Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

How Have Contraceptives Changed Your Life? And Other Amazing #TEDxChange Topics!

April 05, 2012

Did you join the #TEDxChange conversation via livestream today? Passion, excitement and frustration about, and solutions to, some of the world's biggest problems were discussed. Melinda Gates took on access to family planning for some of the world's poorest women - in developing countries around the world - and we want you to join her (and us!).

How? Check out "How Have Contraceptives Changed Your Life?", share your story, read others, tweet it out and encourage everyone you know to speak out and stand up for what Melinda Gates called an issue of "no controversy" - contraception. 

And if you missed the rest of the amazing speakers, here's a short run down (and the video from today's program will be available later today - we'll post it when it is):

Jeff Chapin, head of the incredible ("Let's Design A Better World for Everyone") started things off by talking about how design can help solve issues like hunger and poverty. Don't think design - from industrial design to graphic design -  is a lofty enough tactic to conquer these immense challenges? Working in tandem with non-profit organizations, people who struggle with hunger and poverty everyday, and foundations, is not just imagining how what they call "human-centered design" can help change the world - they are doing it. As Jeff Chapin said in his talk, "Eight out of ten Cambodians practice open defecation. Many also don't wash their hands. This is a public health disaster..." So what is IDEO doing to remedy this? You need to see it to get the "big picture."

Then the incomparable Theo Sowa, head of the African Women's Development Fund, took the stage. Starting off with a strength impossible to deny, Sowa asks why African women's voices missing from the global conversations about poverty, hunger, war, peace, family planning and more? She poignantly puts forth the caveat that because African women are portrayed as victims most of the time, they are not then included at the table when talking about solutions to these global problems.

Theo Sowa was also clear that while the success and visibility of women like Ellen Sirleaf Johnson and Leymah Gbowee is only a good thing, they are two of "maybe 6 African women" who are regularly asked to contribute to these conversations, "The issue for African women is that if we have to wait for every African woman to wait until she's given a Nobel Peace Prize before she's given a seat at the table, we'll be waiting a long time."

She stood on stage, then, consciously introducing us to four women - though, of course, there are millions more on the continent - doing amazing things we should know more about. From Felicia, who started a maternal health related foundation to honor her economist-daughter, who died during childbirth, and now has influenced Ghana's (her home country) medical service by putting together maternal heatlh tools, distributing information on family planning and spacing childbirth, to Giselle who has helped the women of her country who work on small farms, in Cameroon, pull out of poverty and build wealth through simple but effective methods.

Theo  told the audience, right before they gave her a standing ovation, "If we want to change the world, we must bring African women to the table, listen to their voices, and include them - not marginalize them!"

Melinda Gates took the stage then to come out stronger than she ever has on behalf of access to contraception for women around the world - especially women in the poorest parts of the world, in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Starting the discussion by connecting women around the world with each other - because no matter where we live we all want the ability to plan for our families and "do every good thing" for the children we have. But, of course, while that desire is universal, access to family planning tools isn't.

Using the example of women who live in sub-Saharan African countries, Melinda noted that injectable contraceptives are popular because "they can hide it from their husbands" who often want a lot of children. But every time a woman in Senegal, for example, goes to get the injection it's out of stock. An astounding 150 days out of the year, it's not available. So a Senegalese women may walk for miles and miles, sometimes leave her children and find she's got no contraception access after all.

"There are a hundred thousand women who say they don't want to be pregnant and they die in childbirth each year. Another 600,000 women who say they didn't want to be pregnant in the first place, give birth to a baby and their baby dies in first month in life. I know everyone wants to save these mothers and children but somewhere along the way we got confused by our own conversations on these issues and stopped trying to save these lives.

In other words, we're not talking about abortion or population control. I'm talking about giving women the power to save their lives, their children's lives and give  their families the best popular future," Melinda told the crowd.

When we're talking about women who simply do not have access to these tools, we're talking about the difference between life and death.

If you have a moment, share your story and read and share others on our new site "How Have Contraceptives Changed Your Life?"

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