People often assume that women who’ve undergone an obstetric fistula repair are not interested in using family planning (FP). After all, most lost a baby during the obstructed labor that led to their injury. However, recent studies (see here and here) indicate that fistula clients are often interested in using FP if they learn about available methods and services during their post-repair recovery period. When fistula surgeons and counselors make assumptions about women’s desires, they miss the opportunity to provide needed services and to offer reproductive choices to women who may have been disadvantaged and marginalized as a result of their injury.
Access to high-quality FP services and a wide range of methods supports a woman’s right to have the number of children she wants (if possible) and to space births to protect the health of the mother and her infant(s). FP is also uniquely important for women who have had a fistula. Access to contraception helps to protect a repaired fistula and prevent breakdown and recurrence by delaying pregnancy. FP counseling can also help women who want to achieve a successful pregnancy to increase their fertility awareness and to delay a future pregnancy until they are fully healed.
This week, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) published Substantive Equality and Reproductive Rights: A Briefing Paper on Aligning Development Goals with Human Rights Obligations, a new resource offering guidance on how governments can ensure that principles of substantive equality, including human rights principles and obligations, are reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.
Substantive equality calls for states to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights, ensure equality for all, and promote accountability for rights violations. The paper contends that violations of reproductive rights are primarily manifestations of discrimination, poverty, and violence. Therefore, where women’s rights to equality and nondiscrimination are not fulfilled, their ability to access reproductive health services and make meaningful choices about their reproductive lives is limited.
Human rights–based family planning (FP) programming—what does it mean? Where do you start to translate it into practice? How comprehensive do you need to be? It is easy to become daunted by a long list of inputs and activities, such as those listed in the voluntary, rights-based family planning framework developed by a team led by Futures Group and EngenderHealth. The recent 2020 Vision newsletter refers to the overwhelming nature of existing guidance documents for ensuring that FP programs are rights-based and offers a simplified starting point. But will simplification of a complex set of challenges lead to the transformation in FP programming that our field needs?
We welcome the dialogue started by Population Action International (PAI) about how to move forward to protect and fulfill human rights within FP programs. This conversation is needed; multiple voices and views add richness to the discussion. PAI suggests starting with three priorities: voluntarism, informed choice, and achieving a diverse method mix. Certainly, we have to start somewhere, and these three elements are essential to rights-based FP— programs must be vigilant in preventing instances of coercion and in ensuring full, free, and informed contraceptive choice.
However, these program elements are not sufficient to ensure equitable access to services for all nor to ensure that the services are of high quality. They also do not address community factors that impede access to and use of FP. And they do not address the issue of accountability. These are critical considerations for reaching and fulfilling the human rights of the 220 million women with an unmet need for FP.
Guest Post by Shannon Harris
There is greater interest and investment in family planning (FP) programs now than in the last 20 years. With this increased attention and funding, programs are also benefiting from an increased commitment to ensuring that vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations are being better served and that women are receiving high-quality services and expanded contraceptive choice. As FP reemerges as a global priority, there is more attention to the human rights that underlie providing contraceptive services to all individuals. The recently published Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) first annual progress report highlights the new Conceptual Framework for Voluntary, Rights-Based Family Planning, a tool designed to ensure that public health programs oriented toward increasing voluntary FP access and use respect, protect, and fulfill human rights in the way they are designed, implemented, and evaluated.
Guest post by Molly Tumusiime, Program Associate (Community Engagement), EngenderHealth/Uganda
The Right to Health asserts that people are entitled to access reproductive health services, including family planning (FP), that are acceptable to them and of the highest possible quality. However, there are many barriers to individuals’ realizing this right at many levels. While policy change and provider training can support increased FP access and use and better ensure contraceptive choice, interventions at the policy and service delivery levels alone are insufficient. Community-level barriers also impede service utilization and should be addressed in participatory and cooperative ways.
In 2010, EngenderHealth began piloting site walk-throughs (SWTs) in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda. This promising approach—rooted in the core human rights principles of participation, empowerment, and accountability—catalyzes community participation in health and strengthens the accountability of service providers to communities. In addition, SWTs foster linkages and collaborative partnerships between health providers and community members in addressing barriers to informed choice and service access and in improving the quality and acceptability of services.
Guest post by Lauren VanEnk, Program Officer, Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University (IRH)
For decades, India’s national family planning (FP) program has emphasized female sterilization, resulting in limited contraceptive method options for those with an unmet need for FP, especially for spacing pregnancies. However, following the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which recommended high-quality services and a range of methods, the Government of India adopted a national population policy in 2000 that shifted its FP program’s focus from achieving target-driven demographic goals to ensuring reproductive health and rights, including voluntary and informed choice.
From November 12–15, an estimated 4,000 government officials, policymakers, program managers, researchers, academics, and youth advocates will gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 3rd Annual International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP).
The theme of this year’s conference—cohosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health—is “Full Access, Full Choice,” echoing the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative's call to ensure that rights and contraceptive choice are central to meeting the commitment made at the London Summit on Family Planning to reach an additional 120 million women with access to contraception by 2020.
Last week, the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition (RHSC) held their 14th annual meeting in Delhi, India. The meeting, cohosted by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, convened more than 200 participants from civil society, the private sector, and governments to work collaboratively toward strengthening the core principles of commodity security—method choice, quality, and equity—to increase access to affordable, high-quality family planning (FP). (more…)
Celebrating World Contraception Day
Today, the international community celebrates World Contraception Day. This global campaign strives to increase awareness of contraception and encourage its use to enable people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and to prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. This year’s motto, “Your Future, Your Choice, Your Contraception,” targets young people.
This past July, more than 300 participants representing governments, civil society organizations, youth networks, United Nations (UN) agencies, and human rights experts and defenders converged in the Netherlands for the International Conference on Human Rights: ICPD Beyond 2014. Hosted by the Government of The Netherlands, in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, attendees addressed the links between human rights, equality, accountability, and population and development.