Family Planning

Family Planning

A survey carried out between 1962 and 1964 in rural areas of the country and among the economically better-off urban population indicated the nature of the problem with population control in Ghana. The survey showed that rural families favored a total of seven or eight children and that the actual number of children in the better-off urban family ran between five and six. In neither case was there much interest in limiting the size of the family, although the urban group stated that it would recommend a maximum of three or four children to newly married couples.

The Ghanaian government has long shown an active interest in the population question. It was a cosponsor of a resolution on population growth and economic development in the 1962-63 session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and was the first subSaharan country to sign the "World Leaders' Declaration on Population" in 1967 that called attention to the population question. In 1969 it issued a general policy paper, "Population Planning for National Progress and Prosperity," that included provisions for family planning services. Subsequently, in 1969, it carried out a mass publicity and education campaign on family planning and during late 1970 sponsored an awareness week designed to encourage acceptance of family planning.

Some family planning services have been available since 1966, when the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana was formed. In the early 1990s, branch offices of the organization were still functioning in regional capitals out of which field officers (usually women) organized community awareness campaigns. In addition to the obvious family planning activities, the Planned Parenthood Association and the United States government furnished technical and financial support to the government's effort to control population expansion. This support included aid for the demographic unit of the Sociology Department of the University of Ghana in the collection of data on attitudes toward population control and on family planning practices during the 1970s. The aid program also funded pilot projects that incorporated family planning education into basic health services and that provided training of medical and paramedical personnel.

Although many adult Ghanaians have at least some knowledge of family planning, data from the 1980s suggest almost no change in attitudes and practices from the 1960s. For example, most Ghanaian women still prefer large families and probably see their childbearing abilities as a form of social and economic security. In Africa, where the infant mortality rate is generally high, large families ensure that some children will survive. It is, therefore, not surprising that Ghana's population continues to grow rapidly in the 1990s.

In an effort to regulate the effects of rapid population growth, the government launched a substantial public education program for women in the late 1980s that continued into the 1990s. In numerous newspaper articles and at community health centers, the campaign stressed child nutrition and immunization and the spacing of births. Although family planning had been incorporated into basic women's health services, no attention was given to the role of men in family planning until the beginning of the 1990s when a campaign to control the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDs) addressed male promiscuity and the practice of polygamy. Because of government efforts and increased aid from the United States, some increase in the use of contraceptives and modern methods of birth control has occurred during the early 1990s. As is to be expected, family planning is more likely to be practiced among women who live in urban areas with greater access to family planning services and whose level of education is junior secondary school or above.

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