Family planning: women and young people need access and choice

As the International Conference on Family Planning closes, Danai Majaha canvasses delegates for their most important message.

The International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia ended yesterday (28 January) with pledges from governments, development partners, young people, faith-based organisations and civil society groups to promote easy access to family planning services and products.

Danai Mahaja caught up with delegates at the conference, who highlighted the need to improve access to family planning for women and young people.

Close up of young man

Rokonol Rabbi, Link Up Bangladesh

“Family planning is about universal access to contraception and health services, including for key populations [people most at risk of HIV infection]. Most young people in Bangladesh come from conservative families and they don’t talk much about family planning. Now that discussions about family planning are growing faster, they should not be left out. This is our need and this is our time to move forward.”

Close up of young man from Uganda

Brian Ssensali, Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS

“Youths constitute a huge population in many countries and they need to be protected through access to contraceptives. Family planning services should also suit young people’s needs.”

Asian man seated at a panel discussion

Jagdish Upadhyay, Chief of the Commodity Security Branch, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

“If you look at Europe’s economic progress, one of the biggest contributors is women’s level of participation. Family planning is not about fertility control or about numbers, it is about providing dignity and rights to those people who want to contribute positively to their lives.”

Portrait of a young women from Uganda

Amanda Joan Bamura, Uganda Youth Alliance for Family Planning and Adolescent Health

“Family planning is the ability and chance to make the right decisions and get services according to your needs. Women and young people should have access to free and friendly services and be allowed to make choices on their own, because they know what they want.”

Close up of man in front of Action Network poster

Professor Ahmed Ragab Faith to Action, Vice Chairman

“Family planning is about choice. However people are suspicious in countries where religion is important because they think it [family planning] is about controlling fertility. Actually religion is for the dignity of people and supports much about women’s decisions. Youths are the future and should be prepared now, through access to family planning and contraceptive information.”

Close up of a woman wearing conference lanyard

Carmel Brigitte Muvudile ASF/PSI, Democratic Republic of Congo

“It is not only an issue of contraceptives, but family planning is about giving back women their power to make decisions. It is empowerment and development.”

Close up of young woman with long hair

Arzum Ciloglu, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Communications Programme

“There is need to have more outreach to youths and go where they are and where they want to be. They [youths] do not necessarily come to family planning service centres because they don’t want to start families. What they need are contraceptives and safe sex. We should go to them and not necessarily wait for them to come to us.”

Man in suit in front of a poster

Klaus Brill, Bayer HealthCare, Vice Chairman

“There is need to make everybody aware that youths have a right to access to family planning methods. I think this has been the big message here from the conference. This is the first time that this has been clearly stated; the right for youths to have access to contraceptives including choice of condoms and different methods available for them to use.”

Young man in shirt smiling

Mathew Kuseni, International Rescue Committee

“Youth are always neglected and most of the family planning services are not adolescent friendly. Even when they are called adolescent friendly services, they are provided by people who actually think young people don’t need contraceptives. More needs to be done to change the mind-set of the community because everyone deserves access to family planning services and products, regardless of their age.”

Woman with long hair smiling

Caitlin Quade, Population Services International

“The problem is that most people don’t feel comfortable with talking to youths about sex and we really need to get over that. We need to meet the challenge where it is, which is that young people are inherently interested in sex and are going to be engaging in sex. If we are able to get out of our comfort zone we will be able to give them services they need.”

Young woman in glasses at a conference stall

Priya Limbu, Engender Health

“The missing link has been that the youths have not been part of the agenda until this conference and it is extremely important that their voices are beginning to be heard. Youths should be involved in the decisions right from the beginning; they should participate more and should be more involved. If we begin investing in youth in their young age, by the time they reach old age, in the future, family planning would not be a problem anymore.”

Portrait of young muslim woman in a headscarf

Farhana Moly, Link Up Bangladesh

“Everybody, especially women, has the right to know about contraceptive methods. Women in Bangladesh know little about family planning because the culture is conservative. There is need to change the environment in our country so that women can discuss openly about family planning.”

Read: Indonesian youth advocate for family planning but are denied rights