India is the second most populous country in the world, accounting for almost 17 per cent of the world’s population. While on the one hand positive demographic trends are visible, with fertility and mortality rates declining, on the other hand a five-fold increase in population in the last century (1900–2000) emphasizes the need to strengthen efforts towards population stabilization.
We have been in the forefront of non-governmental efforts to address the country’s population concerns and establish a balance between resources, environment and population. We believe that population stabilization is, and should be an integral element of the development process, which is essential for ensuring a higher quality of life for people.
Though total fertility rate (TFR) in India has declined from six births per woman in the 1960s to three in 2003 (SRS), the pace and magnitude of the decline varies significantly across states. Achieving replacement level of fertility in the near future depends greatly on the effectiveness of the northern states in bringing down their fertility rates.
Ensuring a better quality of life
We have been funding research projects of various dimensions aimed at supporting positive behaviour change for family planning. The projects range from strengthening service delivery systems to affecting behavioural response patterns. They focus on married adults, married and unmarried adolescents from different social and religious groups.
While recognizing the reproductive rights of individuals and couples, we work towards-
- Fulfilling their basic right to have information about safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning and the freedom to choose the contraceptive method, as also the number, spacing and timing of their children.
- Improving the quality of care and provision of reproductive health services.
- Improving the right of access to quality reproductive healthcare services.
- Reducing the unmet needs of contraception.
These efforts will also ensure a significant decline in infant mortality and a reduction in the gap between awareness of contraception, which is almost universal, and contraceptive use, which is only about 56.3 per cent (NFHS-3).
We build on research findings by -
- Adopting suitable behaviour change communication (BCC) strategies for conveying key messages on family planning. The efforts range from policy-level initiatives to the use of innovative and traditional communication methods at the community level.
- Carrying out national and state-level advocacy, constantly interfacing with policymakers and programme administrators in the government and the voluntary sector.
- Organizing state-level conferences on health, social development and population stabilization issues to highlight primary concerns.
- Recommending action points for strengthening initiatives.
- Publishing analytical documents to strengthen policy advocacy efforts.
We have demonstrated that a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach, addressing felt needs of the people, overcomes the challenges faced by family planning programmes.