancy Act which
aims to prevent unsafe abortion should not be compromised in any manner. The
two Acts should be implemented in letter and spirit without impinging on the
object of each other.
This presents one aspect as to why women’s
access to abortion services is restricted, however abortion services in India
need further strengthening by;
Expanding the base of qualified
and trained providers in rural areas equipped to conduct safe abortion
Building capacities of
paramedical staff on counselling women during and after abortion
communication campaigns on women’s right to safe and legal abortion
Conducting audits of
both public and private sector facilities to ensure quality service provision
Investing in technology
and research as well as better clinical practices
Access to safe
abortion is one of the many aspects to ensure women’s right to quality
reproductive health which will also help her attain autonomy and equality.
For the last five years we have been seeing the resurgence of the small-town
family stories in our Hindi film industry. And its success at the box office as
well as the ratings from the critics indicates that we as a nation are willing
to immerse ourselves in the stories of authentic characters and relationships.
And one such character that has evolved over the years is the female
lead in these stories. Once characterised as one-dimensional village or small-town
girl, supporting the male protagonist, a naïve prop, a damsel in distress, has
now slowly evolved into educated, progressive, ambitious and somewhat
idealistic young woman. Be it Jaya from Toilet Ek Prem Katha or Bittu from
Bareilly Ki Barfi, be it Sandhya from Dum Laga Ke Haisha or Sugandha from Shubh
Mangal Saavdhan, these women are strong, opinionated, assertive and a welcome
sight on screen. However, on the other hand, we still do have female characters
like Radhika Apte’s Gayatri from Padman from a small town in Madhya Pradesh who
still believe that it is better to die in shame and silence then to disclose
your discomfort of menstruation; and that is the truth of the matter, and
depiction of these characters is also important for us to know the long road
ahead of us in terms of addressing gender based issues. But then there is
another character that graced the silver screen in 2017, Mamta from Sui Dhaaga.
On cursory glance Mamta is anything but Jaya or Sandhya. She is the head
covering, kitchen bound, hardworking daughter-in-law; someone we have seen before.
So much so, Anushka Sharma who plays Mamta initially did not want to play this
character despite loving the script. And when asked on FC Unfiltered by Anupama
Chopra, Sharma replied that she was not confident that she would be able to
convince the audience of the character of Mamta since she was quite the
opposite in her real life.
So, what makes this character stand out, why does Mamta stand with the
Jayas and Bittus of our new small town and village girls? She might follow the rules
of the milieu, fulfil the responsibilities of the house, and look homely which
lends authenticity to the character from a small town in India but there is
strength in her quiet presence, and she is definitely not at loss for words
when the need arises. She is not the “bechaari” that Harleen Madam, a
ready-made garment manufacturing owner, an interesting rather one-dimensional
foil for Mamta, thinks her to be.
She is self-respecting voice of reason when inherently jovial and
unaware Mauji, her husband, is insulted at a wedding by his boss. She is a
leader that encourages him to make his own path—as a tailor, a trade that was
his and his family’s forte once upon a time. And it is her decisiveness and
persuasion that actually leads the couple to compete in the Fashion Fund in the
third act. While the movie rests on the shoulders of the hero’s story arc, his
relationship with his cantankerous father and ailing mother, conflict with his brother,
and his struggle to make it in the tailoring business, the story of the heroine
is not left behind. Mamta is a brilliant negotiator and adept at marketing and
advertising much to Mauji’s surprise; not because he was indifferent to her
talent or contribution, but because the “milieu” of a working-class family does
not offer them the time or the privacy to get to know each other, and neither
does the conservative set up help them which the movie subtly presents to us. It
is through this journey of having their own business that both the characters
learn about each other and their relationship develops which is crucial for the
characters to succeed in their endeavour.
While the story draws our attention to the dying art of handloom, and small-town
professions like tailoring and weaving in presence of the ready-made garment factories
and malls, it is the realness of the characters of Mauji and Mamta, their
relationship, and their trials and tribulations that give us an insight into
the lives of real artisans. More often than not these artisanal tradition runs
in the family where both the husband and wife contribute to the product with
their skills and the decline in any artisanal industry impacts both the men and
women, more so women because of the lack of financial autonomy. Apart from the
relationship of the two characters the movie sensitively shows their
aspirations of recognition and furthering their art going unfulfilled, and
their desperation and frustration as they see their inheritance being poached
by computers and machines for printing on cheap textiles that will be flooded
back into those very same malls and shops they pass by every day. Both Mamta
and Mauji go through a journey that knocks their naiveté down but they rise up
to the challenge and make their dream come true as partners.
While there is a long way for us to go in depicting different types of
layered female characters and layered relationships vis a vis their male
counterparts, Mamta definitely stands among the new age rural women shaping our
country’s stories on screen and her relationship with Mauji reflects the thousands
of relationships that already exist among our working-class and rural professions and industries.
Indigenous people are those who
inherit and practice unique cultures. With 370 million such people living
across 90 countries, they represent more than 5000 different cultures, and
speak over 7000 languages in the world. Though they form less than 5 percent of
the population, they account for 15 percent of the poorest in the world. What
is noteworthy is that people have retained their social, cultural, economic and
political characteristics which are distinct from the societies of which they
are a part of. The closeness to environment, adherence to their own culture,
customs and traditional beliefs make the life of indigenous people a
distinguished one. Although they remain one of the most vulnerable and marginalized
groups in India, the problems of these people remain more or less the same, across
the world. The protection of their rights, the land they live in, limited or no
access to essential resources and their identity are some
of the major issues that needs to be addressed.
The tribes of India
In India, there are 705 ethnic
groups or indigenous people who are notified as Scheduled Tribes (ST’s) spread
across the States and Union Territories of India. As per census 2011, their
population is 104.3 million and they comprise around 9% of the total population
of India with most of them residing in rural areas. Women amount to almost half
of the tribal population. The sex ratio is also favourable as compared to other
social groups with 990 females for every 1000 males. There are various views
surrounding the status of these women in India.Some say that the status of the women in tribal societies seems to be
better than as they are characterised by egalitarian principles while others
are of the opinion that it is more or less similar to the women in the general
society. One of the most important determinants has been whether the women live
in a matriarchal or patriarchal society. The Garo and the Khasi tribes assign
the women a higher position due to the matrilineal descent and inheritance of
property through female line. Even in a patriarchal society, the husband
doesn’t always play a dominant role. For instance the Gond woman enjoys equal
status and freedom as men in the social life, whereas on the other hand, even
though the Tharu have patrilocal system of residence, wives who are known to
have the knowledge of sorcery and witchcraft are dominant in the relationships.
In the domestic spheres, Juang women take part in the decision-making process;
however she is not consulted during important decisions.
Bodh Tribe of Ladakh
As per a study done by Veena
Bhasin (2007), tribal communities too have son preference but they do not
discriminate against girls by female infanticide. Though boys and girls do not
have similar inheritance laws, girls are not subjected to abuse, hatred or
strict social norms. They are free to participate in social events, dancing and
other recreational programmes. Among Bhutias of Sikkim and Bodhs of Ladakh,
there is no distinction in terms of the work done by men and women, although heavier
tasks are done by men. Both men and women run small businesses and women also
work as porters. There are many other privileges enjoyed by some of the tribal
women of India which include freedom in selection of life partner, contributing
to the local economy by participating in agriculture and other sectors,
possibility of remarriage after divorce or death of husband, freedom to talk to
whom so ever they please, man or woman of any caste or creed, freedom to
exercise their voting rights.
However, some of the drawbacks
include that a woman’s supremacy is restricted within the family domain and
does not extend to social or political spheres. The religious domain has also
been primarily a field for male dominance and a strategy to deprive women of
The present condition of tribal
women is not an accidental affair but has evolved due to several factors in the
past. By contributing economically, women have acquired social freedom which is
quite remarkable in its scope. These women also toil very hard sometimes more
than men, however they are not considered backward and no men tell them what to
do and what not do. Even the patriarchal society, conveys respect rather than
envy between the genders. The women in these areas are far more independent and
powerful than modern sub-wives.
It is inspiring to hear stories
of Madhumati Debbarma, Sandhya Rani Chakhma and Hatlhing Doungel who have
fought against the odds and have been elected as members of the male dominated
district councils in the tribal areas of northeast India. They have had to
struggle against patriarchal mindsets, to encourage women participation for
overall development and welfare of women in their regions.
Katkari tribes of Maharashtra
Similarly, in the areas of
Shahapur Thane, there are many tribal communities residing such as the Thakurs,
Katkari, Koli Mahadeo, Kokana, however Thakurs and Katkari communities form the
majority. Population First through its programme AMCHI has been working with
these communities for over a decade and the experiences and insights gained
through the regular interaction has been very inspiring. In tribal hamlets like
Palichapada, where access to water was an issue for a very long time, women
with a little handholding changed the face of the village with their persistent
efforts. There have been instances where women groups in these hamlets have led
to increased health and education outcomes too. It is interesting to witness
that women are decision makers in most of these communities.
commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It marks
the beginning of the sessions on Indigenous Populations at the UN in 1982. It
is fascinating to see how lessons and experiences from tribal areas can be
taken to inculcate values and morals in terms of gender equity and equality in
the modern urban societies. It is essential that we work towards revitalizing,
preserving and promoting indigenous cultures and share good practices through
Anuja Gulati: Consultant,
Population and development
a press conference held on 25th May 2019, Yoga guru Baba Ramdev
called upon the Government to implement punitive measures to contain population
growth. He advocated for the denial of voting rights, contesting elections and
benefits of Government schemes to the third child. He also added that if such a
law is enacted people will not give birth to more children irrespective of the
religion they belong to.
and coercive measures like restricting the rights of the third born are
regressive, discriminatory and violate the principles of informed choice and
has been a signatory to various International conventions and treaties like the
Tehran UN Conference of Human rights in 1968, the Cairo International
Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the London summit on Family
Planning 2012, etc. and in doing so, has
committed to ensure that human rights are respected and protected in family
planning programs. The 1994 International Conference on Population and
Development which called upon States “to ensure that Family Planning programs
abide by human rights norms and professional standards….. and that the
provision of contraceptive services are free from coercion and discrimination,
ensure informed decision making, respect privacy and confidentially and respect
the dignity of all persons”, marked a paradigm shift in India’s family planning
program from a target and technology driven program, to a program which focused
on empowering women and emphasizing on a human rights and social development
centered approach. A coercive approach like the one suggested, would contradict
India’s commitment to rights based Family planning and prevent individuals from
deciding freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children they choose
has made substantial progress in the last few decades in terms of expanding
access to contraceptive methods. Contraceptive usage has tripled from 13% of
married women in 1970 to around 54% in 2015-16. Similarly the Total Fertility
Rate has more than halved from 5.7 in 1996 to 2.3 in 2016 with 24 States and Union
territories achieving replacement level fertility. While family size is
decreasing and people are opting for smaller families, they want to have a
particular sex composition of their families with one or two boys because of
the deeply entrenched preference for sons. This has resulted in gender biased
sex selection. The Sex Ratio at birth is abysmally low at 898 girls per 1000
boys (SRS 2014-16). Imposing the two child norm and exercising coercive
measures would further advance son
preference and daughter aversion, thereby increasing sex selection and
A look at decline in fertility shows that there has been a consistent decline in fertility across the Country and across all religions. The Total Fertility Rate declined from 2.7 to 2.2 between NFHS III in 2005-06 to NFHS IV in 2015-16. During the same period, TFR among Hindus declined from 2.59 to 2.13; for Christians from 2.34 to 1.99; for Muslims from 3.4 to 2.61 and for Sikhs from 1.95 to 1.58. Thus there is a consistent fall in fertility across the Country and across religious groups and communities. The pace of decline can be enhanced by improving access to quality contraceptive services and offering full, free and informed choices.
A study on understanding the implications of the two child norm on Panchayats, undertaken in 2003 in five States of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan, (Panchayti Raj and the two child norm: Implications and Consequences, Mahila Chetna Manch, January 2003) brought out that coercive policies are exclusionary and largely impact the vulnerable. Of the disqualifications due to the two child norm, Schedule caste, schedule tribe and other backward class representatives formed a very large percentage. The study also revealed that women bore a large brunt of the policy, with many women deserted or divorced after giving birth to the third child or forced into having an abortion, which in most cases was conducted in unregistered and unsafe conditions to hide the fact that she was pregnant a third time.
India with 356 million young people in the 10-24 years age group has
the world’s largest youth population, comprising 28% of the total population of
the Country. It is likely that this population will add to the population
momentum. Hence, India’s Family
planning program should be planned in a manner to address the contraceptive
needs of young people. This can be done by empowering them with information and
services. Although India’s family planning program provides a cafeteria
approach with a basket of choices, the reality is that female sterilization
continues to be the most commonly promoted contraceptive constituting 75.3% of
modern family planning methods used (NFHS IV).
The use of spacing or reversible contraceptives methods has increased
but the increase has been minimal from 5.6% in 1991-92 (NFHS I) to 11.2% in
2015-16 (NFHS IV). With a fairly large proportion of girls (26.8%, NFHS IV)
being married off below the legal age at marriage in India, and the unmet need among
young people in the 15-24 years age group being 22% as against 12.9% of the
overall unmet need, the family planning program should be
positioned on addressing the needs of younger couples This could be done by:
Involving men as equal partners in family planning
Increasing basket of choices.
Reaching out to couples and
individuals with choices that best suit their reproductive intentions.
Improving quality of services through effective training of service providers in
counseling, seeking informed consent, protecting client’s dignity, ensuring
confidentiality and privacy.
gender and rights based values and skills through pre-service and in-service
programs for service providers.
Building capacities and skills of
service providers to provide contraceptive services to young people in an
unbiased and non - judgmental manner.
measures are dysfunctional, hence family planning should be voluntary and
rights based, focusing on enhancing reach, improving quality, promoting
informed choices to enable couples reach their reproductive intentions.