Confession: I Often Take Choice for Granted

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Confession: I often take choice for granted.

It starts with having an ongoing conversation about the real barriers young women face every day. A conversation about our perception of quality services—what they are and what they should be. I call to refill my birth control prescription at the very last second, expecting my pharmacist to turn over the refill in minutes. I'm usually zooming down Massachusetts Ave., late for work. I don't have the patience to wait in line. I don't even have cash on me. The pills have been free or cheap ever since I first took them in college. I pop a pill and I'm on my way, never thinking twice.

If my method doesn't work, I have resources. I have options thanks to the liberal state of Massachusetts and high-speed Internet.

But, last week, my provider embarrassed me. As I picked up prescriptions for Malaria, antibiotics, and my regular birth control (preparation for my trip to the International Conference on Family Planning), she held up the medications and loudly announced, "For the diarrhea, take the Cipro. But your birth control won't be as effective. You should use a back-up method."

As a careful patient, I was already aware of this information. But now the line of eight people behind me knew too.

I laughed with friends about it later, but at the time, I blushed six shades of red. I was mortified. My pharmacist was only doing her job, but broadcasting information meant for me with the entire room made me feel vulnerable.

Why?

She didn't scold me or deny me the medication I needed because I am young or unmarried. And I work at Pathfinder International. The mention of birth control doesn't make me blush any of the other 100 times it is mentioned in a day.

But it felt like she sold my secret to the world. Ironically, I'm now sharing that so-called secret with the World Wide Web.

The realization I came to compels me to be a bit braver starting today. Starting with this blog post.

I take choice for granted. Always have.

Never have I faced the kinds of barriers young women in Ethiopia, India, and Myanmar face every day. Walking miles to a clinic, missing school (if they are among the few to stay in school), or forgoing an opportunity gather food, firewood, and water their families need.

Getting to the clinic to be told their method isn't in stock. Not having access to information about their bodies and their options. Becoming a parent at an age that should be about being a child.

It’s a reality that is difficult to comprehend. It's a reality we must—and can—change. That's why I work for Pathfinder.

So it's time I stand up too. It's time I become a bit braver. For every girl or woman who doesn't have a choice.

It starts with having an ongoing conversation about the real barriers young women face every day. A conversation about our perception of quality services—what they are and what they should be.

This week, during the International Conference on Family Planning, Pathfinder will bring together young people from around the world to listen. We will listen to them define what quality sexual and reproductive health services look like for them what barriers exist in accessing those services. At Pathfinder, we recognize we can't break down barriers without identifying them first. And who better to identify barriers than young people themselves? As Melinda Gates remarked this morning during her speech in Addis Ababa, "Youth are the ones with big ideas. We need to help them raise their voices."

For me, choice is about provider-client confidentiality.

For someone else, it's about ease of access.

For yet another, it's about being able to obtain their method of choice for free.

All of these things matter. They're not just important. They're essential. They are human rights.

The culmination of these factors is what this conference is all about.

The time for full access, full choice is now. Choice can't wait. It won't wait.

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