Tag Archives: family planning

Thorough Reads Leading Up to the Family Planning Summit

Next week the UK government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UNFPA and their partners will host the the London Summit on Family Planning.  As Melinda Gates mentioned in April she is personally committed to putting family planning on the global agenda. This summit will bring together strategic partners, donors, NGOs, civil society and developing countries to pledge to also put family planning on the global agenda and devise a plan to provide contraceptives to an additional 120 million women around the world by the year 2020.

Leading up to the summit there have been several thorough articles that explain why family planning is important to saving women and children and contributing to an overall better life for women who have choices over when they want to have children.

What’s Sex Got to Do With It: An inconvenient truth is hiding behind the current excitement about educating girls

Imagine a World Where Every Woman is Equal

London Family Planning: Not Business As Usual

Family Planning: Reaching for the Summit

Be sure to follow the #FPSummit hashtag to follow the discussion.

Photo UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

A Woman’s Right to Basic Family Planning and Why It is Important

There is a worldwide problem facing women: the lack of access to and education about family planning. What makes this issue so compelling and absolutely important to me as a mother is  access to contraceptives in developing countries will save the lives of mothers and babies. Period. I cannot imagine not being able to choose when I want to have a baby when I am the one who has to deliver her. Family planning is every woman’s right.

Family planning can save the lives of over 100,000 women each year who would be able to space their pregnancies in healthier intervals. Additionally, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) analysis found that if all birth-to-pregnancy intervals were increased to 3 years, 1.6 million under-5 deaths could be prevented annually (1). And according to UNFPA, 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid/ plan pregnancies (2). Even more importantly, according to Save the Children family planning can drastically save the lives of teenage girls between the ages of 15 – 19. Pregnancy is the number one killer of teenage girls in the world who live in developing countries according to Save the Children’s new report (3).


On July 11, 2012 the world will take note of the pivotal issue of family planning on World Population Day alongside the London Family Planning Summit hosted by the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The summit will call for greater country commitments to family planning as well as resources to provide family planning access to 120 million women worldwide.

1. Healthy Timing and Spacing in Pregnancies: A Family Planning Investment Strategy for Accelerating the Pace of Improvements in Child Survival

2. UNFPA – World Population Day 2012

3. Every Woman’s Right: How Family Planning Saves Children’s Lives

Photo: United Nations

Why Family Planning Is Uncontroversial

Women everywhere deserve the right to make choices about their own bodies. If a woman here in the United States wants to space her children two years apart, a woman in Ghana or India or anywhere in the world for that matter inherently deserves that right as well.

In developing nations women typically have babies back to back to back. This leads to elevated maternal and child mortality rates. As a mom of two daughters who are nearly three years apart I know how hard it is to ramp your body and mind up to birth babies. It is not easy!

Some women in developing countries find themselves in the dire predicament of birthing a baby and immediately expecting again. This situation can be deadly especially in countries where the maternal mortality rate is quite high due to lack of access to health workers and  hospitals and the sheer cost of having one’s baby in a hospital setting.

Yesterday Dr. Gary Darmstadt, Director of Family Health at the Gates Foundation and Wendy Prosser, research analyst with the Family Health division at the Gates Foundation, laid out why family planning saves lives. And last week Dr. Catharine McKaig of MCHIP’s integrated family planning program discussed how women in west Africa demand access to contraception.

If women – no matter where they live — want family planning access they should have it. That is what Melinda Gates intends to provide.

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.

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.