Delhi-based not-for-profit organization Population Fund of India(PFI) is working with the government on family planning and population stabilization issues. The foundation was established in 1970 by a group of industrialists under the leadership of J.R.D. Tata and Bharat Ram. In an interaction with Apresh Mishra, Executive Director Poonam Muttreja flagged lack of awareness and family pressure as the biggest stumbling block to the family planning and population stabilization. Excerpts
Q: What are major roadblocks towards effective implementation of family planning in India?
I think challenges are at multiple levels. Lack of awareness among the people; unavailability of safe abortion services; early marriage and family pressure to name a few.
Myths around male vasectomy have made it an unpopular option among the males in India. There is also a reluctance among the males towards the use of condoms owing to sexual dissatisfaction during intercourse.
Q: What has been PFI’s role towards mitigating these challenges?
PFI does advocacy in the health sector with strong focus on family planning and reproductive and sexual rights of women. The foundation has been very vocal on issues related to gender sensitivity and has been advocating effective formulation and implementation of policies in these areas.
PFI is closely working with central and state governments to devise evidence-based policies. The advocacy is also backed by behavioral changes as family planning is a mind-set issue.
Q: How does Family Planning impact Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Family planning is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).India’s per capita income could rise by almost 13% with effective family planning measures. It is estimated that the government could save over INR 270 billion on the overall National Health Mission budget between 2017 and 2031.
Q: How is India making progress on population stabilization?
There has been a tremendous progress in India on populationstabilization. We have already reached minus fertility in 22 states but it is still a challenge for us. There is an immediate need to make our youth progressive. Young people, these days are more confident and advanced. They know about their needs and are being able to articulate. They want access to information on their sexual reproductive health. This will further help India to make progress.
Q: How is PFI’s edutainment initiative helping in raising awareness?
For us, education in the guise of entertainment has acted as a catalyst for spreading the message of family planning. We have been able to harness the power of entertainment education to alter and transform deeply entrenched social behaviorsin people and promote importance of health and well being among women. This has empowered women like never before.
PFI also collaborated with the All India Radio (AIR) to launch a radio series –‘Dehleez’ – on youth sexuality. Currently, we are running a campaignagainst violence towards women – ‘DeshBadlega Jab MardBadlega’for the violence against women. We also did five films, two out which went viral. At present we are running a series ‘Mai KuchBhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ for empowering women.
PFI has also involved celebrities like Farhan Akhtar, Shahrukh Khan and Hritik Roshan to support women-oriented causes.
Q: What is ‘Mai KuchBhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ series?
PFI started a transmedia entertainment and education initiative-‘Mai KuchBhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ in March 2014. The third season will soon be airing on Doordarshan and Youtube.
Through the show, PFI has been able to reach out to young women and adolescents to educate and empower them to take control of their bodies. We have also been able to sensitize men about women issues.