Family planning conference: investing in womens’ rights key for development

27 January 2016
Women at work in Nepal

By Danai Majaha

Family planning is not only about the rights of women and girls to make their own choices about having children and looking after their reproductive health, it's also key to global development.  

This was the underlying message during the official opening of the fourth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), currently taking place in Indonesia (25-28 January). In his opening speech, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on world leaders to ensure that the correct policies were implemented and resources invested, to promote safer pregnancies and childbirths.

“In order to sustain economic growth, investments in family planning are absolutely necessary," he said. "I want to invite all global leaders to take real action to bring about healthy mothers, healthy children and healthy and prosperous families – because only by doing this, can we make planet earth a better place to live.”

Family planning, HIV linkages and the future

When it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights, it is not just family planning which is vital to ensure healthy and productive communities. HIV remains a huge public health priority, with AIDS being the leading cause of adolescent deaths in Africa, and the second leading cause worldwide.

Last year, UNAIDS adopted an ambitious strategy to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. To reach this target in 15 years, one of the goals requires governments and development partners to work towards empowering women and young girls to have control over their own sexual and reproductive health and rights.

This includes reducing risks associated with young women and girls, such as forced and early marriages, as well as integrating sexual and reproductive health services with HIV services.

This can make services more accessible, particularly in marginalised communities and allows a more people-centred approach to health service delivery, by looking at the diversity of needs. It can help increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy pregnancy and childbirth, and especially for those living with HIV, to prevent transmitting the virus to their babies.

Choice for women and girls

President Widodo said that global discussions, such as those happening at the conference, should build a future where women and girls have negotiating power over family planning.

“I wish that at this ICFP, we can discuss the main foundations necessary to build the planet that we want [by 2030],” says Widodo, “A [future] that ensures all women and girls are empowered to choose whether and when they want to have children and space their births, so that mothers and their babies have a better opportunities for better lives.”

More than 220 million women worldwide do not have access to modern contraceptive methods. Addressing this need would result in fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth, and fewer infant deaths.

The conference was first launched in 2009 and is held every two years to help address these issues. It now also provides an important opportunity to help shape and influence the role and contributions of family planning in attaining the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Also, important in this is the FP2020 Commitment to Action, which is a global campaign that supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have, and aims to reach a further 120 million women by 2020. This will be a key milestone in reaching SDG 3 and SDG 5, to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights.

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said good family planning should result in positive contributions by women towards the global commitments.

"Family planning is about women's rights and their capacity to take decisions about their health and wellbeing contributing to the objectives of FP2020,” said Osotimehin. “It is a most significant investment to promote human capital development, combat poverty and harness a demographic dividend thus contributing to equitable and sustainable economic development within the context of the SDGs."

Danai Majaha lives in Zimbabwe and is a member of Key Correspondents, a citizen journalism network reporting for action on HIV. The network is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Photo credit:
Possible /CC BY