By Peter Orengo
Nairobi, Kenya: Global leaders have analysed the progress and announced new commitments toward expanding contraceptive access for women in developing countries. The leaders also outlined plans for sustaining this momentum in the years to come.
This was announced at the Women Deliver 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia last week. The conference resolutions were built on commitments arrived at during the landmark July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where global leaders pledged more than Sh221 billion to provide 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries with voluntary access to contraceptive services, information and supplies by 2020.
Speakers at Women Deliver 2013 discussed strategies to reach women and girls in developing countries who do not want to become pregnant, but lack access to contraceptives.
“Putting women at the centre of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity and quality of life,” said Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“When women have access to contraceptives they’re healthier, their children are healthier, and their families thrive,” she said.
In Kenya, the unmet need for contraception use is high mostly due to misinformation. The 2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found that 25 per cent of married women have an unmet need for family planning — that is they would like to space their children or stop having children but are not using any form of contraception.
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Dr Shahnaz Sharif, Kenya’s director of public health, says cultural and religious beliefs at times have hampered wide uptake of contraceptives.
“We are trying to be diplomatic about this to have everybody on board. The introduction of sex education in schools to target adolescent girls has, for instance, been very controversial,” he said recently in an interview.
“Experience has shown that we can make an impact on women’s access to reproductive health if we rally the necessary political will and financial commitments,” said the United Nations Population Fund Executive Director and Family Planning 2020 co-chair, Babatunde Osotimehin at the Malaysia conference.
“Expanding access to contraceptives is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to save lives and ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations.”
He said continued advocacy would be needed to ensure that governments sustain and increase their commitments to family planning and to girls’ and women’s health and rights more broadly.
In addition to a high-level plenary on innovative advocacy strategies, Global Poverty Project (GPP) CEO and Co-Founder Hugh Evans announced the new advocacy campaign, It Takes Two, led by GPP in partnership with Women Deliver.