Forget hardship, struggles and poverty. Just make those babies

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Let’s see. There is probably a logical explanation for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s consistent, bizarre attacks on the concept of family planning.

The trouble is whatever that is it just sounds absurd, especially in a country where hardship, poverty, beggars and street vendors confront us everyday, in most places we look.

Some time a while ago, we thought Tuilaepa might have had a slip of the tongue when he first made the point that family planning was “interfering” with population growth.

“I’ve heard them say that the reason for this is because some parents can’t afford to care for (too many) children,” Tuilaepa said then. “That should be said about countries overseas where it is cold but for us, we are used to running around with just a piece of lavalava from the morning until night.”

Tuilaepa said hundreds of Samoans have migrated overseas and this has created a gap, which needs to be filled. He added that the grass in many villages has overgrown because there are not enough people to cut it.

“Even when a light wind blows up a woman’s skirt, they cry family planning…” 

Well that was back in 2015.

Today, the issue is back on the newsstands with the Prime Minister at it again.

“I encourage our people to do their part to increase the population,” he said last week. 

“People, especially couples, are prioritizing their work rather than making babies to increase our population. Especially the young couples, they shouldn’t delay the process.”

Seriously this has got to be some sort of joke. 

What’s he saying? If he is serious, perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa should make an order for a half-day public holiday to carry out his plan?

Now according to Tuilaepa, ten is a good number of children to have.

“For example, if you married in your early twenties, then you should have at least ten children,” he said. “This is very useful so that when you are old and crippled, at least you will have a lot of children to give you your cigarette and massage you.”

By all means an increase in the population might be a good thing for Samoa in as far as the statistics the government needs to increase incoming aid for development purposes go. 

But without jobs and the necessary economic muscle to provide support for an increase in the population, it’s irresponsible for someone in Tuilaepa’s position to continue to spurt out such nonsense. 

It’s neither funny nor acceptable especially in a country where teenage pregnancy, rape and so many other social challenges are still screaming out for solutions we have yet to find. 

The fact is birth control should be regarded as a human right. 

It means our women and girls should have the right to choose when they want to have babies, not because some powerful government leader is nagging them to do so simply to satisfy some development goals.

And here is what’s beyond this writer. 

For so many years, Health officials and Family Planning workers have been toiling tirelessly to promote responsible birth control measures and family planning values among our people. 

Their work is critical to address social and economic challenges that often accompany the issue of having children parents cannot afford to look after. We’ve seen these problems manifest in Samoa. 

For instance, not a day goes by on the Village Voice where we don’t have parents talk about the struggles of trying to raise their families with so many children and no money. 

We even see these families out there. We see the children on the streets running around without clothes while parents contemplate where they will get the next meal. 

Their downtrodden faces tell a story. It is one of hardship, struggles and poverty due to the lack of income generating opportunities, jobs and much-needed opportunities to advance their lot in life.

And yet all this is conveniently lost on P.M. Tuilaepa who is so obsessed and hung up on his ridiculous idea of making more babies. God help us!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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