November 3, 2015

Tell Us Your Story. We Are Listening.

Written by Tara Sullivan, Director, Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project

This post originally appeared on Medium here. Reposted with permission.


As we prepare for the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), the need for metrics and data to show progress towards family planning goals and country-level commitments is clear. But why are we passionate about family planning? For many, it’s more than the numbers that motivate us. It’s the human stories behind those numbers that give them meaning.

That’s why I’m thrilled that K4Health has joined with FP2020 to launch Family Planning Voices (FP Voices), a one-year initiative to document through text and photos the personal stories of people working to improve access to family planning around the world. We’re inspired by how initiatives like StoryCorps and Humans of New York enable us to experience the raw emotions, harsh realities, and personal triumphs of others. Stories highlight the depth of the human experience. They remind us that every person has a unique perspective to share — one that we may learn from, relate to, or disagree with. One that may inspire action.

Our motivation for FP Voices comes from family planning stories K4Health and FP2020 have heard through our work — stories with both personal meaning and global significance. FP Voices provides a platform for our clients, colleagues, and partner organizations around the world to add their voices to a global narrative. To move the field forward, we must share our perspectives openly and collectively. Each person who does so strengthens the movement and enriches the story of the universal impact of family planning on people’s lives.

Aisha (left) and Darline (right) are beneficiaries of family planning and shared their #FPVoices. Click on their image to read their story. Aisha’s photo by Dominic Chavez/FP2020; Darline’s photo by Robyn Russell/Universal Access Project

Myfavorite part of the FP Voices process is the dialogue it creates. Every FP Voices story is the product of two people sitting down, face-to-face, and having a conversation about issues that personally matter to them. This provides a rare opportunity to connect on a topic differently and more deeply than when accessing knowledge in other ways. You can ask the “why” and “how” questions that enable deeper exploration of the complexity of family planning issues.

What stands out in these conversations is people’s passion for family planning. The willingness of our interview partners to make themselves vulnerable by expressing excitement or distress provides us all with motivation and inspiration to continue this important work.

We see large-scale numbers on unmet need or deaths averted by family planning, but what often isn’t relayed in these statistics are the individual voices of women, men, and families worldwide who suffer, sometimes tragically, from not having access to family planning.

We also don’t hear enough of the voices of those working in family planning: the innovative ways that frontline health workers bring desperately needed contraceptive information and methods to their communities or the passion that policy makers and donors have for promoting access to family planning.

K4Health believes that knowledge saves lives — and that knowledge is even more powerful when presented through authentic human connection.

Joseph (left) and Enidjoy (right) are health providers who champion family planning in their communities. Click on their image to read their story. Joseph’s photo by Robyn Russell/Universal Access Project; Enidijoy’s photo by Dominic Chavez/FP2020

I hope that FP Voices brings more attention, both within and beyond the family planning community, to issues of access, quality, dignity, respect, and cultural norms that prevent a person from achieving his or her reproductive intentions. I hope it serves within countries as a tool for advocating for greater resource allocation toward family planning. Beyond that, I really hope that Family Planning Voices helps people who are doing this important work to realize that there’s a broad community and a wealth of knowledge and experience they can tap into.

Everyone has wisdom to share. Please lend your voice to this important conversation. We are listening.

Add your voice

  • Visit and follow #FPVoices.
  • Interview and photograph someone yourself. Then share it through your social media channels using #FPVoices or submit the story to be featured on Family Planning Voices via email or our website.

This post originally appeared on K4Health’s blog.

FPVoices is a joint initiative by the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, which is funded by USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, and FP2020.