Connecting local responses around the world
From 1975 to 2000, the Indonesian government used military force to coerce women into using contraception. Women were forcibly taken from their homes and had an IUD put in. Women would get alerted when they knew army officers were coming to their homes, and they would run and hide elsewhere. So it wasn’t a very successful approach to population control.
Then, the government introduced a counselling-focused family planning programme, which I work for.
The rate of women using contraception rose from 50% to 70% when they moved from a forcible method to a counselling method, but this was still a top-down approach. We did a lot of the talking, and still insisted that women should get an IUD after they’ve had two children.
For the last one year, we’ve been using the SALT approach to inform our work. We do less talking, more listening. We visit villages and invite women for consultation. It is up to them whether they come. We tell them where our office is, and what our opening hours are. When they come, we ask them questions to stimulate their own reflection and decision-making. “How many children do you have? How many children do you plan to have?” Just these two questions are enough - women start sharing their stories, their concerns and hopes for their children’s future. We just listen attentively. Then we ask them about their plans - how much income they have, and how do they think they can realise their dreams for their children. As they think and talk through this, the women gain a lot of clarity and confidence about their reproductive choices. We then answer questions they have about contraceptive methods. Up to 80% of them opt to use contraception. If they aren’t comfortable with using contraception, we share with them about other, natural methods they can try if they want to reduce the chances of having more children. There is absolutely no coercion.
Our relationship with the communities doesn’t end with contraception use. Family planning is much more than that. It is supporting families in realizing their dreams about their health, income generation, children’s education and more. We continue our journey with them to see their goals actualized.
In some villages, community leaders came up with the idea that women can do strawberry farming. In this district, 800 women are now engaged in strawberry farming, and produce high quality strawberries to earn income for their families.
Reproductive decisions are linked to economic and other opportunities open to women. The women also participate in peer support groups and other activities to word towards a better future for themselves and their families.”
Jojo Sujana, Family Planning Field Staff, Indonesia