Fertility and Development in Kenya

by Alda Isabel Scebbi ,  Monitor Upeace .org | 2012-10-06

The SAPs were meant to develop the economy of Kenya, to improve social and healthcare programs, and to decrease fertility rates, which in the 1980s-1990s were among the highest in the world. SAPs tried to decrease fertility rates by distributing free contraceptives and free healthcare services. However, when these policy changes were introduced, they were neither regionally nor economically appropriate, and once the services were no longer free, they still required constant checkups and maintenance, which many women could not afford. Such shortsightedness led to a decrease in women’s reproductive health, which in turn led to an increase in poverty.

The World Health Organization considers maternal health to be a basic human right and seeks its recognition and protection through the Millennium Development Goals. Several other United Nations organizations also emphasize the importance of women’s right to reproductive and sexual health, maintaining that reproductive health is not just based upon the quality and accessibility of healthcare, but also on socioeconomic development levels and women's position in society (Cottingham, Kismodi, et al. 1).

History and Ideology Behind SAPs

SAPs were applied in developing countries in the 1980s-1990s by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a condition for the granting of loans or the restructuring of existing debt. The policy changes consisted of increasing exports to encourage foreign investment and privatizing public companies and services, among other market-oriented adjustments. There was also a health component as SAPs sought to lower fertility rates in developing countries through population control policies such as family planning.

The means of implementing these policies were entrenched in both neo-liberal and neo-Malthusian ideological constructs.

Neo-liberalism emphasizes the role of non-state institutions in social and economic development, and is thus closely tied to the conservative ideology of the minimalist state. Privatization and deregulation are encouraged in order to minimize the role of the state in national economics. This neo- liberal environment reduced regulation over private companies and was thus conducive to corporate corruption, as private companies set out to maximize their profits by avoiding environmental and labor regulations (Hildyard).

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