Friday, June 22, 2012

Melinda Gates: Family Planning Advocate

By Alice Taylor, Population Connection Intern
NOTE: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is co-hosting an international family planning summit in London on July 11, World Population Day.
Whenever I’m in the mood to have my mind simultaneously expanded and blown, I turn to TED Talks.  For people unfamiliar with the premise, they are videos of speeches delivered at annual conferences centered on the basic theme of “ideas worth spreading.” Ranging from humorous to heartbreaking, they tackle key issues that impact our world today. 

Melinda Gates talks about family planning. (Gates Foundation)
It is unsurprising, then, that a recent talk focused on the undeniable importance of putting family planning back on the global agenda. In a 25-minute speech, Melinda Gates makes a strong argument for why access to contraceptives -- an issue that has increasingly polarized politicians -- should, at its core, be noncontroversial. It is, in her words, about “giving women a power to save their lives, save their children’s lives, and give their family the best possible future.”

She offers some sobering statistics to underscore her life-saving argument for contraceptives, namely that, out of women experiencing unintended pregnancies, every year:  
  • 100,000 die in childbirth.
  • Another 600,000 have their baby die within its first month of life.
And yet, she emphasizes that the discussion of family planning is about more than the statistics. It’s about impacting change on the individual level. Impacting change for people like Marianne, a Kenyan woman who explained her desire for contraceptives by stating that, “I want to bring every good thing to this child before I have another.”

And that simple sentiment, borne out of a mother’s love, should not be controversial.

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