Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

What Fuels My Impatient Optimism: The Courage of Women and Girls

May 28, 2013

A lot of people ask me why I call myself an impatient optimist.

I’m optimistic because of the courage I see in women around the world who are fighting for a better life for themselves and their families.

And I’m impatient because every single second is precious when our work is making sure all women can achieve their dreams.

For this reason I am in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2013 Women Deliver conference this week. Thousands of advocates are here, talking about how we all work together to unlock the amazing potential of women and girls. While I am here, I look forward to the stories about brave women and girls. Since the London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012, I’ve heard from so many about one particular issue—how contraceptives have changed their lives. I’d love to share a few that have particularly moved me.

I hope that these stories inspire you too and that you’ll join me and raise your voice for women and girls.

 Yune was 20 when she got married and she became pregnant with her first child almost straight away. After the birth, she confided in a neighbour that she didn’t want to have another child too soon. But she wasn’t sure what she could do. Her neighbour told her about the family planning services she could access at the centre in her compound. On her first visit to the centre Yune was welcomed by Prudence, the care provider who runs the clinic five days a week. She was counselled on a range of family planning methods and decided upon the injection: “I chose the injection because it lasts for three months. You can’t forget to take it like you can with the pill.” When asked what she’d do if care wasn’t here, she laughed: “it would be the end of the world”.Yune from Zambia (as told to Charlie Shoemaker)

 I come from India. Women, especially from the backward classes of society have no say in regard to marriage, sex, and birth control. Sex education is non-existent, awareness among women regarding contraception is minimal, and the choice to use it is for a very few. I'm 22, unmarried, and the only reason I know about contraception is because I'm on my way to becoming a healthcare worker. I feel empowered because I know that the choice of having children will be in my hands when I get married. I wish all the women in India (and the world) would be able to plan on having children the same way. The sheer amount of unplanned pregnancies we see in our clinics and the complications arising from them are simply horrifying. And when something like contraception exists to tackle this problem, we should do whatever we can to spread the message, spread awareness and make contraception readily available to every woman desirous of using it.Anonymous, India

 Contraceptives gave me the possibility to have two wonderful sons when both my partner and I were ready for them. We feel more able to take care of them now, then we were before. I am sure that their lives are better, because of this. Anonymous, Netherlands

  My name is Saru, and I'm a community health volunteer. I wake up at 4am every morning to feed the cattle and begin chores. I have to look after my kids, one son and three daughters, because I can't afford to send them to school. I cannot describe the pain I felt when I lost my son. The pain is unbearable. He simply died of diarrhea without us knowing that we should have given him water. And we didn't have the money to take him to the hospital. He was crying for water when he died. So I thought, I've lost my son, I should do something so my fellow villagers don't go through a trauma like that. So I decided to become a volunteer, to teach about their children's health and family planning. Saru, Nepal

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