“Improving family planning to avoid unwanted pregnancies in developing countries, as well as assuring girls’ access to education, and women’s participation in the economy, are essential components of a sound development policy, according to Western experts and African activists,” Inter Press Service reports. The news service highlights last week’s summit on family planning in London, writing that it “underscored the importance of girls’ and women’s access to contraceptives as both a right and a transformational health and development priority.” IPS adds, “Simultaneously, gender activists attending the second African Women’s Economic Summit, which concluded on July 14 in Lagos, Nigeria, urged policymakers, corporate organizations, and political leaders to step up measures to promote women’s empowerment and remove barriers impeding their economic development.”
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
“In the build-up to the London Summit on Family Planning, there have been a lot of opinions expressed on blogs, in mainstream media coverage, in peer-reviewed journals, and even exchanges on the streets and at the water cooler,” Gary Darmstadt, head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Health Division, writes in this post in the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “And it has been great to see the conversations happening, even with the criticisms and resistance that we have sometimes felt from both conservative and liberal sides of the issue while preparing for the Summit,” he continues. He adds, “I look forward to the exciting times to come as the Summit has concluded, commitments have been made, and now we put the conversations that have been building up for the last few months into action to bring contraceptives to 120 million new users in the next eight years” (7/16).
Gates Foundation's Efforts To Improve Access To Contraceptives Will Improve Health, Lives Of Women, Children
“Supporters of women’s health ought to cheer the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s plan” to provide $1 billion over eight years to increasing women’s access to contraceptives and family planning services because the “effort underscores the critical role of family planning in the international battle to reduce poverty and improve maternal health,” a Seattle Times editorial states. While “Catholic leaders” and “social conservatives” might not agree with the effort, “Bill and Melinda Gates are not looking for a political or religious fight over women’s rights; they’re looking to add their resources to efforts to improve the lives and health of women and children,” according to the editorial.
“High levels of unmet need for contraception around the world have a very negative impact on women’s and children’s health and survival as well as on the prosperity of communities and nations,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “If these women had access to dependable voluntary contraception, unintended pregnancies would fall by more than 70 percent, 100,000 fewer women would die in childbirth, and nearly 600,000 fewer newborns would die each year,” she continues, adding, “If every woman had the option to leave a two-year gap between a birth and a subsequent pregnancy, deaths of children under five would fall by 13 percent.”
In this post on the Council of Foreign Relations’ “Asia Unbound” blog, Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the council, argues that China should abandon its so-called “one-child policy,” writing, “Despite the relaxation of the [law], China is increasingly suffering the consequences of a draconian policy that was put in place in the early 1980s.” Noting several reasons why the country should drop the law, including that it has “become a constant source of friction in China’s relations with the Western world” and is “undermining China’s international competitiveness,” Huang states, “Despite the huge social and international cost, it seems to be extremely difficult for the government to abandon the notorious policy” (7/12).
“The time may finally be near for the Chinese government to back away from one of its most famous — and controversial — laws,” the so-called “one-child policy,” GlobalPost reports. Noting several formal statements recently issued by well-known Chinese scholars and businessmen, the news service writes, “After more than three decades, the problems with the policy are glaringly evident. While the government credits the one-child policy with aiding economic growth, demographers and economists say it is now one of China’s greatest threats.” According to GlobalPost, the law has limited China’s future labor force and created a large gender gap, with men outnumbering women, among other issues, and “[w]hile Chinese authorities realize the severity of the problem, efforts to unwind it have been piecemeal.” The news service continues, “In a delicate time of power transition, nothing is likely to happen until the next leadership assumes office — a long process that will begin next year. For now, the government seems to be holding steady” (Carlson, 7/12).
The Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog on Thursday published two posts addressing family planning funding. In one, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at CGD, examines “what organization will actually allocate and spend these additional resources” pledged at the recent London Summit on Family Planning. After examining alternatives, she proposes a “combination” approach that includes USAID, UNFPA, the World Bank, and other international non-governmental organizations playing roles (7/12). In another post, Glassman and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant at CGD, examine what the money will go toward. They write, “A greater supply of contraception may help, but empirical studies show that conditional cash transfers or scholarships to encourage school continuation or return may be even more effective, both at lowering fertility rates and increasing women’s empowerment” (7/12).
The London Summit on Family Planning took place Wednesday, also recognized as World Population Day. The goal of the summit was to raise money to improve access to family planning services to prevent maternal and child mortality. The following summaries describe opinion pieces that address these issues.
On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, July 11, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-hosted the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of blog posts addressing the summit.
“Voluntary family planning services will reach an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by 2020 thanks to a new set of commitments announced [at the London Summit on Family Planning on Wednesday] by more than 150 leaders from donor and developing countries, international agencies, civil society, foundations and the private sector,” a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation press release reports (7/11). Donors “pledged $2.6 billion over the next eight years at [the summit], in what was described as a breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” the Guardian writes, adding, “More than 20 developing countries made commitments to boost spending on family planning and to strengthen women’s rights to ease their access to contraception” (Tran, 7/11). Speaking at the summit, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, announced the foundation “will spend more than $1 billion over the next eight years to increase access to contraceptives in the developing world and research new methods of birth control” and “outlined several of the initiatives [the foundation] will focus on in the coming years, including efforts to bring down the cost of birth control so that it will be within reach of the world’s poorest women,” the Seattle Times notes (Doughton, 7/11).