Post-London: Putting Words into Action on Family Planning

Jul 15th, 2012 | By | Category: Family Planning, Reproductive Rights/Women's Rights

Rwandan President Kagame at London Summit (photo:

At last week’s London Summit on Family Planning, a high-level gathering hosted by the Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, donors pledged to provide $2.6 billion over the next eight years to help the world’s poorest women gain access to contraceptives.  It has been called a “breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” with more than 20 developing countries making commitments to increase spending on family planning.

It is impressive and encouraging, to say the least, that this meeting brought money and attention back to an issue that urgently needs more support.   The facts speak for themselves:

Ministers from developing countries also made commitments to improve family planning programs, including India, which pledged to have universal access to family planning by 2020 and Malawi, which will raise the minimum age of marriage to age 18.

Now the real work begins.  Post summit, next steps include ensuring that donors follow through on financial commitments and that family planning services get to the 120 million women targeted by this effort and who want it, and doing this with a rights-based approach.

Most importantly, providing access to contraceptives must be voluntary and based on choice, and all forms of contraception must be proven safe and reliable and be provided by trained professionals.  Above all, the world needs to listen to the voices of women and their families who want family planning services and not lose sight of the ultimate goal of empowering and  improving women’s lives.

Many organizations, activists and policy-makers have been following the work in the lead-up to the London meeting and will be continuing to keep a close eye on what transpires over the next eight years.

In the meantime, for those who work on women’s empowerment issues and reproductive rights, and really for anyone interested in bettering the world, it is exciting to have support from both developed and developing countries. When women’s lives are improved, we all win.

Here is a brief round-up of what was said in support of women’s rights and family planning from some top government officials around the world.

Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State:

Reproductive rights are among the most basic of human rights. But too often, in too many places, these rights are denied. Millions of women and young people in developing countries don’t have access to information to plan their family. They don’t have health services and modern methods of contraception. This is not only a violation of their right to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children, it’s also a question of equity as women everywhere should have the same ability to determine this fundamental part of their lives.

Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda:

As leaders, we must rededicate ourselves to women’s and reproductive health. Women do not only give life – they are the backbone of the economies in the developing world. The issue of population in Africa must be put in proper context and discussed accurately without complacency, exaggeration or panic.

David Cameron, UK Prime Minister:

Women should be able to decide freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they have. It is absolutely fundamental to any hope to tackling poverty in our world. 

Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development:

Alongside critical investments in education and economic opportunity for women and girls, voluntary family planning paves the way for peaceful, more prosperous communities. Ultimately, we know that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and girls enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential.

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda:

This collaboration is important because it seeks to meet the needs of the society, that in this case is the market…citizens, therefore, should set the pace and direction of family planning. Rwanda considers the ability to properly manage one’s own family size as a basic right. 

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City:

Making affordable contraceptive information, services, and supplies available to an additional 120 million women and girls by 2020 will save 200,000 lives that would have been lost to pregnancy or childbirth.

Now is the time to put these words into action and support women and men in making informed and voluntary choices in what family planning services works best for them.

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