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Family Planning

Intro: Why Family Planning?

October 9th, 2008 by maggie chen 5 comments »

My choice to blog on family planning is inspired by this statistic, and many others like it:

A survey in sub-Saharan Africa found that, of women who either did not want another child or wanted to delay their next birth, nearly 30% had no access to contraception. (The World’s Women 2000: Trends and Statistics. United Nations Publication, New York, 2000.)

Also, this op-ed in today’s New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof discusses the importance of supporting family planning measures (especially US funds for contraception in other countries), in a time when the Bush administration plans to cut off access to birth control for some of the poorest women in Africa. This cut will take place through a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)* mandate to ensure that six African countries do not allow any U.S.-funded contraceptives to be distributed to Marie Stopes International, a British-based aid org that offers reproductive health services in poor countries.

On a personal level, I have seen the importance of having access to family planning through my work as a health educator at reproductive health clinics in San Francisco. By counseling patients one-on-one about birth control options, pregnancy, STIs, school, family, jobs, domestic violence, and drug use, I have come to believe that having access to contraception at certain times in a woman’s life is a fundamental factor in her life trajectory.

I was introduced to the world of zero-family-planning access this summer when I spent time in the Enga province of Papua New Guinea, where a woman’s options for birth spacing are simply: 1. rhythm/calendar method (having/not having sex based on when a woman ovulates), or 2. hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and sometimes fallopian tubes and ovaries). If a woman lives in a larger town and her husband agrees that they had had enough children, she may be able to have a tubal ligation. While many people in PNG want large families, the women with whom I spoke expressed the desire to have more control over when they have babies.

Thus, I will be blogging on innovative ways to increase access to family planning for women who have few or no birth control options. This includes programs outside of major international aid orgs that bring contraceptives to women who have limited access, as well as new birth control methods that are in development (especially longer-term methods).

Please email me (magchen@stanford.edu) or leave a comment if you hear of any info that is relevant to these topics!

*Lastly, a disclaimer for future entries: I’m not a fan of USAID’s methods of action. When I was studying in Cape Town, South Africa this spring, my research group worked for an NGO, HOPE Worldwide South Africa, that is largely funded by USAID. While I was initially happy to hear that the US was supplying funds to the townships outside of the city, I was disappointed to learn about the strict agenda that comes along with those funds. The Bush administration’s abstinence-only slant that has become the norm in many US public schools over the last eight years must be followed closely by orgs that receive USAID funding. This means that counselors at the HOPE male HIV clinic where my research group worked were only allowed to promote the ABCs: Abstinence, Be faithful, Condomize. The counselors and peer educators who work for HOPE were caught in a bind between wanting to offer advice on contraceptives and wanting to keep their jobs. While I don’t think that USAID should distribute funds without any guidance, there needs to be room for the grantees to decide on culturally appropriate ways to deliver their services.

Hello world!

October 8th, 2008 by carlos 3 comments »

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