Key to Indonesia's smaller families: new economic roles for women
Ni Wayan Rai, a Balinese dressed in a batik sash, proudly tells a visitor she is the first women in her village who received a loan to help her stop bearing babies.Skip to next paragraph
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The government loan of about $15, however, did not pay for contraceptives, but for a piglet.
Her venture into pig-raising, officials hope, will provide a new role as an income-earner -- and perhaps reduce her desire to have more children.
At age 29, Rai has three children and lives in Lambing, a little-developed village on the island of Bali where moss-covered Hindu temples and verdant stairways of rice terraces are nestled below blue volcanos.
On Bali, with a crowded 2.5 million people, practicing family planning has become a badge of honor. Even the head of the island's program thinks nothing of passing out T-shirts declaring "two is enough" to hundreds of fellow villagers "celebrating" his father's cremation, which on Hindu Bali is a rather elaborate, conflagrative, and happy ritual.
In Lambing, for instance, the kelian,m or chief, maintains a large map in the village square on which each home is marked with blue, brown, or green, depending on what type of contraceptive is used among eligible couples. Each month, a large wooden bell, or kentongan,m calls the people for a meeting of the banjar,m or village, where husbands are expected to stand up and report -- often proudly --planning.
Before 1971, when Bali as well as the other overpopulated indonesian island of Java began population control programs, women bore five to seven children. Today, the average is less than three. The Indonesian goal for 1990 is two children per woman.
But after ten years of on-again-off-again contraceptive use, women such as Rai are beginning to ask if having fewer children really will bring economic prosperity, as officials promised. In many Asian countries, more and more women are dropping out of family planning, forcing officials to search for new ways to give women alternatives to childbearing.
Rai's piglet, which after eight months will quadruple in value at the market, is an example of the latest Indonesian initiative to maintain the progress of one of the most successful programs among developing nations.
By including women in more economic activity of Indonesian society, officials hope to further reduce the cultural tradition of large families. "We are expanding family planning to family welfare," says Dr. Ida Bagus Astawa, head of Bali's family planning program. "But sometimes Indonesian husbands think only they should earn money."
One explanation for Indonesia's quick drop in fertility during the 1970s is that family planning simply allowed women to have the number of children -- three -- that they wanted anyway but were unable to achieve with ineffective birth-control techniques. Now the program faces its most difficult period -- overcoming strong cultural resistence to having two, rather than three, children
"After being on family planning, the women find their life is not that much better --prosperous?'" says Harry Victor Darmakusum, deputy for BKKBN, the Indonesia acronym for the government family planing agency. "We can't hold onto them," he adds.
The obvious solution -- village development -- is meant to show people that a third child will have an economic effect on themselves, as well as for the country. Even with the fertility slowdown, Indonesia's population wil rise to 178 million by 1990 from today's 147 million.
In 1980 BKKBN began the credit program for village women. With only $150,000 from the United Nations Population Program, about one percent of the hamlets on Java and Bali have so far received loans to help women start "income producing" projects, such as raising piglets or rabbits, or marketing vegetables or banana cakes. The small amount of capital will be recycled into other villages, while the interest paid on the loan is used again and again in the same village.