Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The X Factor: Why Investing In Family Planning Can Yield The Greatest Impact

July 12, 2013

This post was originally published at Forbeswoman, a blog of Forbes.com. 

There are certain moments in our lives when the dots connect, the numbers add up, and things just make sense. Last month in Malaysia, I experienced the dots connecting from all over the world when I was among world leaders, policymakers, and advocates — including Melinda Gates, Chelsea Clinton, Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, First Lady of Zambia, and Princess Mary of Denmark, to name just a few — at Women Deliver 2013, the largest meeting of the decade to accelerate progress for women and girls.

Investments in family planning offer immense opportunities for women, and the numbers speak for themselves. Last year, EngenderHealth, the global women’s health organization that I lead, helped 5 million women around the world access family planning services. In just one year, our family planning efforts prevented 2,000 maternal deaths, 650,000 unintended pregnancies, and 100,000 unsafe abortions. Research shows that for every dollar governments invest in family planning, up to $6 can be saved in other development areas, such as poverty reduction, education, or disaster preparedness projects. These economic indicators reinforce the life-changing impact family planning has for women and their families and further solidify the simple fact that family planning is a sound investment.

Access to family planning was life-changing for 19-year-old Amala, who was barely a teenager when she married. I met Amala on my visit to Jharkhand, a region of India where 63% of adolescent girls are married before they reach the age of 18. Amala told me about the mounting pressure she faced from her in-laws to have children right away, but Amala wanted to be able to complete school before starting her family.

Amala said that the dots connected for her when she visited a local health clinic supported by our Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health program. While there, she met with a doctor and left the clinic with a family planning method of her choice. When Amala received access to quality health care and had the power to make informed decisions about childbearing, her future changed: She can now finish school, enjoy greater prosperity, and have healthier children when she is ready.

When the dots connect, what appears is a clear picture of a healthy and thriving Amala. We have the chance to help more women just like Amala who need our support. It is up to us to decide how and when. I can think of no greater return on an investment than family planning. What will your investment yield?

 
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