Menu Close

City and country : Two women


AUGUST 15-31,1994

City and country : Two women

Young hope for small families; the elder reflect on changes.


MENDUT, Indonesia–Syaodatt, a 40-year-old peasant woman lives in this  small Village.  15 minutes by car from the famous Borobudur Temples in Central Java.

She lives with her husband and two sons and earns about 50,000 Rupaih ($25) a Month from crops grown on their mall 400-meter plot.  Her older son is 10 years old and goes to an elementary school.  The younger son, just 3 and half years old, goes to a kindergarten.  She herself never finished elementary school  and got married young.

Syaodatt said, “My parents lived in this village also and they had six children.  We were very poor. I only wanted two and heard about family planning from the radio and television and from my neighbors.  They have two or three children themselves and practice family planning.”

The village midwife Remini, who is her friend taught her about the different contraceptives available.  Another midwife from the local clinic, who helped deliver her children her house, took her to family planning clinic.  There, she was put on an IUD.

Didn’t she want more children to help her with the work on her farm?

“No, “she  replied, “I do not want my boys to be farmers. I would like them to have a profession.  Maybe they will be drivers.”

Thousands of women, like Syaodatt view the Indonesian Family Planning Program, or BKKBN, as a boon. It gives them the much needed freedom to make a choice over their own reproduction. It gives them a choice their mothers never had.

At a public health center in Tanjing Priok, in North Jakarta, Mahila a 60-year old woman waits with her 25-year-old daughter for a free check up. Mahila had six children. After the birth of the youngest one, her husband died. She regrets that family planning facilities were not available when she was married.

Left with six children and not much money, she worked as a cook to bring up her children and educate them. Her daughter Sumiati finished high school and works in a garment factory.

She thinks family planning is very beneficial for women and would like to have only two children when she gets married. She said, “I would like my children to be well-educated and have good careers. I would also have time to enjoy my life and work at something I like doing.”

From the urban centers to the remotest villages in Indonesia the free access to family planning has changed the lives of countless women who speak openly about the contraceptives they use and the number of children they would like to have. The social impact is even greater as women have started seeing themselves as decision making partners in a marriage.