Thursday, June 16, 2011

On Tanzania's Growing Population

On Tanzania's Growing Population
By Thuwein Y. Makamba

This is where we are at today. Each woman in Tanzania is averaging 5.4 children during her lifetime, and that would project our population to grow up to 109 million by year 2050. Only 27% of Women have access to modern contraceptive methods.

Women in our country are forbidden the choice to abort their pregnancies, so they either throw the infants away (we often read of this in our news) or seeks unsafe abortions--which happens a lot on makeshift clinics. Now, 42% of under-5 yrs old have stunted growth which have implications on their intellectual abilities. Furthermore we have 88% of secondary school graduates virtually failed their examinations.

We are a nation of young, unemployed, and uneducated people in an economy growing in unequal way with non-existent middle class. But we continue to produce offsprings that we either do not need or we can not take care of (as a parent and as a nation). Our culture used to view children quantitatively, that a family needs a man power for farming and livestock keeping. But the mechanization of labor has changed that mentality. And Children are valued qualitatively. The parents with 2 children that have at least bachelor degree is better off than one with 6 children, half of them malnourished. The parents with 6 children in 20 years, are better off than the ones with 3 children in two years. The issue is not necessarily to limit the number of children, but to have a quality pool of offsprings. Moreover, the direction of global labor market is to favor only those skilled workers. Engineers, and ICT wonks. The companies will invest only to those countries that have wide pool of these kind of workers.

It is in everybody's interest to scale up Reproductive Health and Family Planning services to majority of Tanzanians, and should be included in the package for essential health services for every single health facility in our land. Obviously this will not be easy, and other will argue that development is the best contraceptive, but the pace of development is so slow that we can not wait. Currently we have 43 million folks, and only 15% households have rationed electricity. There is famine scare if we miss 3 months of rain, and we need USAID + Irish money to feed our own children. Now, imagine what would happen if there is 100 million of us. It would be a disaster.

Population issues are never without controversies, and currently we have religious leaders who think of themselves as bigger as ever. But RH/FP is about child spacing and empowering women more than anything, because development is synonymous with equality. Including gender equity, with a known fact that women are thee large, untapped resource that we have. So, this is not about "killing babies" it is about giving our children a chance to become a competent people. And allowing Women to use the magic of child rearing skills for other facets of our society.

That is why when Roe V. Wade (legalized abortion) was passed in 1973, it had effect with the significant reduction of crime in early America's 90s. This is because folks where given the chance to have children that they could take care of. And China's one child policy has created a generation of skilled pool of worker unrivalled by any country on earth. They all want to go back to China to build their nation.

Our time is now, and policy makers can can choose to ignore RH because it is not as popular as banning "posho" but the great law of neccesity is so obvious that warned the states from allowing increasing of population beyond the food it can produce or acquire.


January Makamba said...

Great insights Thuwein, but you are tackling a very socially complex issue. In our cultural and social context, the solutions to "high birth rates" may not be as straight forward as they would seem. Issues such as abortion right still remain a part of "cultural war" in America, and, despite the unquestionable legitimacy of the Supreme Court, Roe v Wade is still debated today.

I think you water down your strong argument for RH by inserting the "quality labour pool" as also a rationale. What we want is a quality life for every human and equal opportunity for self-actualisation.

There is also an issue of choice versus utility. I think your argument that women ought to choose the number of kids they should have is good, but the assumption that will choose to have fewer is flawed. The key to a successful RH is empowering women to choose, and to make the right choices for themselves, their offsprings and the better of the society.

Pattoo said...

This is mind-opening and informative bro, nice article; the situation is quite alarming nd sensitive in our society today..

By the way, references to any surveys/researches conducted to support the findings you came up with could have given your work that tangible and reliable 'feel' amongst readers.Nevertheless, keep up the good work bro.


Anonymous said...

Thuwein and January, a thoughtful piece and a well considered comment.

For my money,i'd argue the greatest contraception is actually increasing economic growth which then gives the incentives to have less babies (opportunity cost of rearing them makes babies more "expensive"),for Tanzania to do this we dont need more aid money in "family planning" etc, but solid policies by the government. So,in short, the elephant in the room on this piece as regards Tanzania is purely 50 years of inept governance and poor execution by chama tawala.

Naomba kutoa hoja,


Thuwein said...

Thanks for all the invaluable comments. RH is a complex issue, but in the state of our current politics, we should be able to gather enough consensus to give a woman a right to choose.

Majaliwa kaka, you are right, those who continue to preside the state of our economy could have done a better job--and they will argue that they have done a decent job. We all know it is not enough. But I will argue that the pace of our economic growth, and its not so egalitarian nature--would not able contain our growing population. If you look at all emerging economies, they have a strong RH component to it. So, whether we spent donors money or we enact good policies, it is imperative that we start to think about this now.