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Women in Rotary for International Peace Projects of the Rotarian Action Group for Population & Development in India
Category: Population | By RFPD, 10-Jun-2013 | Viewed 4028  Comments 0
Vienna, February 11, 2013

RFPD was established at a Rotarian Peace Conference in Dakar, Semegal in 1995. The attendees unanimously adopted a resolution to request that Rotary International deal with the population growth issue. This initiative was the beginning of RFPD and the Action Group within RI. Since the founding of RFPD the target has been to inform clubs about the threatening impact of the population growth and to encourage clubs to implement projects which directly address population issues like family planning, empowerment of women, basic health, economical development and especially maternal health. 

In 1995,at the founding of RFPD, there were less than 5.8 billion people living on our planet. Today we are more than 7.1 billion and in 2050 the world population will reach a staggered 9.6 billion people. All countries have made great strides in slowing down birth rates, however, the real problem lies in Sub-Saharan Africa where the population will have grown 130% by 2050. 

The birth rate in India has also slowed from 3.6 babies per woman to 2.5, yet India continues to grow by 10 million people annually. This has lead to the serious problem of population density. The pressure on the resources, the environment, the infrastructure and the social cohesion has grown and will continue to grow rapidly. 

Rotary is responding to that development too. In the past, RI did not directly influence the club service projects, but now RI has announced the Areas of Focus in the Future Vision Plan. These 6 Areas provide the framework for all club projects. RFPD is proudly stating that RI has recognized our Action Group as an official resource for the Focus Maternal and child health, along with the prestigious Aga Khan University. 

The focus Maternal health directly addresses the population growth. RI clearly states:

40% of women in developing countries do not use contraception

53 million unintended pregnancies could be prevented through family planning. This number could reduce the annual population growth by two thirds!

If all 222 million women world wide had free access to family planning, 1.4 million babies wouldn't die, 100,000 women would survive after the birth, and 19 million unsafe abortions could be prevented. That's an important indicator for all those who argue against family planning. 

The solution of the population problem is simply: women. Studies indicate that literate women and those basic health systems guarantee smaller families. At the “London Summit on Family Planning” in July last year, many governments and NGOs intensively discussed this topic. All the participants, including the Indian government, stated the necessity of the empowerment of women and family planning. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the initiator of the conference, pledged a 1 billion dollar donation for family planning projects alone. 

One of the largest issues India faces today is how women are treated in Indian society. At the end of last year, headlines around the world spoke of the brutal attacks on women. The position of men and women in Indian society is determined via the Gender Gap Index, where India ranks 105th among 135 countries. Although that sounds bad, a closer look to the details reveals an even worse truth. India has reached the high 17th position in the political rights category. But in the categories economic participation education and health India is among the last. Women are grossly disadvantaged in India.

What is RFPD doing in India to help girls and women succeed in life? The following are four community service projects which are supported or initiated by RFPD.

  • An Inner wheel initiative “Chance of life” is running centers for women in Greater Mumbai with educational programs, kindergartens, support for pregnant women, supply of new wells, and micro credit programs. 

  • A very successful Matching Grant project has been conducted in Nepal. The focus is on reproductive and maternal health, family planning and the training of nurses and midwives. 

  • RFPD is preparing a maternal health project where vocational teams train and qualify health workers in regions with high maternal mortality rates. They establish women's groups which will discuss matters on nutrition, maternal health, and family planning. 

  • Perhaps the most important program are the Saheli Centers in India. The centers have run for more than 10 years. There are currently 27 centers in operation. Here young women gain skills and empowerment to achieve a better life in the male dominated society. 

We know these activities are only a drop in the ocean, so we to appeal directly to all clubs to be more aware of the most important mission of Rotary: promoting peace and understanding all over the world. We should shoulder more responsibility for International Service. Peace will only be possible if poverty is eliminated and women are empowered. Rotary provides a network which has the ability to solve large problems. We just have to make a choice to do it!

By: Harald Marschner, PDG
Chairman RFPD 2009-2012
RC Enns, District 1920
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