Delivering Quality Family Planning for the Hardest to Reach

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Furah is a mother of four children who lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The eastern part of the country where she lives is marked by chronic poverty and decades of violence. With four children and living in a crisis-prone area, Furah wanted to avoid another pregnancy. At a Save the Children-support health facility, she was able to get an intrauterine contraceptive device to provide her with long-acting contraception. She, and others in her community, have noticed the positive benefits that family planning have brought to their community: “Children don’t get malnutrition or get sick as much as they did before the family planning program started.”

Satisfying demand for family planning services has the potential to drastically reduce maternal and child deaths. Nearly 1 in 3 maternal deaths and 1 in 5 child deaths could be averted if the 214 million women with a need for family planning were able to use modern contraceptive methods. There are also benefits to children’s education and girls’ ability to stay in school.

Save the Children delivers high impact reproductive health and family planning interventions for women and girls around the world. We do this by:

  1. Prioritizing the hardest to reach, including adolescents
  2. Improving clinical capacity and supply chains, particularly at the lowest level of service delivery
  3. Engaging men, women and communities to create an enabling environment for family planning use, including address inequitable gender norms
  4. Delivering family planning in humanitarian responses
  5. Advocating for supportive policies for family planning in partnership with local leaders and organizations
Furah and her four children outside the Health Facility in DRC. She has noticed the positive benefits that family planning have brought to the community.

Our family planning programs focus on postpartum women by capitalizing on the opportunity of service integration through maternal, newborn or child care services. Using our multisector approaches and expansive reach through newborn and child health, we reach postpartum mothers through vaccinations campaigns and other touch points at the community and facility level.

In humanitarian settings, we support reproductive health services by training and mentoring frontline health providers, providing commodities and supplies, strengthening supply chains and supporting communities to increase awareness and use of reproductive health services. We deploy quickly and stay long term to deliver family planning in any setting.

Our adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programs fill critical information and service gaps, foster the development of positive social and gender norms, build linkages to health systems and equip adolescents with the skills, information and supportive social environment needed to navigate the challenges and opportunities during this critical life stage. Our programs address barriers through facility- and community-based strategies to increase access to health services that respond to the needs of adolescents and offer a full range of contraceptive methods.

More than 50 Save the Children staff members from 16 countries will be in Kigali, Rwanda this month for the International Conference on Family Planning – where we will share our expertise and thought leadership with the international community.  Together, we can all ensure mothers like Furah have the future they deserve.

To read more about how family planning saves lives, click here. 

Girls of West Showa

Zewge Abate

Internal Communications Manager

Save the Children in Ethiopia

November 8, 2018

In a small rural village in West Showa, Ethiopia, lives 10-year-old Kebene. Now in 3rd grade, she tells me her favorite subjects are Science and Oromiffa, the study of the local language. Most families work as subsistence farmers, although parents hope for better lives for their children.

In this area, subjects like menstruation, reproductive health and family planning were traditionally not openly discussed by parents with their children, even considered taboo. Girls would be completely unprepared when getting their first period. They would run home from school, embarrassed and unsure of what to do.

Luckily, teachers like Getaneh are working hard to prepare students like Kebene for the challenges of adolescence.

“We help them to prepare for the changes they start to experience,” says Getaneh.

Kebene (standing far right) leading an adolescent development lesson with her peers.

He acts as point person for the community, working with Save the Children staff to ensure he and the other teachers learn how to discuss health matters with adolescents related to their reproductive and personal health skills, in particular issues that affect girls.

In addition to training teachers, students are able to discuss harmful traditional practices, like early marriage or female genital mutilation, in a more comfortable and open setting – such as outdoors sitting in a group with peers and friends.

Getaneh learned that even though she was still just 10, Kebene’s father already had plans to marry her off to someone she had never met.

Luckily, thanks to the adolescent development programs now available at her school, she considered early marriage as something harmful, that restricted her from experiencing childhood and having choices in shaping her future as an adult.

“I am too young to marry and I don’t want that to happen to me. All I need is to continue my education and become a Science teacher in the future.”

Zewge with some West Showa students in class.

Kebene went to her school director for help, and now he and Getaneh are working to invite her father to discussions at the school, as well as meeting with community elders and local administration to help convince her father to change his mind. Though they are still meeting with him, they are confident they will soon receive the good news that she will be able to continue with her education.

 

Kebene and her friends can now learn how to educate their families about why these traditions are detrimental to both their lives as children as well as the future of their village. By discussing these issues, they raise awareness on how they feel about their rights as children and as girls. In this way, knowledge is cascaded through the community.

Thanks to sponsorship, now that these topics are taught at schools in child-friendly and relaxed settings, girls no longer feel too ashamed to go to class or fear speaking up about their hopes and goals.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.