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Being childless by choice is not an option when you live in extreme poverty

By Nina Steele 

As much as I would like to see the stigma attached to childlessness decrease in Africa and other developing parts of the world, I have to recognise that so long as there will be extreme poverty, being childless by choice is not going to be an option for many people in those places. That is because, unlike most people in rich countries, having children in those poor parts of the world is as much about alleviating poverty, as it is about the urge to procreate.

In rural areas of my country of birth the Ivory Coast, the children of the poor are used to farm the land and then help their parents further with selling their crops at local markets. In urban areas, they go around with heavy loads on their heads, selling everything from water to food. These scenes are repeated across the continent and other developing nations around the globe.

We in the West have the benefit of the welfare state as a safety net, if we find ourselves falling on hard times. Unfortunately, in poor countries, this is not an option. Children therefore are your only realistic way out of poverty.

Most poor people understand the importance of education for their children, as a way of increasing their chances of going up the social ladder. And so, many of them do everything they can to send their children to school.

One of my cousins back in the Ivory Coast, lives in a bedsit with his entire family, all 9 of them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that 2 of his children are now at university, with a third child due to follow suit. His prospects of a better future are far greater now.

It is the same story everywhere you go. Those whose children become successful are lifted out of poverty. And even those whose children never go to school, still benefit from having them, as explained above.

Naturally, the more prosperous people become, the fewer children they tend to have, if at all. On the African continent, the middle classes are having fewer children than in previous generations. While in India, more and more women are opting out of motherhood all together.

With more than 800 million people still living in extreme poverty, according to the United Nations, it is fair to say that for these people, being childless by choice is not an option.

Surrogacy in India

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