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Politicians hold the key


DECEMBER 25, 1995

Politicians hold the key

Arab World

By Ashali Varma

Family planning programs in the Middle East vary widely, depending on each country’s resources policies. Mohammed Bouzidi, the regional director of the Arab World Regional Bureau for International Parenthood Federation  since 1993, said that there are countries  like Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan where political commitment have led to an increasing awareness of the need for health services that include family planning. Syria and Iraq on the  other hand had no pro-natal policies till  very recently.

“Two years ago there was a policy in Iraq that not only encouraged women to have more children but actually gave a medal to women who had more than 10 children,” said Bouzidi. Both governments have now changed the policy and are actively seeking help

from the local Family Planning Associations (FPAs) to help provide services for the

country .

“Even in Palestine, just a few years ago the slogan was, ‘Every empty uterus is a crime against the revolution.’ Now the Minister of health is asking the local FPAs to provide services,” said Bouzidi.

“Another issue is that because women are now more educated and work, they are feeling the backlash of religious fundamentalism. This has led to a demand for FPAs to develop programs to empower women as far as legal and reproductive rights are concerned,” said Bouzidi.  FPAs are also playing a vital role in providing community based services in the poorer rural areas, where due to a lack of infrastructure and communications, women have little access to good health care.