Calls for reduced birth rates have divided members of Parliament with some fearing that low fertility could cut their political base.
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At a meeting on Thursday with population experts attended by 30 MPs at Nairobi’s Inter-Continental, Kimilili’s Eseli Simiyu said unless there was a complete overhaul of the political system, it would be impossible to reduce birth rates.
He said much as he was “careful” in his utterances, mostly when dealing with family planning, most people “believe that the bigger the tribe, the better their chances at leadership.”
Mr Josephat Nanok (Turkana South) noted: “Our current policies operate on the principle of numbers. The more numbers you have, the more resources you get.” He is an assistant minister.
Mr Martin Ogindo (Rangwe) said that if budgeting and leadership were given a “scientific approach” then politicians ought not be worried.
Dr Nancy Kidula, from World Health Organisation intervened, saying statistics showed that the higher the fertility rate, the higher the infant mortality and the lower the education levels.
“That’s when you have 100 pupils in Standard One with just one teacher.” Mr Boaz Kaino (Marakwet West) took a practical approach.
“Women must be pregnant, fathers must also have children. All that is needed are interventions in health and not numbers. You cannot tell people to have children so they vote Boaz to Parliament. By the time they reach 18, I’ll have retired.”
He added: “A woman who has gone to school, will have two children and say these are enough. If you want other children, get other women.”
Women MPs at the meeting — Dr Joyce Laboso (Sotik) and Prof Margaret Kamar (Eldoret East) — were attentive. “Let me declare: I have gone to school and I have two children,” said Dr Laboso.
Prof Kamar said the focus on family planning should also consider the basics “so that we don’t continue having less children than our maids, and end up taking care of our maids’ children.”
Dr Robert Monda, the chair of Parliament’s Health Committee remarked: “I don’t think anyone would lose an election if we tell our people more children moves us towards poverty... and even if you lose an election, you’d have told them the reality of life.”