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Lack Of Family Planning, Barriers To Reproductive Rights Hindering Development Progress

“Lack of family planning, along with other barriers to sexual and reproductive rights and health, remain obstacles to progress on several key development indicators,” Mushtaque Chowdhury, vice chair and adviser to the founder and chair of BRAC, writes in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog. He highlights Bangladesh as an example of a country that successfully lowered its fertility rate, falling “to near replacement level, ‘one of the steepest declines in history,’ according to The Economist.” Noting his involvement in those efforts through the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, he writes, “By increasing demand and expanding access to family planning methods, we helped raise Bangladesh’s rate of contraceptive prevalence from 12.7 percent in 1980 to 61.2 percent in 2011.” Chowdhury continues, “Skeptics will say that cultural resistance to contraception remains a hurdle, yet Bangladesh faced many of the same circumstances.”

“Replicating [Bangladesh’s] success is obviously more complicated than transplanting the same programs to African countries,” Chowdhury states. He highlights “some of the more data-driven approaches [that] are already seeing progress in Africa,” and writes, “To advance the family planning agenda, development organizations should develop their own dual-pronged approaches to empowering girls and women — socially as well as financially.” He adds, “We need to provide access to knowledge and the means to control fertility, along with economic resources that help bolster the social status of females within the home,” concluding, “If we do this, I’m confident we can build the support mechanisms necessary to allow African women to bring about their own reproductive revolution” (8/6).