#familyplanning

{Photo by Warren Zelman.}Photo by Warren Zelman.

This post also appeared on Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists Blog and on Frontline Health Workers Coalition's website.

In a week and a half, as a team of our colleagues arrive in Ethiopia for this year’s International Conference on Family Planning, others will already be in Brazil for the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health. This year’s HRH Forum addresses universal health coverage (UHC), a concept which continues to gain momentum as the focus of global health efforts from institutions like the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s symbolic that these two meetings are happening half a world apart: as movements around family planning, health workforce and UHC have advanced, there has been too little dialogue and collaboration across these communities.

{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.

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