Family planning was once a sensitive issue in Indonesia, but today it is considered essential. This paper reports on a study in 1997-98 of the role of village family planning volunteers and the cadres who worked under them in West Java, Central Java and DI Yogyakarta, in implementing the national family planning programme in Indonesia. A total of 108 village family planning volunteers, 108 family planning cadres, 108 local leaders and 324 couples eligible for family planning from 36 villages in the three provinces were interviewed. The volunteers and cadres have made a significant contribution to the implementation of the family planning programme. They promote family planning, organise meetings, provide information, organise income-generation activities, give savings and credit assistance, collect and report data and deliver other family welfare services. Teachers, wives of government officials and others recognised by the community as better off in terms of education and living conditions were most often identified to become family planning volunteers. Because they are women and because they are the most distant arm of the programme, their work is taken for granted. As their activities are directed towards women, especially in women's traditional roles, the programme tends to entrench the existing gender gap in responsibility for family planning and family welfare.