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"Women, Health, and Family Planning"

For my second event post I heard of a talk that was happening in St. Cloud. My sister and most of my friend go to St. Cloud state where they have a house up there. Almost every Wednesday from noon to one St. Cloud offers free lectures which they call “Women on Wednesday.� So I took a trip up there a few weeks ago to see a seminar titled “Women, Health, and Family Planning.� I had a couple of my friends join me for this hour and it turned out to be a learning experience for them.

When I first got there I realized that these seminars build off each other. St. Cloud put together a series of lectures, titled “Global Women, Transforming the World,� that would build upon the fall semester program of addressing women’s lives form a global viewpoint, with a clearer focus on international women’s perspectives and issues. The St. Cloud women’s center put together this series of lectures to show how international women have organized together to prove that anyone can help to improve lives of women and to fight the multiple forms of oppression.

The presenter on this particular Wednesday was Dr. Patience Togo. Dr. Togo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at SCSU. She holds BSW and MSW degrees from Carleton University in Canada, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining SCSU, Togo worked with diverse communities and underserved populations in Canada, Japan ad the U.S. She has experience working in domestic violence program management, curriculum development, training, and applied research. Togo’s research interests include anti-racist/anti-oppression pedagogy, multicultural education, community organizing, violence against women research in communities of color, and parenting practices among African immigrants and refugees. She spent a little while talking about herself, but then moved on to talk and theorize about the concept of family planning accessibility in Non-Western countries.

Her lecture was mainly about the extended family concept in foreign countries and the concept of placing western ideas on non-western families. I found it very interesting when she spoke about people who restrict their family size to mach or imitate foreign ideals. For example, having a limited number of children is alien to some Africans, where as, some couples try to have a fixed number of children. This plays into the concept of social norms. I have heard over and over again how the perfect family is a husband, wife, and 2 ½ children. I do not know what 2 ½ children represent, probably the perfect size, but obviously that is impossible. Togo showed how these families found it very important to fit to the society norm, especially immigrants trying to feel like they are equal in western civilization. This puts a lot of pressure on the women to keep control of her body and have the right amount of children at the right age and raise them in the appropriate age. This then brings up a whole different subject of contraceptives used off and on by the female to control the exact time they want to have a child. However, many of these things are not offered in foreign, especially third world, countries and come at a price.

Togo did not go into the contraceptive issue much, but I felt that it would have been very interesting and would have helped to get her point of view for our group’s reproductive rights project. My friends and I left the lecture talking about everything she touched on for hours and I am sure I will attend another lecture that would appear to be as interesting as this one turned out to be.