A True Mother's Day Gift: Melinda Gates and Evidence Based Research to Raise the Profile of Family Planning
By Alex Ezeh, APHRC Executive Director, with Teresa Saliku and Jessica Brinton
Melinda Gates, the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s, recent announcement that family planning is now her ‘signature issue,’ and that she wants family planning and women’s health back on the global development agenda, may have been the best Mother’s Day gift ever to millions of women around the globe.
Finally women have a formidable champion for these crucial issues and not a moment too soon (read the Newsweek interview here). As Gates mentioned in the interview, today tens of thousands of women still die each year in childbirth following unintended pregnancies, while countless women (publicly and privately) are asking for the right to family planning and reproductive health options. In fact a new international report on maternal mortality released this week stated that more than 215 million women lack access to modern contraceptives.
Simply put, women want the ability to take care of their families, put their kids through school and ensure their own health safety. APHRC’s Population Dynamics and Reproductive Health (PDRH) team has long recognized that access to contraceptives and family planning is an important part in helping women accomplish these goals. APHRC has worked to provide stakeholders with fact-based evidence on contraceptive use and family planning that provides them with the information they need to make funding and public policy decisions. Below are few research highlights from APHRC on these critical issues:
Contraceptives and Family Planning Research Highlights:
- One recent study done in 2009-2010 collected data from a total of 1962 randomly selected women aged 15-49 years in four slum and non-slum communities of Korogocho, Viwandani, Jericho and Harambee in Nairobi. The preliminary results of the study showed that among the 1,889 women who reported not to be pregnant, contraceptive use was high (71%); however, use of modern contraceptives was still low at 38%.
- Another preliminary finding was that injectables and pills were the most common modern contraceptive methods used. While these can be effective methods, there is still urgent need to broaden the range of modern contraceptive methods that are available to Kenyan women. The study also attested to the fact that the occurrence of unintended pregnancy tended to be a motivation for contraceptive uptake among the women. However, given the gravity of the concerns related to unintended pregnancies, there is need to improve mass awareness and use of contraceptives as key to early prevention of unintended pregnancy among all women of reproductive age (see APHRC Policy brief No.26, 2011).
- APHRC is also working to increase access to and use of modern contraceptives among women ages 15-49 in rural districts of western parts of Kenya, through the Packard Foundation-funded project on Community-Based Contraceptive Distribution , which is a three-year demonstration initiative in Siaya and Busia counties. Through a mix of activities, the project promotes and encourages couples to have smaller families for self-reliance and prosperity, captured in the project tagline ‘jamiindogojimudu’ (small family for self-reliance). If you are interested in learning more about the Western Kenya project you should read the full blog on the project by APHRC’s Paul Kuria here.
Melinda Gates’ announcement is good news for population and reproductive health advocates around the world and even better news for the women who will gain access to contraceptives as a result. We should celebrate Melinda Gates’ commitment to family planning and reproductive health access for women, but if this effort is to be successful we will need to harness evidence based research, information campaigns and public appeal to make the funding line up and the political will a reality.