This unprecedented effort to fund family planning worldwide could be a major milestone in global health, development and women’s rights. But we need to make sure this new funding and political commitment is followed by swift action—and change felt on the ground.
We need to recognise that this Family Planning Summit is just a first step, and that it is crucial that we use the energy of the summit to drive us forward. We have to maintain momentum, and we have to do that by moving fast.
The answer is not to promote contraception in order to reduce unsafe abortion, as the FP Summit did. The answer is to promote contraception to reduce unwanted pregnancy and provide safe abortion to every woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy.
For those of us trying to discern whether the rights of women will truly be at the center of this Family Planning Initiative, as promised by DFID and the Gates Foundation in response to our months of advocacy, there were moments of disquiet.
Melinda Gates anointed herself as the new saviour of women’s and children’s health, and the press ate it up in both pictures and words. A truly Hollywood event, except this is not entertainment. This is women’s lives.
At the family planning summit in London, I waited to hear leaders of different countries recognise the centrality of women’s human rights, their sexual and reproductive rights. But disappointingly, although a few notable references were made to these issues by some leaders, women’s human rights were not appropriately addressed.
All I had to do was take a pill every day, I was told, and hey presto, I didn’t have to worry about getting pregnant if I didn’t want to, and it worked! But oh, if only it had all turned out to be that easy.
I recently had the privilege of talking with women across Guinea and the messages I heard over and over again were these: I want to live a healthy life… to earn a living… to educate my children.
This week’s summit is a crucial opportunity to re-invigorate international efforts to provide millions of women with access to the contraception they so desperately need. Yet increasing the availability of contraception is just one aspect of ensuring reproductive health, and cannot be seen in isolation.
The London Summit aims to meet the contraceptive needs of 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries. This moment is about women and girls who deserve the opportunity to “have it all,” if you will. I believe we have all the consensus we need on that front.