In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, editor Amie Newman, a communications officer at the foundation, notes that in 2007, “Kenya enacted a new constitution which … declares reproductive health care the right of all citizens,” and writes, “Kenya’s climb towards broad contraceptive coverage, and with that the hope for increased empowerment for women and girls and an improved economic situation for all, seems steep but scalable.” She discusses ongoing efforts in the country, highlights the upcoming London Family Planning Summit, and concludes, “Despite a new constitution, there’s a lot that needs to be done to meet the goal” (6/25).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“I find [a new report (.pdf) released Tuesday by Save the Children] particularly interesting because it broadens the debate” over family planning by discussing not only the logistics of providing modern contraceptives to women in need, but “the young women, sometimes no more than children themselves, who risk their lives and those of their babies if they become pregnant inside or outside of marriage,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health Blog.” She notes that the report says complications from pregnancy are the leading killer of women ages 15 to 19 and infants born to women under 20 are at a much greater risk of dying before their first birthday than those born to older women. Boseley writes, “The low status of girls and their power to make decisions over their own bodies is fundamental,” and family planning and education can help empower women.
UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin on Tuesday told the Associated Press that the world should focus more on family planning issues, stating that “‘family planning seems to have fallen off the radar’ in the past two decades — a victim of politics, funding shortages and focus on other priorities such as fighting AIDS,” the news service reports. According to the AP, he said “that 220 million women lack adequate information about family planning or a regular supply of contraceptives,” and he “hopes a July 11 summit in London organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government will increase attention to the need for better family planning in poor countries” (6/26).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Megan Averill and Tricia Petruney, senior technical officers with FHI 360’s Global Health, Population and Nutrition Group, and Ward Cates, president emeritus at FHI 360, discuss the “domino effect” of family planning. “We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies,” they write, and highlight a number of benefits they say stem from this relationship. They conclude, “Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes” (6/18).
No Definitive Link Between Hormonal Contraceptives And Increased Link Of HIV Infection Among Women, CDC Says
“There is no clear link between the use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shots and an increased risk that a woman will contract HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday,” Reuters reports, noting that the WHO came to the same conclusion in February. Following a review of recent studies suggesting women taking hormonal contraceptives might be at an increased risk of HIV infection, “the Atlanta-based CDC said, ‘the evidence does not suggest’ a link between oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and increased HIV risk,” the news agency writes. CDC officials said though the evidence for injectable contraceptives is inconclusive, they too are safe, according to Reuters. “Women at risk for HIV infection or who already have the virus ‘can continue to use all hormonal contraceptive methods without restriction,’ the CDC said,” the news agency writes. However, “the CDC also said it was ‘strongly’ encouraging the use of condoms as a precaution against the virus that causes AIDS,” Reuters notes (Beasley, 6/21).
Women Discuss Intersection Of Sustainability, Environment And Empowerment, Reproductive Health At Rio+20 Side Event
In this post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Vicky Markham, founding director of the Center for Environment and Population (CEP), summarizes a Rio+20 side event that took place on Thursday, titled “Rio+20 and Women’s Lives: A Cross-General Dialogue.” The event, co-organized by Climate Wise Women, CEP, and Columbia University’s Coalition for Sustainable Development, “featured six outstanding global women activists of different generations (from Uganda, Nigeria, Cook Islands, Mississippi/U.S., Philippines, and Brazil) who shared their colorful personal narratives to help us understand the cross-cutting impacts of climate change and other environmental issues on their lives” and “discussed the importance of women’s empowerment and reproductive health, and new, innovative connections among women of all ages for practical implementation of the Rio+20 outcome and beyond,” she writes (6/21).
The Guardian reports on a “major summit” to be held in London on July 11, which “aims to provide access to family planning to 120 million women at an estimated cost of $4 billion.” According to the newspaper, the summit “is being organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government’s department for international development (DFID),” and “[b]etween 20 and 25 countries are scheduled to attend, including the U.S., India, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.”
In this post on RH Reality Check, Marianne Mollmann, senior policy adviser with Amnesty International, addresses an upcoming summit in London on family planning funding, which is being co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. Department for International Development and supported by USAID and UNFPA. She says that poverty and “women’s ability to exercise her human rights, including the rights to quality health care, non-discrimination in education and health, and economic empowerment through job creation and protections for equality in the workplace,” are important drivers of maternal health and need to be addressed by governments (6/21).
“Since Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948, it has been wracked by armed conflicts and fragile ceasefires with civilians and ethnic rebels,” and “[t]he health of Myanmar’s women has been one of the biggest casualties,” GlobalPost reports. Though recent news coverage has focused on political reform in the nation, “little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care,” the news service states. The “military junta that ruled the country for a half century spent very little on health care,” little international aid has come into the country, and “the government restricts where and how aid organizations can operate, blocking the delivery of medical services,” the news service writes, adding, “The result has been a health care system that in conflict areas, does not exist, and in large cities, is too expensive for ordinary people, according to experts inside Myanmar and on the Thai border.”
U.S. Secretary Of State Clinton Defends Women's Reproductive Rights At Conclusion Of Rio+20 Conference
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “took a stand for women’s reproductive rights during the Rio+20 United Nations conference on Friday, saying ‘women must be empowered to make decisions on whether and when to have children’ if the world is to attain agreed-upon sustainable development goals,” the Associated Press/ABC News reports. Clinton “spoke during the conference’s last day, applauding the final document’s endorsement of women’s sexual and reproductive health but making it clear that she objected to the omission of specific language on reproductive rights,” the news service writes. “‘While I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights,’ Clinton said,” according to the AP (Barbassa, 6/22).