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Rights-Based Family Planning: Importance of Increased Access

By: Chastain Fitzgerald; Originally posted by Population Council

Chastain Fitzgerald is the Chief Program and Development Officer of WomanCare Global

This post is part of a monthly blog series profiling viewpoints from leaders in reproductive health who are members of the Bellagio Group on Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. The Bellagio Group is a coalition of experts that convenes annually to discuss practices for expanding contraceptive choice and accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of universal access to reproductive health services. This post represents the views of the author and is not a representation of the Population Council or the Bellagio Group. Please direct any questions to the author at cfitzgerald@womancareglobal.org.

Two weeks ago, I observed a focus group in Lusaka, Zambia, where a moderator from a South African marketing agency spoke with eight young women about their views on contraception. Joined by a local researcher, a program manager, and marketers, I watched the session next door through a live television feed. Our goal was to get a head start on the development of marketing strategies for new contraceptive products—a project funded by USAID. In that small room in the Lusaka office building, we huddled around the television listening to these women’s opinions about different contraceptive options, hoping to understand how they make decisions about which methods to use and how the public health community can better meet their needs. Read more...

 

It’s All Possible: We Have the Solution in Our Hands!

By: Martin E. Wanzala, Uganda

As deliberations on the post-2015 development agenda at the 3rd PMNCH Partners’ Forum here in Johannesburg, South Africa gain momentum, it is a great opportunity for young people to ensure that their voices are heard when and where it matters most.

The post-2015 development discussion is one of the most important debates of our time. The global framework that world leaders agree upon in 2015 will guide all future government policies and spending on social and economic development in both developed and developing countries. Read more...

Studies in Family Planning Publishes Special Issue on Unmet Need

June Issue Explores Challenges in Addressing Unmet Need for Contraception, Featuring Research and Case Studies from Africa, Asia, and Latin America

NEW YORK, NY (16 June 2014) — Studies in Family Planning, a leading journal published by the Population Council, released “Unmet Need for Family Planning”—a special issue featuring ten articles, including a comprehensive introduction to the topic of unmet need. Distinguished researchers explore trends related to unmet need for contraception, and many articles point to practical strategies for increasing contraceptive knowledge and uptake, and for overcoming barriers that prevent women from practicing contraception.

“Unmet need has been an important indicator for measuring the progress of family planning programs for more than 25 years,” said John Bongaarts, vice president and Distinguished Scholar at the Population Council. “This issue features work from some of the leading minds in family planning. It explores trends, identifies issues, and proposes solutions to ensure that sexual and reproductive health programs and policies are structured to meet the changing needs of women and men over the course of their reproductive lives.” Read more...

Sexual Violence, Security and the Role Gender Equality Has to Play in Tackling Rape

By: Tewodros Melesse; Originally posted by Huffington Post

Tewodros Melesse is the Director-General of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)

In late July 2010, a woman brought her 10-year-old daughter, Sakina, into an emergency outreach clinic in Muzaffargarh, South Punjab, Pakistan. Floods had inundated that part of the country, and our Member Association -- the Family Planning Association of Pakistan (Rahnuma-FPAP) -- had deployed using boats and vans.

The girl had fallen, the mother said. But the examination that followed told a very different story. Bleeding from her genitals indicated she had been sexually assaulted. But the mother, terrified of the social stigma that might follow the girl for the rest of her life, was initially unwilling to confide in our clinic staff.

Eventually confidence was established and the real explanation emerged. Sakina immediately received treatment to prevent sexually transmitted infections, HIV and pregnancy, all of which are part of the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP). These are the services that we deploy into emergency situations where a humanitarian response is required. Rahmuna-FPAP psychologists trained in sexual and gender-based violence also provided counselling and support for Sakina. Read more...

Joining Hands to Improve Reproductive Health Outcomes for Youth in Uganda

By: Martin Wanzala, Allied Youth Initiative (Uganda)

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

Growing up on the fringes of Ugandan society, I have witnessed firsthand how HIV/AIDS, early or unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion rob my country of the lives of young men and women. The World Bank indicates that more than three quarters of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30. The health of these young people should be a national priority.

While Uganda has made significant strides in improving sexual and reproductive health (SRH) indicators over the last decade, the status of young people, reflected by those same indicators, remains very poor. For instance, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) rates are four times higher in youth than in the general population. The unmet need for contraception is an unacceptably high 41 percent, while the adolescent pregnancy rate stands at 43 percent. HIV/AIDS is all too common, infecting 8.3 percent of young women and 6.1 percent of young men. The 2013 State of Uganda Population report reveals that of the estimated 297,000 unsafe abortions that occur every year in the country, nearly half of them are among girls and young women ages 15-24. Read more...

Q&A with Katja Iversen About Her Vision for the Future

In this Q&A, Women Deliver’s new CEO Katja Iversen shares her motivations for becoming an advocate for girls’ and women’s health and rights; discusses lessons she has learned in her career; offers advice for emerging advocates; and describes her vision for the future for girls and women around the world.

Q: What first inspired you to become a maternal and reproductive health advocate?

I’m proud to say it was my grandmother. Back in the 1930s she – in her own quiet and behind-the-scenes way – fought fiercely for girls’ and women’s reproductive rights in Denmark, where I am from. At the time, only married women could get access to modern contraceptives.  She and my granddad lived together without being married, and she worked seven days a week to get him through college, so getting pregnant just wasn’t an option. Even when she got married and had kids, she kept up the fight for all women’s reproductive rights – because it was just the right thing to do. Read more...

Ethiopian Government Striving to Promote Family Planning Amidst Challenges

The Ethiopian government has made tremendous progress in increasing access to contraceptives and improving maternal health. Through its innovative Health Extension Program (HEP), community health workers are formally trained and employed as full-time government workers. This investment has helped to serve hard -to-reach areas of the country. Despite strong political will and innovative support through the HEP program, major challenges are still holding back universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa with 90 million people, and this figure is projected to double by 2050 if no interventions are made to address this issue. According to a report by the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, adolescent girls in Ethiopia particularly need access to reproductive health information and services, and interventions that prevent child marriage. Read more...

Traditional Rulers Take Action Against Adolescent Pregnancy in Cameroon

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Numfor Alenwi Munteh, Cameroon Agenda for Sustainable Development (CASD)

There is an African proverb which says, “The piper – not the dancers – determines the rhythm of music.” Similarly, in Cameroon, traditional rulers – not community members – define cultural and traditional practices that influence attitudes and behaviors.

For centuries, cultural practices and beliefs promoted by traditional leaders (“Fons”) in the North West Region (NWR) of Cameroon have led to high rates of adolescent pregnancy. In many Cameroon villages, people believe that if a man or woman dies without a child, they should be buried with a stone as a sign of disgrace. There is also the belief that a newlywed girl must prove her maturity and fertility by giving birth as soon as possible after marriage. These societal pressures make early motherhood a likely outcome for many young women. Read more...

Plan at Hand Empowers Girls in Tanzania

These seed grants were funded by Johnson & Johnson and WomanCare Global via the Women Deliver C Exchange Youth Initiative.

By: Maureen Anyango Oduor, Plan At Hand Girl Empowerment Project (Tanzania)

It all started with three questions: “Why is she left out? What are the key barriers? And, what can be done to effectively change the situation?” The expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls, many of which never return, has continued to widen the gender gap and deprive adolescent girls of the right to education in Tanzania. Issues surrounding sexuality are treated with secrecy and it remains taboo to talk about sex or to be sexually active before marriage. Therefore, teenage pregnancies continue to sky rocket. Pregnant adolescents are viewed as brides, not girls. Alternatives to abstinence are highly inaccessible, as girls need parental consent to access any family planning services. Beyond that, barriers to services include cost, location of the provider, a lack of complete and correct information, and social-cultural barriers, like restrictive norms associated with adolescent girls’ sexuality and provider’s bias. Clearly, there is a dire need for a unique, inclusive, and girl-friendly family planning and reproductive health program in Tanzania, and particularly in Muheza District in Northern Tanzania. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Reaching Some of China’s Most Vulnerable Young People

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Young people around the world often face barriers in accessing comprehensive, age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. That is why PATH and the China Family Planning Association implemented a comprehensive program to meet the needs and improve the health of China’s young people. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Family Planning Messages Provided in Barber Shops and Beauty Salons in Liberia

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Since 2009, Jhpiego and USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) have been working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to increase access to family planning information and services in Liberia. According to the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey, adolescent pregnancy continues to be a major problem, with approximately one-third of Liberian girls having begun childbearing between the ages of 15 and 19. Jhpiego and MCHIP have developed key strategies for increasing awareness and knowledge of family planning by distributing condoms in the community, engaging religious leaders to promote family planning, and integrating family planning with immunization services. Read more...

IPPF Releases Scorecard on World Bank’s Reproductive Health Investments

This week, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) released a scorecard tracking the progress of the World Bank’s reproductive health action plan, which aims to increase people in poverty’s access to critical health services worldwide. Titled “The scorecard revisited: Monitoring and evaluating implementation of the World Bank’s Reproductive Health Action Plan 2010-2015”, the report shows that World Bank investments in reproductive health declined between 2012 and 2013, indicating a risk of a downward trend in reproductive health financing.

The World Bank is currently a key funder of reproductive health projects across the 57 Reproductive Health Action Plan priority countries. Thanks to advocacy work from IPPF and other groups, the Bank has agreed to include contraceptive prevalence rates in the International Development Association (IDA) 17 Results Measuring System, which tracks development progress based on specific indicators. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Access to Contraceptive Implants Increased Nine-Fold in Some African Countries

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Between 2008 and 2012, Marie Stopes International (MSI) provided 1.7 million contraceptive implants in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a Global Health: Science and Practice article published last month. The organization’s success is based on a mix of mobile outreach, social franchising, and clinic-based service provision. Read more...

The Question of Conscientious Objection for Medical Practioners

In a world full of divergent views about religion and morality issues in society, women’s rights to receive family planning and safe abortion services have often been denied on grounds of conflicting views for healthcare providers. The need to find a balance between these two perspectives propelled Global Doctors for Choice (GDC) to fully explore the phenomenon of conscience-based refusal of reproductive healthcare worldwide. Conscientious objection and refusal to provide reproductive healthcare: A White Paper examining prevalence, health consequences, and policy responses draws from comprehensive medical, public health, legal, ethical and social science research from 1998-2013 in six languages to explore how and why reproductive healthcare is denied to patients, and what the health and policy-based aftereffects are. Read more...

It Takes Two to Launch Family Planning Campaign at Third Annual International Women’s Day Concert

5,000 people expected to attend concert to promote girls’ and women’s health and rights

Kampala, Uganda, February 26 – It Takes Two will launch its national youth-focused family planning campaign at Talent Africa’s International Women’s Day concert on March 8. The concert will recognize the importance of women’s health and rights, and feature performances by international and local female artists, including Nyanda, Cindy Sany, Lilian Mbabazi and Irene Ntale among others. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions:  Peer Educator Promoting Cervical Cancer Screening in Mozambique

By: Rehema Namukose, Women Deliver

Cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in developing countries. In 2009, the government of Mozambique launched the first ever national cervical cancer program, offering screening and treatment as part of reproductive health services. With support from USAID, and working closely with Jhpiego and local partners, the program has increased the number of women accessing screening facilities. Nostina Ngomane, a 43-year-old widowed mother of two, is one of the program’s beneficiaries. Persuaded to get screened through a cancer awareness presentation at a church gathering, Ngomane has taken on the role of a peer educator and is now working directly with screening sites supported by USAID’s global Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP). Working to raise awareness, Ngomane reaches out to other women and talks to them about cervical and breast cancer, HIV, and family planning. Read More...

Celebrate Solutions: Improved Health, Flat Bellies, and Nutritious Food

By: Farhana Ali, Catapult; Originally posted on Catapult.org

Gina has three children and although she doesn’t want any more, her husband refuses to pay for contraceptives because he believes there are more important uses for the money. Since Gina doesn’t earn her own income, convincing her husband to change his mind proved futile. That’s when she came across Roots of Health—a nonprofit that works to enhance the lives of girls, women, and their communities in the Philippines, through educational, medical, and nutritional support—that was providing free contraceptives. Gina finally felt in control of her own body. This is just one example of the impact Roots of Health projects have made for girls & women. Read more...

ICEC Releases New Advocacy Brief on Emergency Contraception

Today, the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC) announced the released a new advocacy brief entitled “The Unfinished Agenda: Next Steps to Increase Access to Emergency Contraception". The brief presents a summary of data collected by ICEC and partners on global emergency contraceptive access, including country-level policies and practices, availability across sectors, and awareness of EC among women and providers. Overall, the data suggest that while the past twenty years have seen a dramatic increase in EC availability, access remains limited, especially in developing countries. Read more...

2014 Gates Letter Highlights Women’s Empowerment and Family Planning

The 2014 Annual Letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation effectively highlights common myths about global aid and development, and what areas need to be prioritized to see real progress for the poor and marginalized. In particular, increasing women’s empowerment and their access to contraception are discussed as key interventions that lead to measurable change and a more equitable, sustainable world. Read more...

Celebrate Solutions: Saving Mothers’ Lives with Misoprostol

By: Sara Pellegrom, Women Deliver

Liberia is one of several countries where USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) and Jhpiego have rolled out a new program to distribute misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Liberia was chosen as a recipient country because of its high maternal mortality ratio of 994 deaths per 100,000 live births, high rate of home births, and limited access to health care facilities.

The six-month program, with support from the Liberian government, is designed to support the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in fulfilling its maternal health objectives by building the capacity of health workers to implement the initiative throughout the country. Read more...

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