June 14, 2016

Approaching Family Planning as a Human Right

Written by Christine Chung

This post originally appeared on News Deeply. Reposted with permission.

EngenderHealth’s chief executive officer, Ulla Müller, says that empowering women to recognize their right to family planning could save thousands of lives in poorer countries.

A mother’s risk of dying during childbirth is much higher in poorer countries than it is in the developed world. Last year in Nigeria alone, 58,000 women died giving birth, including some who did not choose to be pregnant. Experts say many of the hundreds of thousands of deaths during childbirth each year could be prevented if women had access to family planning. They also believe these figures could be much higher, due to problems of data collection. In addition to improving healthcare in the poorest communities, the NGO EngenderHealth is working to provide women and girls with access to reproductive health services in remote areas.

Ulla Müller, president and chief executive officer of EngenderHealth, said the organization takes a human rights-based approach to tackling women’s health issues. It advocates for policies that provide women with contraceptive choices and calls on men to act against gender-based violence and HIV infection through efforts to promote better health for their families. Müller, who spent 20 years in Africa, spoke to Women and Girls Hub about what she is witnessing in efforts to empower women with knowledge of their reproductive rights.

Women and Girls Hub: EngenderHealth advocates a human rights-based approach to its work. What does that mean in practice?

Ulla Müller: Basically we put the power in the hands of the women, and, to some extent the communities, while recognizing that human rights are individual, not collective. We focus on that empowerment piece, empowering women, putting some context around why they have this choice and what other choices they have. It is not only about women’s choice: husbands have different freedoms to choose. It is a continuum, but it is putting power in the hands of the women.

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