The Jakarta Post
Indonesia will be hosting the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Nusa Dua, Bali, in November 2015. The Jakarta Post's Rita Widiadana visited East Java and West Nusa Tenggara provinces to learn more about the dynamic changes in Indonesia's family planning program with support from the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Program. The following are reports from the trip.
Lilik Istikomah was happy when she gave birth to her second baby ' a son, six years after his elder sister.
'Now, I feel complete. We have a daughter and a son with an adequate space of years between the two of them. My husband and I decided to take part in a family planning program,' said Lilik in her humble house in a village in Kediri, East Java.
For the 32-year old mother and schoolteacher, participating in family planning means planning for the future of her children.
'We do not want to build a large family with many children. Everything is expensive now. We can barely afford better food, education and or healthcare services.'
As a kader desa or village subfield officer, Lilik is an avid family planning counselor in her village who motivates young couples to take part in the program. For her job as a volunteer or kader desa, she receives Rp 7,500 (US80 cents) per month. Kader desa are the spearheads of the national family planning program because they are the ones who communicate directly with those who receive family planning advice.
A kader desa helps a field officer oversee women who use contraception and registers potential clients from villages.
The success of family planning in Indonesia, first begun under former president Soeharto's new order regime in the late 1960s, was often associated with the work of these field workers.
The family planning program in Indonesia was known as one of the best in the developing world and one of the best in a country with a majority-Muslim population.
Between 1970 and 2004, family planning contributed to the drastic fall of total fertility rates (TFR) among women of childbearing age from 5.6 percent to 2.6 percent. Meanwhile, annual population growth stood at 1.49 percent.
But things have changed since then, and not for the better.
'The family planning program fell short following the reform era. It was not considered a major priority in the development programs of the post-reform administration,' explained Surya Chandra Surapaty, the newly appointed chairman of BKKBN.
Surapati insisted that family planning has been crucial for social and economic development in all countries of the world, especially for a large country like Indonesia with a huge populations.
'There is a close connection between large family size, poverty and people's welfare,' he said.
The enactment of decentralization policies has worsened the situation. The BKKBN now no longer has the authority to monitor the program at the regional level.
Since decentralization has been adopted and implemented in Indonesia, the number of field workers has decreased by a third from an earlier number of 35,000 workers.
A reflection of this dynamic situation is the stagnant level of Indonesia's total fertility (TFR) based on IDHS 2007 data. The data shows similar figures to those registered in the IDHS 2002-2003. The IDHS 2007 listed 2.6 children per woman.
Indonesia's annual population growth stands at 1.49 percent this year, up from 1.4 percent in the previous year. This means an additional 6.6 million people are added to the country's population every year. This means, in turn, that by the end of 2015, Indonesia will have a population of 270 million people. In 2045, the number will soar to almost 500 million of people, especially if the country continues to neglect its family planning programs.
Surapati, however, is convinced that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's administration has shown a strong commitment to population development issues and the revitalization of family planning in Indonesia.
'It is clearly shown in his Nawacita [nine points development program in Sanskrit language],' he added.
One of the policies listed is the launch of the population and family planning blue print for the period 2015-2019. The blueprint includes a larger funding allocation from the state budget in addition to attracting funding from donor agencies. In the past, USAID, UNFPA were among major donors to the country's family planning programs.
'We also plan to draw back the entire cadre of field officers across the country, and return them to a central BKKBN, starting in 2016,' he added.
Terrence Hull, emeritus professor of demography at the Australian National University, said in a recent interview the great promise of decentralization over a decade ago was the ability of people to exercise democratic control over their political leaders.
'The hope was that young couples would be able to press their local leaders for improved health and family planning services. Instead we read of money politics, and corruption at all levels of governments,' explained Hull, who has been researching and studying Indonesia's population and family planning since 1972.
Professor Hull added that Indonesia is a huge country, with a huge population. Failure to provide family planning, health services and education to its citizens, especially those living on remote islands, would mean that they would be condemned to persistent poverty.
'Success in family planning will mean better education for individuals and lower population growth rates for the nation. This is what is known as a virtuous circle.'
' Photos courtesy of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Program Indonesia
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