This week, Melinda Gates announced that family planning will be one of her top priorities this year and into the future. This was met with cheers and excitement by more than 2,500 people at the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal.
As a leader in international philanthropy, when Melinda Gates speaks, people listen. And this couldn’t be a more critical time. International family planning has proven to be a great investment, with strong successes like the newly announced doubling in contraceptive use in Ethiopia. Yet, family planning remains under-funded and under constant threat by potential budget cuts in the United States– one of the largest international family planning donors.
Funding family planning should not be controversial. Not only is it a basic human right, it is one of the best preventative health interventions, leading to healthier women, children and communities. It also has incredible social impact. When women are able to make decisions about when and how many children to have, their lives are transformed. As Melinda said, “I see solid proof that family planning is top of mind when I visit women in India, or Kenya, or Malawi. They care a lot about their children. More than anything in the world, they strive to be able to feed them and educate them. And they tell me over and over again that planning their family is the best way to achieve their goals.”
This week’s inspiring conference, filled with international leaders, in combination with Melinda’s rousing support, makes me hopeful that we can move family planning forward. Melinda said, “We have momentum now, and it is time for our community to push harder. Governments should provide all women with access to family planning tools that are safe and effective and that meet the needs of all women.”¯
We know what it takes to reach women the world over. That was clear by the thousands of health professionals who presented innovative strategies this week in Dakar. Now we just need more commitments like Melinda’s by governments and other international funders. Together, we can ensure we meet the needs of all women who want, but lack access to family planning.
Via video, she said, “over the past several years, I have learned that small investments in family planning pay huge dividends for women, their families, and whole nations. Looking ahead, I plan to spend a great deal of my time advocating for the 215 million women who don’t want to have a child, but can’t access modern contraceptives.”
See the exciting conversations from the International Conference on Family Planning by following #ICFP2011.