a guest post by my friend Sindile Mlingo Vabaza responding to a much made comment on this blog recently about people in poverty, although typically been aimed at black people, having too many babies as one of the main factors of their continued impoverishment:
There are a lot of people out there who are putting up ‘family planning’ as the solution to certain societal ills in the country.
I want to assert that this is a misdiagnosis of the problem.
Let’s look at the facts:
1. Birth rates in South Africa on the whole are falling and have been falling for a while now(largely due to more women gaining access to education and jobs).
2. The population growth in the country is actually down to what the clever people call, “population momentum”. Basically, SA has a large concentration of people who can bear children and who feel the biological urge to do so(ages 15 to 44)… Our growth rates should plateau sometime in the future and eventually decline.
3. The larger problem in society, the root cause of so many unwanted pregnancies and babies is patriarchy and gender inequality.
Let me explain.
When women are given access to proper and sound education and have control over their reproduction(health services, easy access to contraception etc), they are far more likely to hold off having children and in fact have fewer children.
This is a fact anywhere you go in the world.
It cuts across race, ethnicity, religion and political leanings.
4. That’s where the rub comes in. Women are disempowered in this country.
Women of colour especially(because of poverty).
Talking just about family planning misses the larger point altogether…..
Women want to have children. It is biologically wired into them.
The reason some women hold off on children and plan is because their social milieu allows them too; they have an education, career ambitions etc etc
What compelling reason do women in poverty have?
Facing abusive men, misogynistic attitudes, nurses in hospitals who judge them and slut shame them when they want contraception and a future that is incredibly bleak.
Friends, let us not miss the point here.
We must fight for gender equity; we as men must stand with women not only because it is right but it makes so much practical sense for society at large.
The key to poverty elimination can be summed up in one sentence……
THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN.