September 23, 2014

Time Every Woman Is Allowed to Decide for Herself

Written by Tewodros Melesse, Head of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post here.

Beatrice Akoth had never wanted or planned to have nine children, but she had no choice. Although the idea is incomprehensible for many of us, Beatrice, like millions of other women and girls, had no access to contraception when she desperately needed it.

“When I was a young girl, I never thought I would have nine children. After each child, I got pregnant again, nine months later,” she said.

This left her struggling to provide for her family, who all share a two-room mud shack on swampy ground on the outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya.

No one had ever talked to her in any depth about family planning, and by the time the ninth child was born, 41-year-old Beatrice was unable to cope.

“The children were my burden. I did not know who to turn to. But one day, out of the blue, I overheard a group of women animatedly chatting about family planning and where to access it,” she said.

There’s no doubt that if she had been able to go to the Family Care Medical Centre in Kisumu sooner, her life would have been dramatically different. And Beatrice is far from alone. The figures speak for themselves.

There are currently around 222 million women and girls in developing countries, who would like to be able decide how many children they have — and to space their pregnancies — but lack access to services.

Statistics show that for girls and young women aged between 15 and 19, pregnancy and childbirth is the number one killer. It’s the cause of death for 50,000 teenage girls every year, many of whom wanted access to contraception but didn’t get it.

It doesn’t cost much to provide contraception, but we need political will.

This is where you come in.

We are at a crucial moment. Between September 23rd and 25th, world leaders will be coming together at the United Nations to discuss what needs to be done over the next 15 years to end global poverty and inequality. We know that sexual and reproductive health and rights are key to individual wellbeing, and therefore, it is essential that they are at the heart of the UN’s discussions, and integral to the next set of global development targets to be achieved by 2030.

On September 23rd we, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, will be in New York, calling on the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and global governments to show leadership on family planning and reproductive health services.

There is an amazing opportunity for people like us to join around the world to raise our voices and demand that sexual and reproductive health and rights are put at the heart of the new development framework.

We think it is time that every woman and girl has the chance to decide for themselves what happens to their body, who they live with, and how many children they have.

It’s a choice that wasn’t there for Beatrice Akoth, but it’s a choice that she wants her children to have. Lend your voice to help us make sure it happens and sign our petition.