With the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2017 taking place on Sunday, the focus has shifted to the top runners from all over the world, celebrities, and most importantly, the over 200 NGOs that are participating to showcase their initiatives.
One such NGO, the Family Planning Association of India (FPA India), one of the country’s leading reproductive and sexual health organisations, has brought together reproductive health experts from all over the country to run the marathon to promote their Run4FP initiative, which seeks to bring family planning into the mainstream and remove the stigma associated with it. Their mission: Ensuring Indian women take control of their fertility.
India is set to become the world’s most populous nation by 2022. We are adding 18 million people annually. More than half our population is within the reproductive age. And yet, for decades, we’ve swept family planning under the carpet. Alarmed experts and activists say that we are still unwilling to take this challenge head on.
Female sterilization has been India’s main form of family planning, accounting for around 65 percent of contraceptive use, significantly higher than anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, male sterilization merely stands at 2.3 percent, while the use of condoms accounts for 11.4 percent. Use of pills constitutes just 7.5 percent of the modern methods.
This clearly shows a potential “mismatch” between available methods. A woman doesn’t necessarily need sterilization, but often seeks it out as a method of family planning. According to government figures, 21 percent of Indians don’t have access to family planning – among married adolescent couples, the figure goes up to 27 percent.
All this despite the fact that India recently added to the national programme three new products to aid spacing out of births – an injectable contraceptive, a progesterone pill and a non-hormonal weekly pill – in addition to the current basket of oral contraceptive pills, condoms and intrauterine devices (IUDs).
However, social norms continue to be a challenge. More than 22 percent of girls get married before they reach 18, according to the government data. In states such as Bihar and Rajasthan, that figure is over 40 percent. According to Unicef, one in three child brides worldwide are from India.
Dr Kalpana Apte, secretary general, FPA India, said that Run4FP aimed to bring the subject of sexual and reproductive rights of Indian women to the forefront and raise funds. “Every big name in this field is running for this cause. The support we’ve received is overwhelming,” she said.
The low status of women reflected in a strong cultural preference for sons, continues to be our story. However, many surveys, including the National Family Health Survey 4, has shown that Indian women don’t want more than two children.
According to researchers at Gulbarga University in Karnataka, only half of India’s women are involved in making decisions about their own healthcare and 60 percent of women did not seek antenatal care, believing it was “unnecessary.” No wonder that unplanned or unwanted pregnancies make up some 20 percent of all pregnancies in India.
“When you support family planning, you’re helping save the lives of tens of thousands of women in India annually,” said Anand Sinha, country advisor, David and Lucile Packard Foundation. “It gives women the option of exploring their full potential,” Sinha, who is running Sunday’s marathon added.
India has child births, too many, too close and too early. Of all births, 59.3 percent (approximately 16 million births) are at intervals of less than 36 months; 24 percent (approx. 6.5 million births) are the third child born to one woman; 6.3 percent of births (approx. 1.7 million lakh births) are to women between the ages of 15 and 19. One out of every five married women in India wants to adopt family planning, but is unable to do so due to lack of access, education and religion, according to DLHS, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
Apte said that FPA India has 120 clinics across India, including satellite clinics which cater to rural areas, where women are counseled on the modern methods of contraception. “Women should have access to information. All modern methods of contraception can help them plan their lives according to their priorities. That is the message we want to send,” she added.
Personalities running for a cause:
Amita Dhanu, Dr Kalpana Apte, Dr Nina Puri, Umesh Aradhya – FPA India
Anand Sinha – David and Lucile Packard Foundation (India)
Denny John – International Center for Research on Women's (ICRW) Asia Regional Office
Dr Nisha Gupta – Public Health Consultant
Poonam Karla – Tulika Foundation
Poonam Muttreja – Population Foundation of India (PFI)
Sharad Aggarwal – Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (India)
Sujatha Natarajan – International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
Varun Anand – International Planned Parenthood Federation, South Asia Region (IPPF-SAR)
Tom Alter – Actor
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2017 17:27 PM