- Focus Areas
No Surprise That The Economist Links Bangladesh Progress to Contraception
Last week The Economist launched a series exploring what they call "one of the most intriguing puzzles in development: Bangladesh." One of the first—and perhaps most important—points the series highlights is the focus on improving access to contraception. Bangladesh has had a unique transition where poverty reduction, reduction in inequalities, as well as better social and health outcomes were not a consequence of economic growth—which has been poor—but rather clearly tied to contraception.
At Pathfinder, we've known for decades that investing in contraception leads to key improvements in health, wellbeing, education, and more.This should come as no surprise, yet The Economist seems to paint the picture that it's unique. At Pathfinder, we've known for decades that investing in contraception leads to key improvements in health, wellbeing, education, and more. In fact, we've been seeing these outcomes in Bangladesh since we first began working there in the early 1950s with a grant to the country’s nascent family planning association. Since that time, through more than 35 projects, Pathfinder has played a key role in helping Bangladesh develop and integrate its national family planning and maternal and child health programs, reach underserved populations, improve quality of services, introduce cost-recovery measures, and build the capacity of more than 60 Bangladeshi partner NGOs through provision of technical assistance and grants.
In the early 1970s Bangladeshi women had an average of six children. Access to quality health services was poor and both maternal and infant mortality rates were high. The government of Bangladesh made a wise and courageous decision to create a national family planning program that focused on creating access to family planning by reaching women often secluded in their homes by the social norms of a patriarchal society. The program depended on thousands of female outreach workers who went door to door, providing information on family planning and offering contraceptive pills. In partnership with the Bangladeshi government, Pathfinder International was the first organization to offer the "door-step delivery" of injectable contraceptives in the late 1970s. At one time, Pathfinder, working through local NGOs fielded more than 7,000 female outreach workers. Today, Bangladeshi women have an average of 2.3 children and 52 percent of married women between the ages of 15-49 use a modern method of contraception. It's no surprise that there are now more girls in school, and more women in the workforce.