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The story of families in Tanzania provides a great example of how family planning efforts — if fully funded — could protect women, children, and the environment all at the same time.

Tanzania is a large country; it’s about the size of Texas and Colorado combined. Tanzania’s population is quite young: as of 2014, 45% of the population was under the age of 15. It’s the 6th most populated country in Africa, with 52.3 million people. By 2030—only 15 years from now—the population is projected to rise to 79.4 million, and by 2050, unless the birth rate slows substantially, there will be 2.5 times as many people in Tanzania as there are today, 129.4 million, which would make it the 15th largest country in the world.

What is driving the rapid population increase? Only 26% of married women use modern contraception, compared with 53% next door in Kenya. In the Kigoma region of western Tanzania, the rate falls to 14%, among the lowest in the world. Forty one percent of women in Kigoma have an unmet need for contraception. The total fertility rate in western Tanzania is 7.1, among the very highest in the world. Having babies in rapid succession is often accompanied by high maternal mortality. There is an urgent need to make voluntary contraception more available in places like rural western Tanzania so that women and their families are able to live healthier, productive lives and space and plan their families.

How can we strengthen demands for increased funding of contraception beyond the plea to simply make it “accessible?” Perhaps it’s time to embrace an objective and universal model of smaller families working together to invest more in each child, rather than traditional and subjective models that do not address family size, community involvement, and minimum standards of wellbeing and equality for future children.

It’s not just countries like Tanzania that need this change — all of our futures depend on it.

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