Family planning saves lives. A simple fact, but one that often gets missed when discussing an issue that divides opinion like no other in international development. Navigating a path through the various sensitivities is a challenge - particularly for an organization whose raison d’etre, at first glance, may seem at odds with the aims of family planning.
But we know that when women are able to plan their pregnancies and leave a healthy space between their children it benefits mother and baby. The mother is able to recover between births and her baby is likely to be better nourished, healthier and more able to survive infancy. Better birth spacing holds the key to preventing around 1.8 million deaths each year.
We also know that pregnancy and childbirth is the number one killer of adolescent girls in the developing world and that around a million babies born to these young mothers die every year. In this case, a lack of access to family planning all too often results in the death of two children – one infant and one mother who is still a child herself.
We’ve come a long way in improving the number of children who survive to their fifth birthday and in reducing maternal mortality. In order to sustain and accelerate progress towards the millennium development goals - and beyond – global efforts must include increasing access to family planning. This means providing women with reliable access to a variety of modern family planning methods along with trained health workers to provide the advice and expert care needed.
But that is only half the story. In order for women and girls to be able to decide freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they want to have they must be empowered to use contraception. As the title of our report states, family planning is Every Woman’sRight, but for many girls and women, discussing contraception is a taboo - and using it even more so. Education is key to empowerment and having the right policies and practices in place at a national level is also vital to can protect women and ensure them an equal status in society.
When it comes to family planning, with so many elephants in the room all stamping loudly, it can be difficult to tell a straightforward story. But increasing access to family planning is about more than just a lifestyle choice – children’s lives depend on it.
Advocacy Adviser – Child Survival