Page 41 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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“The U.S. international family plan-
ning and reproductive health program
stands out as one of our nation’s flag-
ship foreign aid investments and is a
cornerstone of the new Global Health
Initiative,” says Susan Cohen, a family
planning expert at Guttmacher. “Cut-
ting funding for this highly effective
program would be disastrous for
women and families in poor countries,
while barely making a scratch in the
U.S. budget deficit.”
Getting Creative
Condoms and other birth control
methods are not the only way to halt
the population explosion, of course. In
Brazil, popular soap operas tell the sto-
ries of families — poor, middle and
upper class — with two parents and
two kids. Such programs inspired a
cultural shift in how Brazilians saw the
perfect family size and led to a reduc-
tion in births.
In Latin America and Southeast
Asia, as the economy improved and
parents increased their expectations for
their children — especially in terms of
getting a good education that led to a
job — birth rates fell from seven per
family to the replacement rate of two
kids per family.
Another way to curb the population
explosion is through educating and em-
powering women. It’s been widely
known since the 1970s that when girls
and women are taught to read, the
health of their families improves. So
does the ability to speak up in family
discussions, where the decision to
adopt birth control may be opposed by
men who see small families as a sign of
loss of community stature. The big
man has a big family, many reason.
Often the husband’s siblings and par-
ents push for larger families, as well.
But once people in Latin America,
Italy and other predominantly Roman
Catholic societies become convinced of
the benefits of family planning and are
given access to it, they began ignoring
the religious prohibition on birth con-
trol (as has already happened among
American Catholics).
The Council on Foreign Relations
(www.cfr.org) iss
ued a report in April
2011 appealing for greater support for
family planning. It noted that “Global
A P R I L 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
41
In Latin America and
Southeast Asia, birth rates
fell from seven per family
to the replacement rate of
two kids per family.
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