More than 200 million women around the world don’t have access to contraceptives and every two minutes a woman dies from pregnancy-related complications. These are the issues the world leaders are discussing at the London Family Planning Summit today, co-hosted by the UK government and Melinda Gates Foundation. Representatives of more than 20 countries are attending the summit. The British government expected to pledge to donate £ 1, 000, 000, 000 to the family planning services in the developing world hoping to half the number of women in the need of contraception by 2012. Rose Davis is the chief executive at Women and Children First UK charity. She attended the summit and explains the main issues discussed by the participants.
The summit is addressing a number of issues, firstly increasing access to family planning services on top of the agenda this morning. There will be a husband accession on integrating family planning services with children’s health service and HIV aid services. There’s been discussion on how to ensure that everyone has access to family planning services, especially young people who often find it difficult to get the right kind of information of services that they need. There’s also been accession on the role of public private partnerships which basically is looking at what public sector, pharmaceutical companies in particular, but others also, - what they can do to improve access to family planning. Then of course as you would expect a lot of focus on donor commitments, what are the major donors already doing and what more they can do.
David Cameron is due to appear at the summit later this afternoon. He made a statement in the House of Commons today about the commitment of the government to increase women’s access to contraception.
We should be doing more to allow mother’s access to birth control so that they can plan their family size. All the evidence shows that when the country is developed, family size does reduce and population becomes more sustainable. But we should help people plan that process. It’s not about telling people what to do. It’s about allowing people the choice that in this country we take for granted.
Although increasing financial support is an important step in giving more women access to contraception, the cultural barriers in some countries might be harder to overcome. In certain cultures women require a written consent from their husbands before they could talk to a doctor about contraception. And family planning services are not accessible to teen-aged girls or unmarried women. Rose Davis says that many taboos and prejudices could be influenced by direct discussions with the local communities.
In Malawi we’ve worked very closely with the traditional authorities. They’re kinds of big cheeses in charge of many villages in the area. And we worked with them to raise their awareness about the value of the maternal health, not just for the women themselves but for communities as a whole. And that’s incredible how much once they understand the issues better - they are able to reflect on the traditional taboos which prevent women accessing family planning and other productive health services. And they then get very enthusiastic. The key to the community leaders can really make a difference.
The summit that is being held in London today is the first major summit addressing family planning on the global level since 1994. Rosa Davis believes that the main goal of the summit is not only to come up with resolutions, but also to bring family planning to the public attention around the world.
This summit now is really a response to family planning having lost profile reflecting the desire amongst many to really bring it back on the top of the agenda and highlight that it’s not about controlling population, it’s not about forcing people to do something they don’t want to do, but to enable people, particularly women to have the children that they want and when they want to have them. And also to be able to be really healthy doing pregnancy and child birth, effective family planning which would reduce maternal mortality by 13%. It’s really very effective.
The summit is becoming the trending topic on Twitter and social media today getting the attention of various organizations and people from all walks of life. The summit has already fulfilled one of its main goals – raise global awareness in women’s health.