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Improving Family Planning For Women Must Involve Human Rights Approach

Noting that one year ago governments and donors pledged $2.6 billion for family planning efforts in developing countries at the London Global Family Planning Summit, Gauri van Gulik, a researcher and advocate for Europe and Central Asia in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch, writes in The Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” “Human Rights Watch, together with many other organizations including Amnesty International and the Center for Reproductive Health, raised concerns that the summit did too little to address the rights of women and girls.” She continues, “Our work has shown that when health initiatives are not based on women’s human rights, they don’t deliver,” and she notes “two ways failure to address this properly undermines efforts to improve family planning.”

“First, some governments deny women the right to decide how many children they have,” and “[s]econd, governments deny women and girls the right to decide whom they marry and when,” van Gulik writes. “There are many more obstacles to family planning: women suffer discrimination in health care, violence at home, poor quality care, and abuses by health workers,” she writes, concluding, “Throwing money at family planning services is not enough. If governments ignore underlying human rights violations it will be counterproductive, leaving the most vulnerable women and girls without the choices available to women like me” (7/8).