REVIEWS

Demand for Modern Family Planning in Tanzania: reflections and some evidence from three Regions: by I.S.L. Sembajwe, Institute of Resource Assessment, University of Dar es Salaam, 1981.

This research report was written in 1981 and is based on a survey carried out between November, 1979 and May, 1981 in 11 villages in Morogoro, Kilimanjaro and Mara Regions involving a sample of 773 women. This 19 page research report, which includes 10 statistical tables, sets out to examine whether there is in fact a demand for modern methods of family planning in Tanzania.

From the information obtained by means of answers to questionnaires, it seems clear that socio-economic conditions play a considerable part in determining the desired family size. In Kilimanjaro Region, where a larger proportion of women had received formal education and where there was a higher overall household income, the desired number of children was between 4 and 6, whereas in Mara and Morogoro Regions, where family income was much lower, the figure was an average of 7 to 8. It would, therefore, appear that the higher the standard of living, the greater the likelihood there is of the breakdown of the traditional socio-economic system and a change in the traditional attitudes towards family size.

One of the interesting pieces of information that emerged from this survey is the difference in the level of fertility among a sample of women in the three different areas. In Kilimanjaro the desired family size was generally achieved, or even exceeded, whereas in the poorer areas there seem to be certain factors which inhibit the desired number of children. These factors are discussed in some detail and the conclusion is reached that the most important reason for low fertility is probably pregnancy-wastage- miscarriages and abortions – due to the social, economic and environmental conditions in which people live. The high proportion of childless women in the villages of Mara and Morogoro Regions included in the sample- 21.6% and 33.5%, compared with 4.45% in Kilimanjaro Region- may also be attributed to the same poor socio-economic conditions.

The report also touches on the sensitive issue of the need for pre-marital contraceptive advice and emphasises the double standard which applies (in other countries also!) to attitudes towards pre-marital sex. In view of the breakdown in tribal customs, especially initiation ceremonies, it is felt that one priority of the Maternal and Child Health Family Planning programme should be a programme of sex education, including a knowledge of modern contraceptive methods.

But the main conclusion of this report is that greater emphasis should be given in the family planning programme to the positive side of the work, to enable families to achieve the desired number of children, as this will have beneficial socio-economic consequences, which in turn will increase the demand for modern methods of family planning. It has, however, to be remembered that the treatment of infertility requires a great deal of skilled medical competence and laboratory equipment, which may not be easy to obtain. Perhaps the solution of this problem lies not only with the Family Planning Association of Tanzania (UMATI) and the Maternal and Child Health Services, but also with those who are trying to improve the general social and economic conditions of the country.

Julia M. Carter

Summons: Poems from Tanzania: coordinated by Richard S. Mabala: Tanzania Publishing House, Dar es Salaam, 1980.

In the last poem of this collection of Tanzanian verse, Eric Shikujua Ng’amaryo suggests in his last three lines that-

One is tempted to
Step aside
And judge things more soberly.

After a reading of all these poems from the beginning to the end and from the end to the beginning, it must be said that those of the fourteen contributors who have fallen to this temptation have far and away fared the best as poets. These Tanzanian verses for the most part have not found the voice with which to express, in a centred kind of way, their feelings of impotence about the continuing revolution in this cruel world.

We want to cry,
wail out in anguish,
For we feel so impotent,

writes O. Kibuta.

Blindly he hit me,
Eyes closed,
Releasing the squashed anger within his breast,
Muttering oaths against the world,

writes Richard Mabala of a wife being beaten. It is not infrequently that this awkward phrase ‘squashed anger’ seeks resolution in words. And who, so many ask, is to blame for the world being so cruel, for ‘unheeded tears’ leading to suicide (Freeman Lwamba), for the loneliness of being-

A lone tree
Standing in a vast expanse of indifference?

Here we are with a lost, lone and impossible to swallow phrasing:

I have to urgently
Incantate your magic name
In order to balm my corroding self,

wherein our friend Bric Shikujua, alas, has not fallen into his own temptation ‘to step aside’ before writing. Indeed, it is for the reader to cry ‘to the barber with your verses’, for, like Bottom, they are marvellously hairy. And should this anthology be read in schools by the ‘cadres of the future’, as the preface by Richard Mabala hopes, may there be someone at hand to speak of the sweet economy of language, so that these unknown persons may at least hesitate when confronted by the ‘inmagnanimity of man’, where husbands are

Ruthless owls, engorging the blood of weakened rats,

where-

The whole world is a marshy field
That may suck me down,

and where-

Thinking is prohibited,

to take a selection from several poems. We are back with Chairman Mao and are reminded by Richard Mabala of his doctrine that the aims of art are properly for ‘popularisation’ and the ‘raising of standards’. Thus, when Mao writes harmlessly-

On our tiny globe
A few flies smash into the walls,
They buzz, some loudly complaining, others weeping,

the official commentary would have us understand that the world is ‘tiny’ in the eyes of the revolutionary, who is capable of changing it by his actions. The walls are said to be those of true Marxism-Leninism, against which the flies of ‘imperialism’ hurl themselves in vain.

In all art one searches for coherence and truth, which implies an unforced interpretation of experience and not writing for effect. But there are coherent moments in the collection and some of Mabala’s longer poems preserve a Mao-like consistency of metaphor. Even Wordsworth found it hard to express the thoughts of inarticulate peasants, but to stir them ‘to intone our song’, as does Sengendo Mvungi, ‘to the staccato of machine guns’ is indeed to put thoughts into their heads that might cause them to question whether they really wish to be revolutionaries. ‘Our aim’, writes Mabala in the preface, is ‘to provide a spark’, but it is questionable whether the Tanzanian ‘quiet peasant’ will prove particularly responsive ‘powder’ and will rise up against the ‘dinosaur’, that globe-trotting politician and his richly endowed Ministry, on these terms.

Nevertheless, among the coherent moments in the collection is a poem by Eric Shikujua entitled ‘One Fine Morning’ that, as far as one can tell, does not have any overt political connotation. It is about a bee imprisoned in a stuffy room and urgently wishing to escape to the freedom of the air and sunshine he sees through the window,

Before I finish myself here
And join the corpses of my fellows
Down there, on the sill.

Hugh Dinwiddy

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