Viet Nam News
BẮC KẠN — Hoàng Thị Mọn has been providing family planning advice for the residents of Bắc Lanh Chang Village for more than two decades. For 20 of the 22 years that Mọn has been on the job in the northern province of Bắc Kạn, none of the couples in her commune, most of them members of the Tày ethnic minority, have given birth to a third child.
Mọn often needs to mobilise all her patience and understanding to get results. There were times when it took her a whole month to persuade a husband to agree for his wife to get sterilised, only to nearly be thwarted when the day of the procedure arrived. “He said he would not stay at home and watch their children while his wife went to a reproductive health centre to get sterilised,” she said. “The wife had to bring the children along, and I had to be a babysitter-cum-caregiver who took care of both her and her kids.”
Family planning has been much needed in Việt Nam given the deep-rooted preference for sons. This is particularly true among Việt Nam’s dozens of ethnic minorities who consider having sons to maintain their race lineage a top priority.
An imbalance in sex ratio at birth of at 112.8 males/ 100 females is a challenge for Việt Nam’s population, according to the General Directorate of Population and Family Planning. This sex imbalance will lead to a shortage of women, which means that by 2050, 2.3-4.3 million men in Việt Nam will have no chance of finding wives, the directorate estimates.
In an economically challenged region like Bắc Kạn, population policies have not taken root. With traffic infrastructure underdeveloped, it is more difficult for population officials to do their job than those in urban areas. It is not unusual for family planning officials in remote areas to travel a whole day to reach a household - and then have to spend a month persuading a couple to use contraception.
However, the obstacles have not deterred some of the more dedicated officials in their quest to help families get access to contraception and take better care of their children.
Bàn Văn Sảo, a population official in Mả Khao Village, also had to employ all his skills of persuasion to stop several all-daughter couples from having babies until a son comes along. None of the couples in his village have given birth to a third child since 2011.
Things are also looking up in Nà Pạ Village in recent years, where residents have become more aware of the benefits of family planning and gradually come to accept the less-children family model, according to Mạ Thị Liên, a population volunteer.
Not having seniority like Mọn and Sảo, at first the job wasn’t easy for Liên as she herself was confused about population policies and family planning measures. “I was not equipped with sufficient knowledge on population control and reproductive health,” she said. “Also, since the locals were not aware of the importance of family planning, it was impossible to eradicate their boy preference in a day or two.”
Some people used to hide when they saw her coming, and some elders openly questioned the necessity of family planning, she said.
“They asked me, ‘why shouldn’t our children have more offspring while they are capable of doing so?’, or ‘without a grandson, who will worship us when we’re gone?’,” she said.
Despite the meagre income they earn, Mọn said she loves her job and feels "happy because I can help lots of families".
For her, nothing can compare to the joy of preventing couples from sinking deeper into poverty by having fewer children, she said. — VNS