Moroccan women, handicapped by poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, are showing a growing awareness of population issues and the need for contraception.
A recent study by the Moroccan Family Planning Association (AMPF) showed that 50 percent of Moroccan women are using contraceptives today, compared to only 10 percent in the 1960s. Each Moroccan woman now has, on average, three children, compared to seven 20 years ago. Accordingly, demographic growth fell by 2 percent.
The figures reflect a significant evolution in the mentality of Moroccan women, who are now aware of the need to control the numbers if children they have as a means of social and economic improvement, said Halima Zahrani of AMPF.
Moroccan women are being responsive to the advice given to them, she said.
Independent figures show that Morocco has a population growth of 1.74 percent per annum. Birth rates are at 24.6 births/1,000 population, and death rates stand at 6.02 deaths/1,000 population.
Zahrani concedes there is much to be done, especially in rural areas, where the women's situation is still critical, due to illiteracy and other social consideration.
Unlike their urban counterparts, women in the rural areas are more illiterate and have to cope with some traditional values.
"Generally, rural men produce more children, as a future labor force, and women have to submit to this situation," said sociologist Rachid Zaghari.
The AMPF stressed the need to increase awareness campaigns in rural areas to show to the population - especially the men - why birth control can be helpful.
Observers also called on the authorities to focus more development programs on the rural population.
"The Moroccan countryside has been prey to a complete marginalization in the entire nation's development endeavors. It has only been the past few years where the government realized there are some areas in Morocco which fell into oblivion and need some care," said Zaghari.
The AMPF said the mother and infant mortality rate is still high.
"These rates are intolerable," says Halima Zahrani. She blamed the situation on poor medical care and unsanitary conditions.
UN figures show the infant mortality rate in Morocco stands at 49.72 deaths per 1,000 live births.
"It is shameful to be trapped in such a situation in the beginning of the 21st century," said Zahrani, emphasizing that access to health care is a basic human right.
"These indicators of human development are very crucial in defining the rank of nations on the scale of development," she said.
The experts agree that all these problems are interdependent.
"We cannot speak of promoting the population's health, especially women, without a lasting development," said Zaghari.
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