Category Archives: Family Planning

Our First Knowledge Partner: IDEAS From the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


I am excited to announce our very first knowledge partner, IDEAS, a program launched in the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Over the course of our partnership we will share a great deal from IDEAS’ research in Ethiopia, India, and Nigera about maternal and newborn health.

IDEAS (Informed Decisions for Actions) aims to improve the health and survival of mothers and babies through generating evidence to inform policy and practice. Working in Ethiopia, North-Eastern Nigeria and the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, IDEAS uses measurement, learning and evaluation to find out what works, why and how in maternal and newborn health programmes.

Follow IDEAS’ blog at http://ideas.lshtm.ac.uk/blog

Follow IDEAS on Twitter at @LSHTM_IDEAS.

Photo Copyrights:
Mother with children in Ethiopia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Visiting a rural village in Uttar Pradesh: Dr Bilal Avan, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The Importance of Family Planning, an Issue Brought to Light at TEDxChange

Yesterday scores of people around the world took part in the live streamed TEDxChange event that was held in Berlin as well as the robust online conversation that took place throughout. I was fortunate to be invited by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be in Berlin to cover the talks. It was a remarkable evening, to be sure. Several talks were given last night, but one in particular, struck a chord with me and so many others. It was Melinda Gates’ talk about the importance of family planning and access to contraception for women in developing countries.

Why is this important?

More than 200 million women in developing countries who want to use contraceptives don’t have access to it according to the United Nations Population Fund and Guttmacher Institute.

Family planning and access to contraception reduces the amount of maternal and child deaths. In fact, according to Melinda Gates’ talk “every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth and about 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life.”

Per the United Nations Population Fund, the use of contraception can significantly decrease the 75 million unintended pregnancies and 20 million unsafe abortions that occur every year worldwide. Unintended pregnancies lead to more than one in three maternal deaths and one in four infant deaths worldwide according to the Guttmacher Institute.

That is a lot of data, but it’s data worth knowing.

Giving birth in developing countries is a critical issue. Delivering a baby for millions of women around the world is literally a life and death situation. Most women in developing nations don’t have the money to deliver their babies in hospitals and when those who do have enough money for hospital care the hospitals typically have little supplies and knowledge to deal with life-threatening conditions like hemorrhaging. Imagine if a woman delivers a baby, barely survives hemorrhaging, and then four months later is pregnant again. This scenario for women happens all of the time and can be a death sentence to them or their baby.

One of Melinda Gates’ contentions is that throughout her travels around the world women everywhere want more access to contraception but oftentimes it is not available when they need it. Gates is up to the task of providing contraception to women who need it and is looking toward new technologies that can make access to contraceptives even more available.  New technologies might mean one can get the injection every five months instead of every three, for example. In a question and answer session with the media before TEDxChange Melinda Gates mentioned she is dedicating the next 30 years of her life to this issue to ensure that women who want contraception have access to it.

Gates, however, does not harbor unrealistic expectations that providing contraception the world over will be a cake walk. In fact, in speaking with Gary Darmstadt, the Director of Family Health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we learned that some men in various cultures feel they can control women more who are not using contraceptives. That means in order to provide more contraceptive choice and options for women families and communities must all take part and make change – that includes men, religious leaders, and women working in tandem.

Gates also understands that some will hear “family planning” and immediately shut off. Some shut off because they believe family planning is a controversial issue, when this is really an issue about women and their children living or dying. The Gates Foundation and TED have created a community site that allows women to share their stories about contraception to help erase the notion that family planning and contraception is controversial. Visit How Have Contraceptives Changed Your Life? or nocontroversy.tedxchange.org to take part.

Heading to Berlin for TedxChange

I am happy to say that tomorrow I will be in Berlin to attend and cover TedXChange where some of the world’s brightest people will posit theories and solutions as answers to global pressing issues.

Watch TEDxChange live on Facebook on Thursday, April 5 at 8:30am PST/11:30am EST/5:30 CET.

This year’s theme is The Big Picture, where the speakers will apply new, bold ideas and perspectives to discuss the world’s most pressing social issues such as:

  • Why, as a global society, should we continue to invest in overseas development?
  • How can we work across borders and political boundaries to bring about positive change?
  • And what returns can we expect on our investments?

Speakers Include:

Melinda Gates: Melinda Gates serves as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She helps set the overall direction of the foundation, shaping strategies, reviewing results, and advocating for the foundation’s issues. Melinda will discuss family planning and how the power to plan changes the lives of women and their families and improves whole societies.

Jeff Chapin: Jeff Chapin is a mechanical engineer and product designer for IDEO. He specializes in designing sanitation solutions for the developing world and has conducted projects in both Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Jeff will challenge traditional perceptions of ‘design’ by emphasizing the importance of sustainable, market-based systems for developing societies.

Sven Giegold: Sven Giegold is a Member of the European Parliament and one of the founding members of Attac Germany. Sven has dedicated much of his career towards green industry issues. He will talk about the power of collective action and how the actions of individuals, communities, and progressive business can lead to critical changes at a national and international level.

Theo Sowa: Theo Sowa is an independent advisor and consultant, specializing in international social development with a particular emphasis on children’s rights and protection issues, especially in conflict situations. She is currently the Interim CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund, a pan African women’s grant making organization. Born in Ghana, she has lived and worked in many countries in Africa, as well as the UK, Europe, and the USA. Her work includes advisory roles to African and other international women and children’s rights activists and leaders, plus policy development and advocacy with a variety of international agencies and organizations.

Baaba Maal: Baaba Maal is a Senegalese singer and guitarist born in Podor, on the Senegal River. Baaba sings primarily in Pulaar and is the foremost promoter of the traditions of the Pulaar-speaking peoples. He has released several albums. In July 2003, Baaba was made a UNDP Youth Emissary. In March 2012 he visited Mauritania with Oxfam to call attention to the humanitarian need resulting from the food crisis in the Sahel. Also an Ambassador for Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign, he has become an increasingly vocal champion for the rights of women and girls.

I will live blog and tweet (from @socialgoodmoms) the event. I will also be posting on the Mom Bloggers for Social Good Facebook page.

*Speaker bios attributed to Ted.com.

New Solutions to Global Problems: Watch TEDxChange Live – April 5

Next Thursday, April 5, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and TED will partner to host their annual TEDxChange event, this year in Berlin, Germany. TEDxChange is a partnership between TED and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring forth new ideas to tackle global problems.

[When to Watch]: Watch TEDxChange live on Facebook on Thursday, April 5 at 8:30am PST/11:30am EST/5:30 CET.

This year’s theme is The Big Picture, where the speakers will apply new, bold ideas and perspectives to discuss the world’s most pressing social issues such as:

  • Why, as a global society, should we continue to invest in overseas development?
  • How can we work across borders and political boundaries to bring about positive change?
  • And what returns can we expect on our investments?

They will explore issues ranging from family planning and contraception to the environment to human-centered design.

Melinda Gates will speak about family planning and how the power to plan allows mothers and their babies to lead healthier lives. In fact, spacing pregnancies reduces maternal mortality and keeps children healthy and alive.

Be sure to join TEDxChange live on Facebookon Thursday, April 5 at 8:30am PST/11:30am EST/5:30 CET.