Beyond supply: the importance of female family planning workers in rural Bangladesh

Stud Fam Plann. Jan-Feb 1988;19(1):29-38.

Abstract

Using participant observation data on worker-client exchanges from Bangladesh, this article examines the interface between a government family planning program and the rural women it serves. Case material focuses first on the program function typically identified in the literature: meeting unmet demand for contraception by providing convenient supply. Functions that have been less recognized are then illustrated: (1) the worker's role in reducing fear of contraceptive technology; (2) her effort to address religious barriers, child mortality risks, and high fertility preferences; and (3) her role in mobilizing male support. The range of functions performed by the female family planning worker in the cases discussed here demonstrates that her role transcends the boundaries of what is conventionally implied by the concept of supply. She acts as an agent of change whose presence helps to shift reproductive decision-making away from passivity, exposing women long secluded by the tradition of purdah to the modern notion of deliberate choice.

PIP: Using participant observation data on worker-client exchanges from Bangladesh, this article examines the interface between a governmental family planning program and the rural women it serves. Case material focuses 1st on the program function typically identified in the literature; meeting unmet demand for contraception by providing convenient supply. Functions that have been less recognized are then illustrated: 1) the worker's role in reducing fear of contraceptive technology; 2) her effort to address religious barriers, child mortality risks, and high fertility preferences; and 3) her role in mobilizing male support. The range of functions performed by the female family planning worker in the cases discussed here demonstrates that her role transcends the boundaries of what is conventionally implied by the concept of supply. She acts as an agent of change whose presence helps to shift reproductive decision-making away from passivity, exposing women long secluded by the tradition of purdah to the modern notion of deliberate choice. This is a prerequisite for eventual fertility control. The worker defends the practice of contraception as legitimate within the principles of Islamic law and attempts to alleviate child mortality fears by reference to new trends.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh
  • Developing Countries*
  • Family Planning Services / trends*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Patient Education as Topic / trends*
  • Pregnancy
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Rural Population*