Dhanvanthi Rama Rau & the Fourth International Conference on Planned Parenthood

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
May 6, 2011, 8:57 a.m. (view history)

Rama Rau is a major player in the IPPF.  Need context for quotes.

MS wrote: “We were all set up on the platform, Dr Blacker the Dutch, Germans, Lady Rama Rau & I, when Mrs Ottensen Jensen thanked the delegates etc all officially correct-- ... All stood up & applauded Lady R. R. took up the lead & thanked Dr Blacker” (8/?/1953)

“Lady Rama Rau D- Blacker arrived also Dr Stone--“ (8/15/1953)

Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, "The Family Planning Work of India," speech on Aug. 20, 1953. Edited version.

[10] Rama Rau gives a talk on the work going on in India and the present conditions there. She thinks that by looking at the progress made in India in recent years they can "gauge what the possibilities are for other Asian countries."

Notes the past work done in India, that Karve "made many sacrifices in his own way, so that he could try to help as many women as he could to plan their families. He kept no records, he didn't even take the names and addresses of the women whom he tried to serve in order to save them any possible embarrassment. Hence there are no records of the work he undertook." After Sanger's visit, India "definitely began to talk, first in whispers, then louder, about family planning as part of the programme that the women's organizations should undertake. Before the last war broke out, a number of clinics in India were opened privately by voluntary workers." Says that during the war they were dependent on foreign imports for contraceptives and without devices "the work automatically fell to the ground."

[11]Talks about the creation of the FPA after war in Bombay. Felt that their tactic would be to establish contraceptive services in the big cities and "if possible, take it right out into the villages of the country." Says with help from friends on the Municipal Corporation, there are now 18 clinics in Bombay, run by the Municipality.  Notes work of Mrs. Vellodi who organized Hyderabad, where there are 6 clinics now. They also put together a propaganda and education campaign of lectures, films, and talks especially in the poorer areas. In Bombay they had to carry this on in three different languages.

In 1951 they tested their strength across the country by organizing the first All-India Family Planning conference; [12] right around that time they got a cable from Margaret Sanger asking them if they would hold the international conference in India. They agreed, with the caveat that they were not sure that they could supply a large audience. Then they held their All-India meeting and instead of the expected 150-200 they had 750 in attendance, with 110 registering as delegates. 

After the meeting they lobbied the government and the Planning Commission set up Health committees that they invited the FPA India to attend. After the meetings the Government made family planning a priority, promised that the government would support them, and set aside 1.3 million dollars (65 lakhs of Rupees) [13] to establish services in maternity hospitals and clinics.

Col. R. N. Khosla retired from Indian Medical Service, opened a number of clinics in the Punjab through the Red Cross. Others opened in the United Provinces, also with Red Cross support. They all wanted to affiliate with the FPA India in order to consolidate and coordinate their work. They used their increased clout to lobby officials in other areas, leading to 12-15 municipalities that use municipal funds for bc service, mentions Poona, Hyderabad, Surat, Sholapur, and Madras.

The impact of the 3ICPP was vast, created a resource valued by the Govt. [14] and helped it to think of family planning as an important part of its work. Aside from that, the FPA India still runs its clinic in India, offering bc, marriage counseling, and psychological effects of using contraceptives; also has trained 200 doctors.  "We have discovered that there is a general awakening in the country to the need for contraception, but it is impossible for these women to leave their homes, their cooking, their domestic chores, and to travel all the way to our clinic." They have a doctor visit the various sections of the city, "establish herself there for a day and give advice and contraceptives to the women in these areas." They are still working out the practice. Opened a birth control reading room where people that can't afford the books can read them. [15]Also started Planned Parenthood a four-page bulleting updating the work in India, which helps to "encourage those who are in isolated areas and who do not know what is happening in the rest of the world."

Says that they have succeeded in creating a widespread awakening on BC. Currently they are only tackling the cities, "We cannot at the present moment reach out into the villages. The villages have no communication. It takes a very strong person, and people perhaps much younger than myself, who would be able to tramp for miles or go by bus or by bullock cart into the villages to reach the people there. Conditions in the villages are very different also. There is no privacy; there are no lavatories; they use the fields. You cannot use contraceptives under those conditions, at least not the contraceptives that today are in use and which we are recommending in our clinics."

Population of India is 360 Million, once you see that, you realize that they need to work on research on easier contraceptive methods, ones that do not need doctors or nurses; as long as that is a requirement, it will be a long time before those conditions can be met in India. ["I would like you to stimulate your research workers to discover something simple and effective that can be utilized in these Asian countries." Says that in the long run "this great problem of overpopulation in the East is as much your problem as it is our problem."

Rama Rau also presided over the session on World Population Trends, held 8/17/1953, where Karl Evang and S. Chandrasekhar, spoke.

  She made it back to Bombay on 12/28/1953 and was immersed in office work, hence the delay in responding.  Reports on the 2nd meeting of the Government of India Committee on Family Planning Programmes and Research which did not adopt a scheme to send a mission to India because they thought it was premature and might incite anti-American feelings (America is giving military aid to Pakistan). She was disappointed in the decision and managed to convince them to keep the issue open for later discussion.

 Reports on the list of names that were sent proceedings of the 3ICPP, they have not gotten any money yet for the reports, she is sorry to bother MS, but she’d be grateful if MS would remind people of their dues.  “We received a checue for $4,250 (dollars four thousand two hundred fifty) from the Planned Parenthood Federation office, which is the amount of the Doris Duke Foundation contribution to the Regional Office which we are setting up in Bombay from the 1st March 1954.  I am sorry that 15% of the money was deducted by the Federation.  I wrote Mr. Vogt pleading that the full amount should be sent to us, especially as the work involved in the Federation office was merely the receiving of the cheque from the Doris Duke Foundation and the signing of the cheque to passing the money on to us.  I have just heard from him in reply to say: ‘I am afraid there is nothing further I can do about the 15% since this is a policy of the PPFA as determined by the Board.’  This has been a great blow to us, as we had just drawn up a plan of work for a year which involved the whole of the $5,000/-.  I wonder if you could help us to get the decision of the Board changed and persuade them to send us the remaining $750 so that we can carry on our work free from financial worry.”

Mentions that she wrote to Koya with a complete statement of accounts from the 3ICPP, and the report of the proceedings; Happy to hear Fisher will be treasurer for the IPPF North American Region, would like to know how they are organizing it and if there is a constitution, let them have a copy so they can use it as a model for their own work.

She is sorry MS can’t make Rome, if the IPPF ExCom meeting is to be held there she will “make a serious effort to get there.” If she can’t she thinks Blacker should be delegated to speak for both of them.  “I shall never forget my visit to Tucson--the warmth and friendship I had in your home town--and the lovely party in your beautiful home.  Whenever I am very tired, I sit back and transfer myself to those happy scenes again and believe me, they are still capable of refreshing me.”

Still wants to have a strong Indian presence at the Stockholm meeting. "I have managed to get a a donation of Rs. 5,000/- for one delegate and as the subjects, 'World Population Trends' and 'Food and other Resources in relation to World Population' figures so largely in the Programme, my own feeling is that we should invite Dr. S. Chandrasekhar of the Baroda University to attend the Conference. If only we could have two more passages paid, we could include in our delegation perhaps Dr. Gore who will be taking up work with us shortly, and a representative of the Research work that is done in India."

Will contact Houghton about her ideas on the draft constitution.