The higher the number of children a woman has the more work she has to do to get herself out of poverty, or move up the harsh economic ladder.
Sharing the wisdom was First Lady Monica Geingos, who said there is an economic cost for a woman to have children without planning for them, as it takes away her ability to work her way out of poverty.
Geingos made a comparison between herself who is a mother of two and a mother who has eight children.
“Now if I had eight schoolchildren, I would not afford eight school fees. The woman who has eight children is likely to put eight babies into poverty,” said Geingos during the donation of HIV/syphilis duo test kits to the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (Nappa) at the women’s centre in Okuryangava.
Nappa works in advancing youth sexual and reproductive health services in the country and particularly in Windhoek’s underprivileged suburb of Katutura, where the majority of the underserved community in the capital lives.
Geingos wholeheartedly spoke to adults and schoolchildren who attended the event about family planning, education, health and parents, especially fathers, taking up their responsibility to raise their children.
Geingos said her office is passionate about reproductive health and rights because they want to see young people and women fully exploring their potential.
“We want them to become whatever they want to become, so anything that stops a woman from fully maximizing her potential is a problem for us. When we see for instance the statistics in terms of teenage pregnancies, I don’t really see it [the situation] just from a health perspective. I see it from an economic perspective because there is an economic cost to falling pregnant when young, and there is a health cost,” she remarked.
Geingos said the economic cost is the mother’s risk of not being able to finalize her education and not be able to provide for the baby the way she would have if she managed to have the child a little bit later.
The first lady said she saw statistics generated by UNFPA that show that even in Namibia 53 percent of women in higher wealth quarters use more contraceptives than women in the lower quarters.
“A wealthy woman can afford to send her child to an expensive school. So by having less children she is enabling herself to continue moving up the economic ladder, whereas the person in the lower quarter who is likely not to afford her child, or not likely not have access to health facilities, is the one with eight children,” she lectured women.
She said the woman with eight children is the one who gets trapped in poverty, and citizens would want to live in a country where if you are poor it’s because you choose to be poor.
“We don’t want to live in a society where you are trapped in poverty and don’t have a way out. We can trap people in poverty if we don’t provide them with access to mobile services, if we don’t give them information. It is one thing to ask why are you having many babies if you can’t afford but [yet] we not giving accessible, affordable and understandable information, because then we can’t judge that woman with eight children if we didn’t empower her with the information,” further stated the first lady.
Geingos thinks it’s not about stopping unwanted pregnancies but about empowering women to make decisions to exercise a choice. “If you have all the information and your choice is to have eight children, then it’s your choice, then there is nothing we can do about it,” stressed Geingos.
In addition, the Deputy Minister of Economic and National Planning and Napa treasurer, Lucia Iipumbu, said that in 2015 over 15 000 young people accessed services at the facility.
Iipumbu said 11 236 family planning services were delivered and this made a significant impact in the reduction in unsafe abortions and cases of baby dumping.
She said nearly 4 800 young people were tested for HIV at the clinic, with 280 testing positive and referred for ART, while 581 young people were screened for sexually transmitted infections.
“This is testimony of the impact Nappa services are making in the lives of young people in Windhoek and Namibia in general,” said Iipumbu.