Monday, September 17, 2012

Maintaining Family Planning Momentum

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

Remember this little shindig in July?

Yes! The London Summit on Family Planning! It was a great opportunity to put family planning back on the world’s agenda where it belongs and make some real promises. In fact, global leaders vowed to provide 120 million of the world’s poorest women the ability to plan their families by 2020. Nice!

Of course, anytime you have a big, fancy summit like this one, it’s possible that everyone will come together, have great discussions, reach agreements, shake hands, fly home, and get sidetracked. An event Monday at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars focused on maintaining the momentum.

A huge crowd turned out – two overflow rooms were required to hold everyone. Momentum! Karen Hardee, a senior fellow at Futures Group, led the discussion. Here are a few highlights:
  • Win Brown, senior program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said there is much agreement that family planning programs must offer quality services, promote equity, protect human rights, integrate well with other health care and be completely voluntary. He said experts are working on how to ensure that the $2.6 billion committed during the Summit has the greatest possible impact.
  • Julia Bunting of the UK’s Department for International Development said that while the $2.6 billion in commitments is a huge amount, money isn’t enough. Access and delivery of contraceptive knowledge and supplies are still issues. Bunting said one of the biggest accomplishments of the Summit was to put family planning back on the world’s front burner.
  • Scott Radloff, director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health for USAID, cautioned that results won’t be instantaneous – it typically takes 20 years for countries to move from low-use to high-use of family planning. Radloff said, however, that real progress can be made in areas of Africa and South Asia, where family planning investments have long been neglected.
  • Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver and co-founder of Family Care International, was thrilled by the increased attention to family planning that the London Summit provided. “Girls and women have suffered from this neglect – if women can’t plan their fertility, they can’t plan their lives,” she said. “We can’t let the opposition control the argument.”
Amen to that!

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