This is Fred Kintu who, after hearing some local student midwives teaching pregnant mothers about child spacing, decided to find out more.
The midwifery students themselves had only been taught the day before. Now they were using charts and diagrams and local languages to explain both natural and scientific family planning methods. They stood under trees in an antenatal clinic where at least 30 to 50 mothers were gathered.
They discussed the advantages of child spacing and dangers associated with having 7 and more babies.
After hearing the village explanation he rang me and asked if he could learn how to teach this subject to men.
Fred is a quick learner and can now often be seen moving around the villages talking and explaining to young men how family planning methods work. He helps them think critically and become responsible fathers as well as considering the environmental issues of having large families.
I was keen to know why he had taken this interest.
“My father had 9 wives and I am one of 80 children.”
The male dominated culture has a spiritual belief that having many children – especially sons – is a sign of God’s blessing. The desire for as many wives and children as possible comes from a tradition that believes it proves wealth and prosperity, when it actual fact it perpetuates poverty. In worship of ancestral spirits, men believe their spirit it carried on through their sons, and women often feel coerced into having large families, as they meet this need in the men.
Population Growth and Poverty
Over 56 % of the population in Uganda is under 18 years of age. This fact alone means that the population, which has doubled every 20 years since 1950, is facing unprecedented growth which will inevitably lead to conflict over land, education places and job opportunities, and deepening poverty.
The current population growth rate is 3.2% and Uganda is growing faster than any other African country and if this trend continues is estimated to be 150 million by 2050. The impact of population growth beyond the country’s ability to sustain it causes conflict, and uneducated, under privileged, unemployed masses. The environment suffers and local land is divided into smaller plots to pass onto ever larger families.
Despite efforts to develop and train young people, the current fertility rate of >6 children per woman is unsustainable.
Uganda’s Fertility Rate
Uganda’s fertility rate (the average number of children born per woman) was higher than 7 children per woman for half a century, right through until 1996. Although the trend has finally started to reduce, it is still incredibly high, at about 6 children per woman.
Why the Fertility rate is high
- 41% of women do not have access to effective family planning
- Only 24% of women are using contraceptives
- Culturally large families are desirable because it proves your strength (average family size desired by men is 5.6 and 4.8 by women)
- 25% of pregnancies are amongst teenagers
- Couples prefer to have boys rather than girls, so they will keep having children until they have the desired number of boys
Jonan Natamba, Statistics in Population Growth,
Uganda Demographic Health Survey 2006, printed 2008/9
National Household Survey 2009