The latest in global sexual and reproductive health news
“Women build the society. They build a nation. And investing in family planning is investing in the future.”-Dr. Tewodros Bekele, Director of Maternal, Child Health & Nutrition Programs, Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health
Tanzania-based photographer Sala Lewis traveled with global health organization Pathfinder International to document the Tuungane program in Tanzania, which brings condoms from the urban center of Kigoma to the small villages around the Mahale National Park. Project staff travel to the field at least once every two weeks, delivering what ever supplies are needed — contraception, anti-malaria drugs or even a new radio.
The clinic teaches women the importance of “spacing” and offers a variety of options including cycle beads, condoms, pills, intrauterine devices and implants. Family planning methods, such as delaying and spacing out children, are among the most effective ways to better the lives of families and directly contribute to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of reducing infant mortality and improving maternal health.
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Annet Samaya leads a cluster of five model households on Bussi Island. HoPE has taught them sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry, sanitation and hygiene, and family planning. With income from her small farm, she has earned enough to send two of her children to boarding school on the mainland. She teaches other residents how to be similarly entrepreneurial.
With assistance and training from the Hope Project, Annet had learned sustainable agricultural practices and developed her land to such a point that it now yields more than enough to support her family. When I asked how she spends her surplus she replied that she sends her two oldest children to a good boarding school so that they may have more opportunities in the future.
The Lake Victoria Basin Commission’s work has garnered political buy-in from key actors at multiple levels, resulting in projects like the Health of People and Environment Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LBV) project, led by Pathfinder International. HoPE-LBV has been successful in a number of ways, said Othero, including helping to shift prevailing gender roles by encouraging men to engage in family planning and reproductive health and by encouraging women to engage in sustainable livelihoods and natural resource management.
Wudinesh Demisse raises her hand above her head, showing off the matchstick-sized birth-control implant embedded just beneath the skin of her upper arm.
Wudinesh, 28, is a farmer in rural West Arsi, in Ethiopia's central Oromia region. With three children already, Wudinesh says it is time to stop. "For me, three is enough," she says, through a translator. "If they are too many, they are too expensive."
Making patients walk 18 miles to a clinic with a UTI? Requiring their husband's permission to get birth control? Women deserve better health care than this.
The Female Condom 2 is far more successful than many in the West realise. It is available in 138 countries, sales have more than doubled since 2007, and the Female Health Company has been turning a profit for eight years.
The vast majority of sales are to four customers - the US aid agency (USAID), the UN and the ministries of health in Brazil and South Africa. Donors and public health officials are keen on anything that gives women the upper hand in what they call "condom negotiation" with men.
Family Planning: Coverage, Access to Services Poor, Says Report by Pathfinder International and UNFPA
Tauseef Ahmed, Pathfinder International’s country representative said, “Devolution was done in a hurry without capacity-building of provincial counterparts for their new responsibilities.” Family planning is the right of every woman and by depriving them, you’re putting their lives at stake, he added.
“The Women Development Army are women that have implemented the health extension program of government very well so that others in their communities can see what they are benefitting out of this health extension program so that they can adapt or adopt what this Women Development Army are doing,” said Tariku Nigatu, who works with Pathfinder International in Ethiopia.
Tune in to hear "voices to inspire" speak from the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Pasiens Mapunda, a reproductive health expert at Pathfinder International, told IRIN that while "women are beginning to take up family planning and facility births are increasing" challenges such as "inadequate health facilities, long distance[s] from homes to the nearest available hospital and even low staffing still remain and needs to be dealt with."