The inception of family planning initiatives in the region date back to before our independence. The earliest voluntary efforts of family planning implementation date back to the 1950s.
In contemporary times, family planning efforts are carried out by government agencies and the efforts are further supported by non-governmental organizations. The Directorate General of Family Planning is the government agency responsible for family planning in Bangladesh.
Being a small nation with a high population density means that the government has been making conscious efforts to control the size of the population in order to ensure development and promote economic wellbeing.
As a result of effective family planning initiatives in the last few decades, Bangladesh has managed to reduce its total fertility rate (TFR) to 2.1, which means that women have 2.1 children on average. While this is indeed commendable, we still have to continue our efforts in order to secure a better future for the country.
Our TFR seems to indicate that we have been able to bring the average number of children in each household to nearly 2, the reality remains that access to family planning remains out of reach for a majority of the population.
Access to family planning is an indicator to gender equality and women’s empowerment. In Bangladesh, gender disparity is still prevalent and many women are left out of the decision making process when it comes to issues such as family planning.
Majority of the population in the country does not have access to information on family planning due to socio-cultural barriers as well as many other factors. Despite widespread campaigning by government agencies as well as by non-governmental organizations, the topic carries social stigma.
In order to ensure that more people are able to access family planning services, we must work together to break the stigma associated with this topic. We need to normalize having conversations on these issues and encourage knowledge sharing on various topics related to them.
Family planning is a key factor in reducing poverty. The importance of family planning in breaking free of intergenerational poverty cannot be stressed enough. But family planning is often seen as something that is unattainable for the ultra-poor. This conception must be changed and we must impart upon the general population the need for family planning in families living below the poverty line.
Family planning should be accessible to all and we must ensure that we need to ensure that society’s most marginalized factions are able to access family planning services provided by the government.
In order to ensure the effectiveness of family planning on a national scale, we need to educate adolescents and young adults. They are the future of the country and they should have access to knowledge in order to make better decisions in the future. They will also be able to change the perceptions of those around them through logical and factual arguments.
Family planning has been assigned as one of the top priorities in the 4th Health Sector Programme 2017-2021 in the country. Family planning is a crucial indicator on our path towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for universal access to reproductive health-care services which can be ensured by expanding access to contraception, as well as ensuring that demand for family planning is satisfied using effective contraceptive methods.
Family planning plays a crucial role in many of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Particularly, Goal 3 makes note of guaranteeing good health and well-being for all and Goal 5 emphasizes promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
The need for family planning extends well beyond women’s reproductive rights and the reduction of unintended pregnancies, but it is also a key factor in improving the health and nutritional status of children. Family planning initiatives lead to longer birth spacing and the reduction in maternal mortality.
Bangladesh has a huge youth population, meaning that a population boom awaits us as majority of the population are of reproductive age. Therefore, it is imperative that we take action to ensure access to contraceptives and encourage the use of both long term and short term family planning methods.
Having a younger population can be used to our advantage, as younger people are more likely to accept new information and embrace new technology. In the last few decades, medical science has made tremendous leaps in ensuring the success of contraceptive methods, particularly long term solutions.
Right now, the country is facing a serious crisis due to the coronavirus epidemic. However, we should not let that detract us from our long term goals as we fight to control the fast-spreading disease. We must use mass media to the best of our abilities to raise awareness among the general population on the importance of family planning.
Synthia Kainath Nur is working with Bangladesh Post