Hopes and Dreams: It's Time to Act
This blog by Michael Holscher, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Marie Stopes International, originally appeared in The Huffington Post United Kingdom.
Hope has many faces. It is the face of a woman in Tanzania who has borne seven children and finally, for the first time in her life, has access to modern contraception. It is the face of an Ethiopian teenager, married off as a child, who decides to postpone her second baby until she can finish school herself.
It is the face of a farmer in Ghana who wishes for only as many children as her small plot of land can support. It is the face of a new bride in Pakistan who plans and saves for the future, confident that she will not get pregnant before she and her husband are ready to start a family.
Contraception brings about hope. It brings health - for women and for entire families. It brings choice and personal control. And it is fundamental to the realisation of individual hopes and dreams for the future.
In 2012, world leaders, donors and women's organisations came together in London and made a promise to 120 million women that contraceptive choice would be a reality for them by 2020.
Critically important pledges were made, but two years on, we still need to ask ourselves if enough is being done to fulfil every woman's right to having children by choice, not chance. With over 220 million women in the world still unable to use contraception, women are still dying from the consequences of resorting to unsafe abortions because they were unable to determine for themselves when to get pregnant in the first place.
Commitments in action
One in four Tanzanian women would like to avoid pregnancy or space her childbearing, but has no access to contraception. Acknowledging this, the Tanzanian government has committed to increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate from 27% to 60% by 2015 through the provision of voluntary contraceptive services. And, Marie Stopes Tanzania has been working to support them with committed staff translating these commitments into action and brought contraception to 700,000 people last year alone.
Staff like Evangelina Rutazaa who is 65 years old, has over 40 years of nursing experience under her belt and considers herself retired. Yet she dedicates her time as one of our mobile nurses who travels by bajaji (or motorbike) to bring contraception to remote communities. Every morning she meets her driver and the duo brave rough roads and far distances, to open up the hope they see contraception brings.
Evangelina had six children of her own before deciding that was enough. She uses herself as an example to the women she consults. To her, family planning is key to women's and children's health. The most important thing a child needs, she says, is its mother and family planning helps a mother delay her pregnancy until she is strong enough to survive childbirth. An important distinction when you consider the 800 women who are dying every day from childbirth or pregnancy related causes.
Time to act
More women and girls than ever before have access to modern contraception and the global commitments made, tireless efforts of health workers like Evangelina are undoubtedly making a difference as today's progress report on FP2020 shows.
But we have to collectively accelerate our progress if we are going to make family planning a reality for all.
No woman should be denied contraceptive choice. No woman should be allowed to die needlessly during childbirth or pregnancy.
Learn more about Children by Choice, Not Chance at our global website.