Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

A Mother Speaks: Why Women Should Have Access to Family Planning

April 11, 2012

I firmly believe that women the world over should possess the power of choice about their own lives. It is every woman’s right to be able to make choices about her own body, although I know this is not the case everywhere and in every situation. Cultures are different. Women’s empowerment lags in some areas of the world. Sometimes women’s voices are stifled and silent, yet it remains imperative to fight for women’s right to choose especially when it comes to family planning.

Last Thursday I attended TedxChange in Berlin and was moved by Melinda Gates’ personal commitment to ensure that women in developing nations have access to contraceptives when they want and need them. In fact, in a question and answer session before TEDxChange began Melinda Gates told those of us in the blogger lounge that she is dedicating the next thirty years to this important cause.

As a mother who chose to have two children spaced two years apart I am grateful  to have had the right to choose how many children I ultimately wanted to birth and even more grateful that my husband backed me in the choice I made for myself and my body. Women everywhere, especially in developing countries, should have this same right, but sadly this is not the case.

For example, as Melinda Gates mentioned in her TEDxChange talk, only 10 percent of Nigerian women use contraceptives and only 2 percent in Chad. What is even more telling is every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth and about 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life, according to Gates.

 
As a mother who chose to have two children spaced two years apart I am grateful to have had the right to choose how many children I ultimately wanted to birth and even more grateful that my husband backed me in the choice I made for myself and my body.

In years to come women in developing countries will gradually gain greater access to contraception when they want it. Making contraceptives widely available won’t be an easy task, but based upon Melinda Gates’ personal commitment to this goal, it is certainly doable. Countries where contraceptive rates are low will have to be approached on an individualized basis as countries vary greatly from one to another. Men, religious leaders, and women will all have to become a part of the conversation if women are to gain increased access to reliable and available contraception. Additionally, new technologies, such as injected contraceptives that last for extended periods, must last even longer so women who live in developing nations, particularly in rural areas, can wait longer periods of time before being re-injected with new contraceptives.

As a woman and mother who firmly supports this effort it is important to spread the word about the lack of contraceptive access for women in developing nations and how critical it is to help destigmatize family planning.

Family planning simply allows a woman to have a choice about how often she would like to have children. It is important to note that in many developing countries delivering a baby can lead to maternal death making family planning even more critical to saving women’s lives as well as their babies.

To raise your voice in support of family planning visit How Have Contraceptives Changed Your Life, an interactive storytelling community about contraceptives in the lives of people around the world.

 
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