Kenyans Value Children, But Their Government Doesn’t
Religion & Liberty Online

Kenyans Value Children, But Their Government Doesn’t

In the nation of Kenya, large families (4-5 children) are the norm. While it is difficult to make blanket statements about a nation as diverse as Kenya, children are typically valued in Kenyan families. One woman, Isabela Samora, recounts her experience of awaiting her first child:

I can’t wait to see my baby. To be able to hold those tiny hands and see those feet that give me some serious kicks to the ribs. I can’t wait to look at those eyes and see myself in them. The best bit I think about being a mom is seeing yourself in your child.

Sienna Kigera, the mother of a toddler, discusses her life as a mother:

I love how she stops to laugh at nothing and everything and makes sure she has your attention so you can join in. You learn not to take life too seriously. Or when a song plays in the radio/ TV and she shakes her head then insists you do the same.

Any parent in the world can find a kindred and familiar spirit in these women’s musings. But the government of Kenya has begun a “coercive” policy aimed to reduce the number of children women have, despite the fact that most women in Kenya don’t want to have less children.

Kenya has a modern health care system, and that includes access to artificial birth control. Yet, Kenyan women tend not to use it.

Experts agree that fertility remains high in Kenya, not because women don’t know how to lower their fertility, but because they do not want to. Knowledge of modern contraceptive methods in Kenya is “universal” at 97%. A professor of demography and sociology at Princeton, Charles Westoff, recently stated that “about half the women categorised as having an ‘unmet need’ [in Kenya] have no intention of using contraceptives even if they were made freely available,” and the most recent Demographic and Health Survey in Kenya found that, amongst women who don’t use contraception, fewer than 2% are deterred because of cost or access.

Kenya is not a nation that suffers from overpopulation, so why is the government demanding women stop having children?

The Policy identifies rapid population growth and a youthful population structure as key issues that will pose challenges in the realization of Vision 2030. High fertility coupled with high unmet need for family planning over a long period of time, has contributed largely to the observed youthful population structure.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 envisions Kenya as a middle class economy by the year 2030, and there is a fear that if population is not controlled, this goal will not be reached. Rather than viewing children as assets, the Kenyan government is viewing them as a burden. According to Anne Roback Morse of the Population Research Institute:

The Kenyan government has decided that since Kenyan women are so misguided as to actually want 4 or 5 children, the government will have to change their reproductive desires:

– “Support programmes that will intensify nationwide advocacy and public awareness campaigns on implications of rapidly growing population on individual family welfare and national socio-economic development. This should create the required small family norms; desire for high quality of life as opposed to large numbers.” (Sessional Paper on Population Policy for National Development)

– Reduce mean ideal number of children for men from 4.3 in 2009 to 3 by 2030 and from women from 4.0 to 2.8 by 2030.”(Sessional Paper on Population Policy for National Development)

– “Formulate a scheme that recognises small family sizes.” (Sessional Paper on Population Policy for National Development)

The logic of the Kenyan government has become completely distorted; low fertility is no longer a neutral byproduct of development, but the new end goal.

USAID is one organization partnering with Kenya in coercive population control. Despite the fact that the Tiarht Amendment prohibits U.S. foreign aid to be used for such efforts, for every dollar USAID spends on nutrition in Kenya, it spends $813 on contraception.

If the Kenyan government wants to create wealth and stability in their nation, they must recognize the intrinsic value of the human being: a creative, resourceful force in building their nation. Listen to Damien von Stauffenberg of MicroRate and expert in microfinance:

What creates wealth? People create wealth. The source of wealth is inside our head; it’s our creativity. It’s not even our muscles; it’s our creativity, something we’ve been endowed with…that is a source of untapped wealth that far exceeds the biggest oil reserves you could possibly find underneath your soil. That is really your source of wealth. It’s tapping that potential that’s there, that’s unused.”

The Kenyan government is buying into the Malthusian lie that people are a burden, and therefore less people means less drain on a nation’s economy. Let’s hope the women of Kenya, like Isabela Samora and Sienna Kigera can stand against Kenya’s aggressive and coercive plans to do away with Kenya’s greatest resource: its people.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.