Senegal Seeks to Curb the Baby Boom

February 4, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Senegal, Serial Dramas, News

The following story takes a very good look at certain sociocultural dynamics in Senegal that impact family size decisions at the level of the household, and subsequently, total fertility rates of the country (which is 5.0). Given that Senegal is attempting to basically double its contraceptive prevalence rate by 2015 (from roughly 12 to 27%), it is good that Dr. Bocar Mamadou Daff, national director for reproductive health and child survival, is considering the merits of mass communication and an improved distribution system for access to short-term contraceptives. Its worth noting that Senegal’s total population is about 13 million, or about, 0.1% of total world population.

Senegal Seeks to Curb the Baby Boom

Dakar – A 25-year-old mother of five hailing from Senegal’s eastern Tambacounda province believes that contraceptives damage the womb and cause health problems in the long term, such as a rise in blood pressure and chronic headaches.

“This is what I heard some women saying in the bus I boarded to go to town,” the woman, now living in the capital city of Dakar after her tragic divorce, tells IPS.

She was only 16 when she was forced to marry her 35-year-old cousin. When she tried to discuss contraception with her former husband, “he beat me up and swore that he would kill me if I ever mentioned it again. So we kept having babies.

As a result of misconceptions about children and family planning, religious dogma and a lack of reproductive health services, thousands of women across Senegal share her plight.

Breaking the stereotypes

Children are a symbol of wealth in this West African country of 12 million people, a perception that has led to a “baby boom”, experts here say.

“This ancient belief implies that more boys mean more manpower (for) a farm, or that you stand a chance of seeing (your son) become a rich man or even the president of the republic or a minister, while many girls bring their parents more money or livestock for dowry when they get married, ” marriage counsellor Fatoumata Sow tells IPS in Dakar.

“The moment (women) get married, they start making children as if a high-speed train has taken off late at a station, and is flying to catch up.

“And though I’m using Senegal as a case study, the trend is almost the same all over West Africa,” according to Sow, the mother of nine children.

She says family planning is taboo in many parts of West Africa, especially in rural communities where illiteracy is rife and awareness about family planning services – let alone access to contraception and birth control – is non-existent.

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