World leaders, activists, faith-based organisations, and the public and private sectors came together to support the right of women and girls to decide for themselves when and how many children to have. The goal? To give 120 million more girls and women in developing countries access to contraceptives.
The Foundation reports that there are more than 220 million girls and women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant but do not have access to modern contraceptives. As a result, girls as young as 11 get pregnant. Their bodies are not mature enough to survive the pregnancy. Many die. Some are disfigured. Without contraceptives and the ability to control their lives, those that survive go on to have more children. Sometimes within months. We heard from one girl (she was 17) who said she was one of 10 children. More mouths to feed never rang more true.
If we supply these girls and women with contraceptives (and surrounding education) it can lead to:
- Fewer deaths in in women and newborn babies;
- More girls completing their education, thus leading to more opportunities;
- Healthier families and communities;
- Reduced demand on social sector budgets.
Sounds like a no-branier, right? It’s not.
“Family planning” often gets mired in religious and cultural issues. My own mother in California, when I told her I was attending this summit, went silent on the phone. She told me family planning/contraceptives were not her favourite subject (she is a devout Catholic/Christian). I pointed out that girls in third world countries as young as her granddaughter were often forced into marriage, resulting in pregnancy, and that many died because their fragile bodies were not ready. Why should these young girls suffer? I asked. I could hear the church in her voice in return. They should practice natural methods. Erm, OK. What else can you say to your mother? *Head in hands*
This is why I applaud Melinda Gates and the UK Government for taking the lead in this project. You can only imagine the long road they have traveled to get family planning on the world agenda. And what a result. In terms of financial commitments, The London Summit on Family Planning resulted in $2.6B more in funding.
After a long, draining day (you can see the live blog here), I asked the Gates Foundation what BritMums could do to help the cause. Keep the conversation going, they said. Don’t let it die.
And so the last words from Melinda ring true (and women always get the last word).
We have talked the talk. Now we need to walk the walk.
What you can do next:
Visit the London Summit on Family Planning site to find out more
Take the #NoControvery pledge, invite your friends and share your story