Family planning and women’s health
Family Planning is argued to be one of the most effective global strategies in maintaining and developing women’s health. Access to contraception and the understanding of sexual health is vital in improving women’s lives across the globe. Family planning is essential in ending preventable deaths linked to childbirth and pregnancy termination, whilst ensuring women’s health and well-being is prioritised alongside their right to choose whether to have a family or not. UNICEF establishes universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services as a key part in ensuring women survive and thrive. However, a staggering 225 million women worldwide are estimated to have an unmet need for family planning, a shocking figure that shows a lack of support for women’s health. Now, let’s explore the sheer necessity of family planning and its crucial impacts.
What is Family Planning?
Essentially, family planning is about providing women with an understanding of reproductive health and accessible contraception in order to inform them of their right to choose when and how to start a family. This can take many forms. From reproductive and sexual health classes to educate women about how pregnancy works and how to prevent it, to easy and fair access to contraception and safe pregnancy terminations. More specifically, reproduction and sexual health classes can also provide religion-orientated information with regards to accepted contraception. For example, Christian women can learn about the rhythmic method and alternatives to hormonal contraception, which avoids some region-based forbidden methods. This allows women to still plan their families and maintain their health in line with their religious beliefs, reducing unwanted and potentially health-threatening pregnancies.
But is this accessible globally? The North-South Divide
Access to and the support of family planning varies across the globe. For every woman who benefits from access to free contraception, there are others whose health and well-being is at risk due to unplanned pregnancy as they may not have the funds or resources to access the right of contraception and family planning advice. The western world is seemingly more of a hub of family planning support and education than elsewhere in the world.
For instance, women in the United Kingdom benefit from free access to contraceptives, such as the contraceptive pill and copper coil, and have full access to safe pregnancy termination services. Aside from this, one of the most well-known family planning associations is the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which provides sexual and reproductive healthcare in different countries but is mainly known for its importance and role in the US in the provision of advice, contraception, and safe termination options for women. Meanwhile, lesser-developed countries vary in their access to family planning services and women rely on both international and local organisations to aid them and ultimately help ensure their health. An astonishing 295,000 women worldwide died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. Many of these devastating deaths could have been prevented with effective access to and knowledge of family planning strategies.
Time to Put Family Planning into Practice: Improvements in the Global South
These statistics and lack of global access have rightly induced change and a new wave of efforts to reduce the problem have arrived. Let’s look at some of these different examples of family planning support. Both global organisations and local charities play a huge part in the promotion and delivery of family planning, which has had immense impacts in recent years for countries with a historical lack of such services. For instance, the United Nations' global Family planning strategies have proven highly effective in reducing unwanted pregnancy and death in areas such as Africa and South Asia. Man women have been educated on all things to do with contraception, the risks associated with pregnancy, and safe sex. Whilst progress cannot yet be quantified, it is predicted that from 2020 to 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will see the largest increase (60 per cent) in the number of users of modern contraceptive methods, driven both by the continued increase in the absolute number of women of reproductive age as well as by the increase in contraceptive prevalence.
A local angle
Aside from this, whilst UNICEF’s blanket approach provides the same education on contraception and family planning across the globe, localised charities importantly provide women with adapted support according to their community. Chase Africa celebrates the importance of ‘women’s right to choose’ and control their maternity and family growth, enabling and empowering women all over Africa whilst improving maternal mortality rates and unwanted pregnancy figures. They adapt their approach depending on their location as the women may follow different religions, or be part of different cultures and ethnic groups, all with different traditions.
The growing education and global awareness surrounding family planning by these organisations are extremely beneficial to women and point to the ongoing global development and improvement of women’s health. Overt discussions and promotion of Family Planning break the ongoing stigma and taboo surrounding women’s health and pregnancy. And, it works towards a more equal and brighter future in which women can exercise their basic right of choice in their maternity and become empowered.
The Future of Family Planning
The growth of awareness of family planning is of course beneficial to women all over the world, yet there still remains more to be done. The effective strategies that are already in place to promote family planning are the first step in a long journey to improving women’s health globally. In the future, we can look towards free and safe access to contraception and pregnancy termination for all women, regardless of their status or nationality. In the meantime, we must continue to recognise the necessity of this approach and the work done by global and local organisations in order to improve the lives of women. The future is bright for the growth and scope of this strategy and the empowering and uplifting impact it has on the lives of women. UNICEF’s Global Action Plan for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health is set to have fully implemented its global family planning policy by 2030, and the change that this will bring to women across the world could be incredible.
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