Over the last six months, as an intern at Pathfinder International, I’ve learned a lot about the field of reproductive health. One of the most shocking aspects has been just how many women lack access to contraception (200 million to be exact).
This issue was brought to life recently by a new video called Empty Handed: Responding to the Demand for Contraceptives. Produced by Population Action International and filmed in Uganda, it tells the story of the millions of women around the world who want, but lack access to contraceptives.
Chronicling the delivery process of contraceptives to health clinics, the film intends to expose some of its short comings that cause the delays that result in supply shortages. Some people, like Dr. Moses Muwonge, the former Ministry of Healthy Supplies Coordinator, believe that these delays happen because the government does not view the delivery of contraceptives as a priority.
“In one day, Coca Cola can transport the Coca Cola products and people drink in the villages. Why don’t we reach in one day for a woman to access contraceptives?” Dr. Muwonge says in the film.
His quote reminded me of a story one of my colleagues shared about her recent Pathfinder trip to Tanzania. She told us how during her excursion to a particularly rural area, Shinyanga, there seemed to be an endless stream of Coca Cola delivery trucks passing them on the bumpy dirt road. While everyone can get a bottle of soda relatively easily, getting health care, let alone contraceptives, is a major challenge.
The problems portrayed in Empty Handed are not exclusive to Uganda or even to Africa. Contraception shortages occur around the world and can be caused not only by the absence of government involvement but also by inadequate funding and a lack of information.
Empty Handed includes a call to action stating that “everyone has a role to play in improving access to reproductive health supplies.” Population Action International then provides a list of ways that everyone from private foundations, to the government, to the general public can make a difference in these women’s lives and end the contraceptive supply shortage.
After watching this film I am more motivated than ever to do what I can to ensure women have access to contraceptives—and glad that my last six months at Pathfinder have contributed to that, even if it was only in the smallest way. No one should have to suffer like these women do. No one should be denied the ability to control their own life.