Singapore’s first family planning campaign



Recognising the importance of family planning to national development, the government organised Singapore’s first national family planning campaign in 1960.1 The campaign aimed to raise public awareness on the need for family planning and the disadvantages of having large unplanned families. It also helped to direct the local populace to reliable sources for advice on family planning.

Background
From 1949, family planning efforts in Singapore were led by a voluntary organisation known as the Singapore Family Planning Association (SFPA).2 With the urgent need to curb population growth, family planning subsequently became an issue of national concern.3

Hence in 1960, the government launched Singapore’s first national family planning campaign, which formed part of the Mass Health Education Programme.4

Description
The three-month long family planning campaign began in November 1960.5 It aimed to educate the public on the disadvantages of having large unplanned families, and advocated the importance of family planning.6 It also helped to direct those in need of family planning advice to sources available at clinics, hospitals and private dispensaries.7


Island-wide publicity
In September 1960, the Ministry of Health organised a design contest for an emblem to be used for the campaign.8 Selected from 23 entries, the winning design by Winson Tan was a circle emblem bearing the fertility sign in the centre flanked by the international biological symbols for male and female. The emblem was featured on all publicity materials for the family planning campaign.9

Significant efforts were made during the campaign to bring the family planning message to the populace. Family planning posters were put up at prominent locations in public areas. Pamphlets, publicity booklets on various aspects of family planning and cartoon picture storybooks were also distributed free-of-charge to the public. Family planning slogans were franked on local mail, and a specially produced 10-minute film was screened at all local cinemas. Media coverage was intensive, with special programmes aired on Radio Singapore and Rediffusion.10

Volunteers
The campaign involved training more than 1,000 volunteers over a three-day course held in November 1960 and conducted in Mandarin or English. The course helped to equip volunteers with family planning knowledge as well as the skills to competently share vital information with members of the public who might have fears and misconceptions about family planning.11 The course comprised talks, films, discussions and question-and-answer sessions.12 Volunteers were also given handbooks to refer to.13 After the course, the volunteers were deployed to community centres to organise programmes and lead discussion groups on family planning.14

As family planning is ultimately a personal matter, volunteers were advised to be tolerant and sympathetic, rather than forceful and antagonistic, when dealing with the public. The role of volunteers was solely to educate members of the public on family planning, leaving the latter to decide on the next course of action based on their sense of familial and civic responsibility.15

Talks and forums
During the campaign, public talks and forums were organised at community centres and factory clubs.16 Mandarin and English talks were also organised for students in Form V and above as part of their biology lessons. Separate sessions were held for male and female students.17 The talks focused on population trends, their impact on the country’s resources, and the health aspects of family planning. Two films were also screened at the talks: Biography of Birth and a film titled In Your Hands. To avoid offending any sensibilities,  there was no mention of birth control techniques.18

Exhibition
The inaugural family planning campaign included an exhibition at Victoria Memorial Hall from 27 November to 6 December 1960.19 The exhibition was officially opened by Che Noor Aishah, wife of then Yang di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak.20

The exhibition focused on the need for family planning, both for the family and for Singapore. The exhibits included displays featuring normal pregnancies as well as the perils of too-frequent births and illegal abortions.21 Exhibits put up by the Social Welfare Department showed the many social evils – including juvenile delinquency and prostitution – that could be traced to overly large families among the poorer segments of the community. There were also diagrams and charts showing annual statistics  of school leavers, and how family planning could serve as a check on rising unemployment.22 At the two booths put up by SFPA, there were illustrations explaining birth control methods as well as photographs showing happy homes that had resulted from proper family planning.23 Contraceptives were sold to thousands of buyers of both sexes and all races.24

A large “barometer” was set up outside the exhibition hall, indicating the number of births occurring daily. The number was also reported on the radio after the evening news so as to urge parents to plan for their children’s arrival in order to provide the best for them.25

The response to the exhibition was overwhelming, with visitorship totalling nearly 100,000 (about 10,000 daily during weekdays and 12,000 on weekends).26 The exhibition was extended by two days due to public requests. Many visitors felt that the exhibition was long overdue as most were unaware of the facts of childbirth. The visitors were predominantly men, and some had apparently encouraged their wives to visit the exhibition as well.27

Impact
The campaign was successful in creating awareness of family planning.28 It also provided a platform for an open discussion on family planning, which was a subject that had been kept largely private till then. In addition, members of the public who had previously been too embarrassed or shy to ask for contraceptive supplies, were keen to purchase them when presented with the opportunity at the exhibition.29

In 1961, display materials of the exhibition held during the campaign were taken to various rural community centres.30 The SFPA also set up another exhibition at Macpherson housing estate that year. In addition, lectures on family planning were held at the Teachers’ Training College, and two forum discussions on the subject were aired on Radio Singapore.31

In the following years, the number of new patients at SFPA’s clinics rose dramatically, and the increased demand for family planning services taxed the association’s limited resources.32 In 1966, the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board was formed.33 It took over SFPA’s responsibilities and also served as Singapore’s national agency for promoting and disseminating information on family planning.34



Author
Irene Lim



References
1. Tambyah, D. (1960, October 26). Wanted: Helpers for family planning drive in kampongs. The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Family Planning Assn. formed. (1949, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 7; Kanagaratnam, K. (1967, January 16). Family planning activities expand. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. ‘Threat to standard of living’. (1960, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Family planning in Singapore. (1966). Singapore: Govt. Printer, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 FAM)
5. Chan, S. B. (1960, November 1). 1,000 volunteers to back big family planning campaign. The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Family planning in Singapore. (1966). Singapore: Govt. Printer, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 FAM)
6. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
7. 1,000 volunteer for campaign. (1960, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Ministry contest for designers. (1960, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. 23 entries for family planning design contest. (1960, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 4; Tan wins family emblem contest. (1960, October 22). The Straits Times, p. 4; 1,000 volunteer for campaign. (1960, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR); 1,000 volunteer for campaign. (1960, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chan, S. B. (1960, October 27). 1,000 to aid family planning. The Singapore Free Press, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
13. Talk on family control. (1960, November 14). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chan, S. B. (1960, October 27). 1,000 to aid family planning. The Singapore Free Press, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Talk on family control. (1960, November 14). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
17. Family planning talks to children. (1960, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 4; 1,000 volunteer for campaign. (1960, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
18. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR; Chew, L. K. (1960, November 7). Birth: Pupils to hear. The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
20. 7-day family control show. (1960, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
22. 7-day family control show. (1960, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR); 7-day family control show. (1960, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
25. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
26. Family planning in Singapore. (1966). Singapore: Govt. Printer, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 FAM); Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
27. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
28. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1962). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 7. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
29. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1961). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 24–29. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
30. Family planning exhibitions will be held at centres. (1960, December 29). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Talk on family control. (1960, November 14). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1962). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 33 (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
31. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1962). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 33 (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
32. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1962). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 15, 34–37 (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR)
33. Family planning in Singapore. (1966). Singapore: Govt. Printer, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 FAM)
34. Family Planning Association of Singapore. (1966). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 FPASAR); Family planning in Singapore. (1966). Singapore: Govt. Printer, p. 33. (Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 FAM)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Health and medicine>>Healthy living>>Birth control
Family planning--Singapore
Geography>>Population>>Demographic Trends
Demographics
Family planning services--Singapore
Politics and Government
Family Planning Campaign, Singapore, 1960-1986