Alemnesh Assefa is a 27 year old Health Extension Worker (HEW) serving a rural village, or kebele, in the Amhara region of Ethiopia. She and thousands of HEWs work tirelessly to ensure women and girls in the most remote parts of the country have access to family planning information, services and products. Their work has been the backbone of Ethiopia’s success in increasing CPR and reducing unmet need.
As we mark the midpoint of the FP2020 movement, Alemnesh reminds me how much progress has been made in ensuring that all women have access to the family planning services and supplies they need and want. Since the launch of FP2020 in 2012, we’ve witnessed tremendous collective commitment to ensuring this right. Since 2012, 24.4 million more women and girls are accessing modern contraception, bringing the total to 290.6 million users in the 69 FP2020 focus countries.
Yet as we take time to celebrate these gains for women and girls, we know that there are still places in the world where a woman’s choice to use those contraceptives is not a given. As of 2015, 10 million fewer women and girls have been reached with lifesaving contraception than we had hoped by this time. Continuing at this pace means that millions of women and girls will not receive the family planning services and supplies they need to support their fundamental right to make decisions about their reproductive health.
Contributing factors include social and cultural barriers to the acceptability of family planning, a lack of comprehensive sexuality education and insufficient availability of a broad range of quality assured contraceptives to meet the reproductive health needs of women and girls in the poorest countries. For example, of 28 countries surveyed in 2014, 60% of facilities were stocked out of one modern method on the day of the survey.
As we mark the midpoint of FP2020, now is the time to address these barriers and renew our efforts to support the rights of all women and girls to contraceptive information, services and supplies. Contraceptive security is foundational to these efforts. It ensures a coordinated focus on and commitment to the critical policies, financing, and systems needed to guarantee that every person is able to choose, obtain, and use a wide range of high-quality, affordable contraceptives whenever needed.
Putting women and girls at the center helps us better understand their true needs, the bottlenecks they face and the behaviors that drive action (or inaction). Doing so yields solutions that align with the needs of ALL women …whether they are young, unmarried, poor, living in an urban slum or an internally displaced camp or a rural village or for that matter…marginalized for any reason.
So the best way we can celebrate the midpoint of FP2020 is to recommit to fulfilling our promise to each of the women and girls who continue to lack access to this most fundamental right. We need to meet her where she is, acknowledge the social context in which she lives, and address the variety of factors that may restrict her access. And make sure a mix of quality contraceptives are there when she needs them…No Product, No Program!