- Parinaz Madan and Dinyar Patel
- for BBC Hindi
In 1933, a woman wearing a sari became an international focus. That year, 19-year-old Awabai Wadia, a resident of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), had passed the British Bar Exam.
Following its success, the Sri Lankan government began encouraging women to study law.
It also inspired the government to formulate policies for women’s rights at the time it had passed the bar exam.
But when he died in 2005, he had become an international name known to the family planning movement.
As a lawyer, Wadia had become a big name around the world for her scholarship and dedicated to the social upliftment of women.
Wadia was born in Colombo in 1913 into a progressive Parsi family.
After passing the law, he worked in both London and Colombo at a time when the atmosphere was favorable to men everywhere.
During World War II, he moved to Mumbai (now Mumbai) and devoted himself fully to social work. But family planning remained his favorite job.
Wadia favorite job of
In her autobiography ‘The Light is Hours’, Wadia wrote: “The work of my life has come to me before. I did not try to find it consciously.
He also wrote: “I never felt it was in vain not to pursue my law career. In fact, no matter what I did, law was added as a strong element.
When he started working in the field of family planning in the late 1940s, it was a taboo subject all over the world. Aside from opposition from religious conservatives, it was also associated with concepts such as racism or eugenics.
“The first time I heard the word‘ birth control ’, I was blown away,” Wadia recalls.
But she was impressed by a doctor who said that “the lives of Indian women end up getting pregnant and feeding children.”
FPAI and family planning in India
But despite the risk of social exclusion, Wadia set out on the task of advancing family planning. In 1949, with his help, the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) was formed. After that, she was the president of that organization for 34 years.
This organization used to offer fertility services ranging from contraceptive methods. Fertility services brought real satisfaction to Wadia as she had suffered multiple miscarriages. They had no children.
India was the first country in the world to officially implement its family planning policies in 1951-52. But Wadia’s efforts played a big part in that.
Under Wadia’s leadership, the FPAI adopted a decentralized, community-based approach to promoting the family planning program. With this, the urban poor and villagers of some very poor areas of India were linked to this program.
Unique family planning method
The program runs in a unique way. Sometimes the FPAI used to do everything but family planning. He took on projects ranging from tree planting to road reconstruction.
He linked family planning with a broader agenda of education, skills development and health. Wadia and his team devised several ways to communicate constructively with people. For example, social messages were given through hymns.
Apart from this, family planning exhibitions were also organized on trains that used to travel all over the country.
FPAI adopted innovative methods to instill trust among people about family planning. In this way, there was a clear improvement in development rates.
For example, in the 1970s, the number of child deaths in Malur, Karnataka, decreased. At the same time, it also increased the average age limit and increased the literacy rate.
This project received so much support from the villagers that after the departure of FPAI from there, they took over all the management of their family planning work.
Wadia’s Global attitude
Perhaps it was as a result of Wadia’s education abroad that it gave India’s family planning program a global vision.
Inspired by the success of the South Korean Mother’s Club, which has made family planning widely acceptable in rural areas, it has formed strong interconnected groups to discuss the important issues of dowry and the under-representation of women in politics.
On the other hand, he also continued to be influential in the International Federation of Parenting Planning (IPPF). With this, the world’s attention was drawn to the challenges of controlling India’s rapidly growing population.
When Wadia did not bow to Reagan
But politics complicated these challenges. There was an emergency period in India from 1975 to 1977.
The government began to carry out the task of population control with measures such as forced sterilization. But Wadia condemned it.
He said people’s participation in family planning programs should be voluntary. There should be no coercion.
The good results of family planning were beginning to show in India. But Wadia said, “The emergency slanders the entire family planning program.,
In the early 1980s, Wadia faced another major challenge as president of the IPPF.
She was involved in the administration of US President Ronald Reagan.
As a result, America reduced funding for all organizations that offer abortion facilities.
The IPPF did not directly promote abortion, but some of its affiliates did facilitate abortion in countries where it was legal.
But the IPPF refused to give in to American pressure. There was pressure on the organization to change the way it worked. But because he did not succumb to pressure, he had to lose funding for his programs.
Wadia ridiculed the Reaganism’s argument that a free market economy would succeed in controlling the population.
Wadia told those who supported him: “Whoever believes in this has hardly lived in a developing country, where many people live in extreme poverty. You cannot leave them in their condition.,
Condemnation of making abortion a weapon against women
Wadia’s career in many ways exposes the current dilemma of family planning in the current era.
In America, people in the Conservative faction believe that the new decision given to Roe vs. Wade should apply by overturning the decision made fifty years ago. And laws on access to contraceptives need to be reconsidered.
Wadia was concerned with making the anti-birth control movement a weapon against women.
He said, those who are deceiving people by saying that abortion and family planning are one, are destroying the individual rights of man and people. ,
Today there is a political debate in India about not giving benefits to schemes to people and adopting coercive methods to keep the family small. But Wadia objected.
Importance of Wadia
He said in 2000: “We cannot support schemes that do not support basic human rights.” At that time, in Maharashtra free rationing and free primary education for the third child was promoted to promote the rule of the two children. Withdrawal was being considered. .
He said: “We said that virtually snatching the facility from people cannot encourage family planning.
If you look, Wadia’s career tells us that family planning cannot be separated from broader socioeconomic development.
On Wadia’s death a few years ago, Ms Swaminathan, the pioneer of the Green Revolution in India, said: “Wadia knew more than anyone that if our population policy turned in the wrong direction, anything else would be right. “. going in the right direction will be wrong. ,
,Parinaz Madan is a lawyer and Dinyar Patel is a historian. ,