Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Women’s Lib For the 21st Century

Life is about choices, what we do, where we go, how we live, and so on. We all have equal right to those choices and most of us try to make the right decisions for ourselves - a given right as an equal member of society. But, what if that society, the one you live in, is so poor that life changing decisions are not your own to make?
We are all aware of the famine and epidemics that plague the poorest countries on this earth. Bob Geldof singing Feed the World every Christmas is a constant reminder of the struggles of the people in Africa. The overpopulated third world countries are in an ever-decreasing circle. The more their population grows, the more chance of illnesses arise. There is a higher probability of less food, and ultimately, not enough funds to support the country. A cycle that is not likely to break in our lifetime.
Eminent foundations such as Oxfam, UNICEF, and Médécins sans Frontiéres all work tirelessly to help, but their tasks are too big. No matter how many hours are in a day or funds available for medicine, or food drops made, the need continues. I don't know how those workers do their jobs and keep sane. Watching human beings suffer, witnessing children wither away and their mothers begging for help. I admire the workers, all of them.
Today, just by accident, I came across a news article that sparked my interest. The concept, given the above scenario, makes ultimate sense. The idea, while granted not new, is simply brilliant. Melinda Gates, yes Bill's wife, is advocating and promoting an ambitious program for worldwide family planning. This program is to include raising billions of dollars in order to supply contraceptives to more than 120 million women of the poorer countries. Currently contraception is either not available to the women or is classed as a crime. Melinda, herself a Catholic, has stood out against the boundaries of her region and even though members of her faith have criticized her cause, she has stuck to her belief that women have the right for choice. That choice is being able to decide when and if to have a family.
The program has been accused of advocating population control. Is it really that? Or is it just sensible and logical? To decide is your personal right. Ironic don't you think?
Whichever way you look at it, from any faith or religion, family planning cannot be a bad thing. Women should be able to choose. Leaving this type of thing to the hands of fate or the God, especially in the poorer countries, can be devastating and in many cases fatal. With contraception being readily available to women in third world countries, and if they are educated to understand its merits, surely some of the insurmountable problems being faced now would be alleviated. How can a church argue with that?
However, women's health is not the only advantage of the program. It is said that if this program goes ahead and succeeds, deaths of children under the age of 4 in these poorer countries will decrease by approximately 25%. Yes, you can argue that those children have a right to life, but in my mind why would you bring a child into the world to suffer painfully of hunger and disease from birth to death. Surely, it is better to help women plan when to start their families. Isn't that what life choices are about? I suspect if you ask any of those mothers we see on the TV, who sit there emaciated, clinging onto their children as if all the hugs in the world will change the outcome, if they had a choice would they have wanted this? I bet she would say no! They would say NO out of a maternal protectiveness, not cruelty.
Another sideline of this issue is that of teen girls. I read today also the number one killer of teen girls aged 15-19 in developing countries is that of pregnancy or childbirth. Shocking but a reality and what is more frightening, a reality that is also on our own doorstep! Schools advocate abstinence. A good idea in an ideal world, but this is not an ideal world. In my opinion we need more family planning awareness ever here, in our supposedly sophisticated, forward thinking country. I wonder if ultimately we are scared of educating our kids on family planning. I am not. I am not saying go out and tell them to have sex, of course not. But, as a responsible parent I am saying is that a little knowledge is power. The power that helps our children make the right decisions for themselves.
So, back to Melinda and her cause. I say we should all support it. There are no down sides, how can there be? Giving women the right to chose pregnancy or not is human, denying them is not. The question now, is how or will the people at the top help? I will keep my fingers crossed, donate if I can, and keep my eyes open for news!

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