Recently, several prominent personalities, including Kilifi governor aspirant Kazungu Kambi, have been reported urging crowds at political rallies to ‘multiply and fill the earth’.
No less than five MPs have been quoted in the press encouraging their constituents to have more children to increase their communities’ voting numbers in order to capture leadership or get a bigger allocation of resources.
They urge their audiences to stop using contraceptives.
Some, including a CS, have even offered monetary rewards for every birth or pregnancy. Regrettably, this message is very compelling. It makes sense to many, especially with the ‘tyranny of numbers’. Many Kenyans will take this message seriously, and some will act on it.
This being election season, chances are more politicians and prominent personalities will repeat this message and even reward pregnant women.
Data shows that child planning and spacing is beneficial to women, families, communities and the country. They allow individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children as well as time their births.
Anticipating, spacing and timing the birth of children have many proven benefits to any society.
One is they protect the health of women and children by reducing high-risk pregnancies and allowing ample time in between pregnancies. This is especially important for Kenya, which is walking the path of reducing maternal and child deaths.
Two is reduction of poverty by contributing to economic growth at the family, community, and national levels. These improve women’s opportunities for education, employment, and full participation in society.
Child planning and spacing enable girls and women to achieve their ambitions. Whether they are at school, or in formal or informal occupation, women who have the benefit of choosing when to have children, how many to have and how much time between each child, are likely to do better in life.
Studies have shown that women who plan their children alongside their individual and family aspirations are able to go to school (and finish school), get higher incomes and participate in their communities’ activities.
All these benefits not only accrue to the woman, but also her partner, her family and her community.
Child planning and spacing also mean better economic outcomes for the counties and the nation. Studies have shown they lead to savings in the cost of healthcare provision. Families are able to care for their children better, feed, house, clothe and educate them better.
Consequently, this reduces the burden on public amenities.
As things stand, Kenyans who want family planning services face social and cultural barriers. We must not muddy the conversation with misinformation.
Moreover, Kenya must continue to invest domestic resources towards quality family planning services at public health facilities to ensure Kenyan women (and their partners) who need it can access it. Over the past 20 years, we have made good progress, which we need to keep up.
By investing more resources in public education and having more conversations about child planning and spacing, we can ensure that all Kenyans have the right information. This will help to dispel the myths and misconceptions that have caused family planning to be misunderstood by many.
The media must also refrain from providing their platforms to politicians and prominent personalities to misinform Kenyans about the benefits of child planning and spacing.
Country director, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW)
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