Family Planning

{Photo credit: LMS Haiti/MSH}Photo credit: LMS Haiti/MSH

Today, as we celebrate International Youth Day and the theme of “Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward,” we are reminded of difficult situations millions of young people experience every day—and of the power young people have to create change in their lives when they connect with their peers.

Adolescents and young men and women need access to quality, affordable reproductive health services. In the developing world, 52 million never-married women, aged 15-24, are sexually active and in need of reproductive health and HIV prevention services and information. Yet, adolescent girls often face greater barriers than adult women in accessing them. In the sub-Saharan Africa region, only 21 percent of married adolescents are using a modern contraceptive method; and the adolescent birth rate in the region is four times the rate in Europe and Central Asia. In the Latin America region, teenagers have doubled their proportion of the fertility rate from 8.5 percent in 1955 to 14.3 percent in 2005, despite a steady decline in overall fertility numbers.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

My family’s story exemplifies how access to reproductive health and family planning in a low-income country can have tremendous economic and life-transforming impact for young people and a whole generation—beyond the reduction in fertility and improvements in health.

My parents got married in the 60s, at a time when Profamilia, The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) affiliate in Colombia, was pioneering the country’s path through successful demographic transition. My father, the youngest child of a family of nine, and my mother, the oldest of seven, never went to college. Instead, they worked through their teen years, struggling to help their families.

My mother (influenced by distant women relatives who were educated) had made up her mind to give her children the education she never had. She convinced my father (in spite of the macho, progenitive culture) that the only way to pursue their dreams was to secure a way out of poverty through hard work—and a small family. Sure enough, I, their oldest child, was the first one in the 70-plus extended family to graduate from college and medical school. My two sisters continue to benefit from the education they received.

Overcoming Barriers to Health Care for Women in Afghanistan.Overcoming Barriers to Health Care for Women in Afghanistan.

World Health Worker Week (" href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23WHWW&src=hash" target="_blank">) is April 8-12, 2013. Let's show the world just how much . Watch and share the video, thank a health worker, and donate $10 in honor of a health worker. 

"We realized that educating the community was something we had to focus on," says Madina, a trained Afghan midwife, as she describes involving elders and religious leaders in helping to improve access to family planning and perinatal care for women in Khost province, including one woman who came to the health facility suffering complications from a home birth.

Health workers save lives. What will you do to thank a health worker?

Celia Tusiime Kakande. {Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.

For most of my life, women in Uganda---as in most countries---were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives. Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers. However, in 1986 the ruling government radically changed the dynamics of Ugandan women in global development and their participation in decision-making at all levels of government. This International Women’s Day we, in Uganda, are celebrating this transformation with a theme of “connecting girls, inspiring futures,” and wishing women around the world similar progress and success.

Women Lead: Government

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. The introduction of universal primary education has allowed more girls to begin their schooling, and affirmative action at the university level has provided more women the opportunity to realize their dreams for fulfilling professional careers.

Celia Tusiime Kakande. {Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.

For most of my life, women in Uganda---as in most countries---were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives. Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers. However, in 1986 the ruling government radically changed the dynamics of Ugandan women in global development and their participation in decision-making at all levels of government. This International Women’s Day we, in Uganda, are celebrating this transformation with a theme of “connecting girls, inspiring futures,” and wishing women around the world similar progress and success.

Women Lead: Government

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. The introduction of universal primary education has allowed more girls to begin their schooling, and affirmative action at the university level has provided more women the opportunity to realize their dreams for fulfilling professional careers.

MSH: Saving lives and improving health in 2013.{Image credit: MSH.}Image credit: MSH.

We have seen some remarkable gains in global health in 2012. Yet millions of women, children, and men still die from preventable causes. As we pause and reflect on 2012 and look ahead to the new year, I invite you to read and share some of our favorite blog posts from the year.

A community-based distribution agent discusses family planning options with a family in the DRC health zone of Ndekesha. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Cross-posted from Frontline Health Workers Coalition.

Evidence of the need to scale up the number of frontline health workers in developing countries abounds throughout sub-Saharan Africa, as described in a recent post on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition blog by Avril Ogrodnick of Abt Associates. Yet training new health workers is not sufficient, in itself, to sustainably address the crisis: governments must also invest in providing management support to harvest the full value of these trainings.

MSH President Dr Quick introduces Dr Canning. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Global health leaders, advocates, experts and practitioner gathered to increase awareness following this year's London Summit on Family Planning and to seek ways to carry forward the promises made during the event.

Trying to cross through a flooded section of road in South Sudan. {Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.}Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.

“We’re going to try to drive through that?”

After spending nearly two years working in South Sudan, I was on my way with two colleagues to one final meeting. The USAID-funded second phase of the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), ended activities on July 31, 2012, and three of us needed to travel 360 kilometers (220 miles) to a results dissemination meeting. A flight booking mishap meant we had no choice but to drive --- during rainy season.

With a key bridge washed out.

And it rained --- down poured --- for over an hour the morning we left.

After passing several toppled trucks, overtaking pickups irrevocably mired in mud, and crossing through a river, we came across the point where I uttered the above quote (“We’re going to try to drive through that?”).

Today, at 12:30 pm, Management Sciences for Health, John Snow, Inc. (JSI), Pathfinder International, Ibis Reproductive Health, and the Women and Health Initiative of the Harvard School of Public Health, are hosting a post-election luncheon event: The London Summit on Family Planning: Where Do We Go from Here?

Follow the discussion on Twitter with and .

The event includes:
12:00 pm Boxed Lunches and Networking
12:30 pm Welcome and Introduction of Keynote Speaker

  • Joel Lamstein, President, John Snow, Inc.
  • Dr. Jonathan Quick, President and CEO, Management Sciences for Health

12:40 pm Keynote Presentation

  • David Canning, PhD, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health

12:50 pm Panel Discussion

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