Sunday, October 30, 2005

UNICEF wrong on family size in Bangladesh

UNICEF had on Sunday Oct 30, 2005, a full page advertisement with text in mega fonts in the leading Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. It reads: "You and your six children live in rural Bangladesh. If you and your children work ten hours per day you get enough to eat. If you send your ten year daughter to India to work as domestic servant, you can afford to let her two younger brothers go to school. What do you do?" The end, in smaller fonts, rightly states that people should not have to do such choices and readers are asked to contribute money to UNICEF for their work to improve the life for children. Knowing UNICEF I am convinced the organization will effectively convert collected money to a better life for disadvantaged children in Bangladesh and elsewhere. So please donate money!

My problem is that the advertisement gives the impression that women in rural Bangladesh have 6 children. The latest UN sources state between 2.9 and 3.4 children born per women in Bangladesh in 2003. Even when the 10 year old girl mentioned in the advertisement was born in 1995 all sources give a number of less than 4 children per woman.

But what about inequity? A study published 2000 by Dave Gwatkin is available on:

Based on a survey done in 1996 the poorest 20 % had 3.8 children and the richest 20% 2.2 children per woman.

The first line in the advertisement is not evidence based! It conveys an impression that nothing has changed to the better. There are of course today many poor women with six children or more in rural Bangladesh, but they are a small proportion of all rural women, only some few percent! Even if these poorest women are the ones that UNICEF will help, I do think it matters that UNICEF conveys an incorrect image of rural Bangladesh. This is especially sad as Bangladesh is a success story regarding lowering of fertility and child mortality.

Please look at the animated statistics at where you scroll down to "Has the world become a better place?" The Gapminder animation shows that Bangladesh had 6 children per women in 1982.

Why is UNICEF conveying a 20 year old image?
1. Lack of knowledge.
2. Conscious judgment that the image of no change in Bangladesh is good for fund rising.
3. Unawareness about negative impacts of the image that nothing changed in Bangladesh.

I hope the reason is number 3 and suggest UNICEF to consider the following start of further adds. "You are one of the women that still has not benefited form the ongoing improvements in rural Bangladesh. If you and your six children ....... " or simply : "You and your four children live in rural Bangladesh. "


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