Melissa Garcia is a Technical Advisor for the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, hosted by MSH. This article originally appeared on the ICEC website.
For this year’s World Population Day on 11 July, our community celebrated and affirmed the right to family planning. On this day, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also called attention to the many people around the world unable to realize this right.
The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that globally, 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception. One hundred and fifty five million women are not using a contraceptive method. Some 59 million women use traditional practices and remedies for pregnancy prevention. UNFPA has listed some of these practices in this article and accompanying photo essay. They are cause for concern because the users of such “pseudo” contraceptive practices act in the belief that they are protecting themselves from the risk of unintended pregnancy. But in fact they are exposing themselves to that risk, and potentially to further health consequences.
Las parteras son la primera línea en la atención en salud materna, y pueden constituirse en potentes defensoras de cambios ya que conocen los enormes obstáculos que atentan contra su capacidad de brindar una atención de cálida a cada mujer que reciben en su centro de salud o su comunidad. Ellas conocen perfectamente las necesidades en salud de las mujeres y sus bebés debido a que trabajan cada día para satisfacer dichas necesidades. Identifican las limitaciones en los sistemas de salud – en términos de recursos, personal, establecimientos y políticas- y permanentemente bregan para solventarlas. Y manifiestan abiertamente sus necesidades de capacitación, supervisión y políticas más justas, porque a esta labor que han dedicado sus vidas y representa su sustento.
El gobierno mexicano ha sido receptivo a la necesidad de fortalecer el rol de la partería profesional en el continuo de atención a la mujer, y las parteras han aprovechado esta voluntad política para hacer incidencia política a favor de su profesión en sus respectivos estados. En febrero de 2018, el Programa de FCI en MSH, con apoyo de la Fundación John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur convocó a equipos de parteras y profesionales de salud de cinco estados mexicanos a que desarrollaran planes estratégicos de abogacía. El propósito del taller fue promover políticas estatales que permitan a las parteras brindar una atención de calidad y respetuosa a las mujeres, las adolescentes y los recién nacidos. Continue reading “Estrategias de abogacía para promover la partería en México”
Eliana Monteforte is a Senior Technical Advisor, and Aishling Thurow is a Project Support Associate at Management Sciences for Health
Midwives can be powerful advocates for change because, as frontline health workers, they know all too well the enormous challenges that threaten their ability to deliver high-quality care to every woman they see in their clinic or community. Midwives understand the health care needs of women and newborns because they work to meet those needs every day. They see the gaps in their health care systems–in resources, staffing, facilities, and policies–because they continuously struggle to fill those gaps. And they speak the truth about their needs for training, support, and enabling policies–because this is the job to which they have dedicated their lives and livelihoods.
The Mexican government is receptive to strengthening the role of professional midwifery in the continuum of women’s health care, and midwives are ready to leverage this political will to advocate for their profession in their respective states. In February, the FCI Program of MSH, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, convened teams of midwifery providers from five Mexican states to develop advocacy strategies to advance state-level policies that enable midwives to provide high-quality, respectful care for women, adolescents, and newborns. Continue reading “Advocacy strategies for advancing midwifery in Mexico”
I started practicing female circumcision when I was 20 years old. I learned the practice from my grandmother and mother as a way to make money. One day, after seeing the consequences of circumcision, I realized the extent to which women and girls suffered in terms of health, psychology and morale. So I am committed as a community focal point in the village of Waïlirdé and as a woman and mother to fight against this practice that is harmful to health.
My main responsibility is to share information and knowledge with members of my community. Informing people about the consequences of female circumcision allows those who suffer to seek the help they need and help prevent future occurrences. Additionally this can help people understand the link between current health issues and circumcision. Above all, I work to raise everyone’s awareness of the danger of the practice to spare young girls from facing this torture.
–Fatouma, Waïlirdé village, Mali
In the Mopti region of central Mali, about 88% of women aged 15-49 have undergone female circumcision–or female genital mutilation (FGM); almost 69% of these women were circumcised by the time they were five years old (Mali DHS, 2012-2013). As such practices are deeply rooted in the cultural, religious, economic, and social heritage of Mopti, ending them requires strong and concerted community engagement and action.
The FCI Program of MSH mobilizes leaders and communities in Mopti to advance women’s and girls’ health and rights and to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. With funding from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bamako, and in partnership with the Malian non-governmental organization Conseils et Appui pour l’Education à la Base (CAEB), the FCI Program of MSH leads the Debbo Alafia Consortium of multi-sectoral, national, and international organizations to carry out social and behavior change activities and to provide essential medical and psychosocial support to women and girl survivors of gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices. Leveraging political and religious leaders’ significant influence on public opinion and acceptance, Debbo Alafia also strengthens political commitment and recruits champions to publicly call for the end of harmful practices and promote sexual and reproductive rights for women and girls.
UNICEF and the SGBV Humanitarian Subcluster (awarded through UNFPA) have supported the FCI Program’s work with trained community volunteers, like Fatouma, to discourage the practice of FGM by informing community members about the harmful short-term and chronic health consequences, such as excessive bleeding, infections, swelling, menstrual problems, maternal health complications, even death. These volunteers also refer SGBV survivors to free medical, psychosocial, and legal support services; providers of these services work with the FCI Program of MSH to ensure they are giving respectful, confidential, and safe care to survivors of SGBV.
Community volunteers, forming protection teams that support SGBV prevention and response, have successfully stopped circumcision ceremonies. During a Debbo Alafia meeting of partners and government officials last year, FCI Program staff received news about a circumcision ceremony in progress in the village of Koro. Debbo Alafia partners and government officials went to the ceremony site to convince the circumciser to stop and the parents to take their girls home. Although several girls had already been cut, several more were spared.
As women and girls in the North and surrounding regions remain particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and often do not seek or receive appropriate care, the FCI Program of MSH is leading a study, with support from Amplify Change, to investigate the barriers that deter SGBV survivors from accessing care. Using the findings from this study, the FCI Program of MSH will bring together local actors to develop advocacy and program strategies to reduce these barriers to care.
Sarah Konopka, MA, is Principal Technical Advisor for HIV & AIDS Management Sciences for Health’s (MSH) Global HIV & AIDS Program. Follow Sarah on Twitter @HIVExpert. This article originally appeared on MSH’s Global Health Impact blog.
There was an awkward silence and then soft giggling as the girls looked at each other. I had just finished talking about strategies for persuading sexual partners to use a condom. Laughter during these skills-building and girls empowerment sessions with 30+ secondary school students in Morogoro, Tanzania was not uncommon, particularly given the sometimes sensitive topics of discussion, but this time, the joke was lost on me. Continue reading “Standing with Women and Girls to End AIDS”
When her rapist was arrested, 16-year old Brigitte* thought the worst was behind her. But when she discovered she was pregnant, she had little choice but to drop out of school and work the family fields in her village, in the Manika health zone of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She certainly could not afford antenatal care (ANC) visits.
The DRC government has made maternal health one of its highest priorities, and partners like the USAID-funded Integrated Health Project Plus (IHPplus) have collaborated with the Ministry of Health to make that vision a reality. Knowing that ANC visits are out-of-reach for many women, IHPplus subsidizes free and reduced-cost care for expectant mothers. And knowing that many women are not aware of the benefits of ANC visits, IHPplus has organized a variety of campaigns to educate mothers-to-be. Continue reading “A door-to-door campaign for antenatal care”
With the current largest generation of young people, there is much to celebrate on August 12, International Youth Day. In particular, there is the growing recognition that as agents of change, adolescents and young people and their organisations are essential stakeholders who contribute to inclusive, just, sustainable and peaceful societies. Crucially, advocates working on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and reproductive rights (RR) advance access for young people in meaningful ways. Continue reading “Top tips for advocates working on emergency contraception”
To meet the global Family Planning 2020 goals, a full range of family planning methods must be available, including user-controlled, short-acting methods. The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis , Adding it Up, estimates that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method. Half of unmarried women with an unmet need for family planning report infrequent sex as the reason that they do not use a family planning method. A quarter of married women not using contraception fall into the same category. Not feeling themselves at high levels of risk, these women may wish to avoid the appointments and waiting times, dependence on providers, side effects, discomforts, and other commitments that long-acting contraceptive methods sometimes entail. Other women may not be using modern contraception because they are unaware of their options or are faced with inaccessibility due to distance barriers, poor health infrastructures, stock outs, or high prices. As well, many women are located in humanitarian and fragile settings where contraceptive access can be challenging. For many women and girls not currently using a long-acting contraceptive method, a simple, discreet, user-controlled, low-commitment, one-time “on demand” form of contraception that can be accessed easily and quickly is a critically important option. This method already exists: emergency contraception. Continue reading “An ounce of (after-sex) prevention: At the Family Planning Summit, let’s talk about emergency contraception”
On March 15, 2017, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Women Deliver, Novo Nordisk, and the NCD Alliance, of which MSH is a steering committee member, hosted a panel discussion during the Commission on the Status of Women to call for the integration of the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) into the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health continuum of care. The following post summarizes the key messages from the side event and offers recommendations for further action.
Alanna Savage is a Senior Communications Specialist for the FCI Program of Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and Andrew Gaydos is a Project Support Associate at MSH.
In our ambitious vision to reach all people, everywhere, it is ever more necessary to examine the varying life experiences–the actual realities–of the people whose health we work to improve. Part of this examination requires a critical look at how gender plays out in the power structures of society, the daily lives of people, and more concretely, in the “who, what, where, when, and how” of health-seeking behavior and access to essential reproductive and maternal health care.
Maternal mortality in Mali remains high–587 women die for every 100,000 live births–but only 28 percentof sexually active women of reproductive have satisfied their demand for family planning. Women and girls continue to confront widespread sexual and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); in 2015, about 126,000 women and girls received prevention services, protection, and care related to FGM/C. And thanks to the work of the FCI Program of MSH, traditional and faith leaders are advocating for family planning and coming together to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence and to identify early warning signs of imminent violence.
Gender inequality undoubtedly plays a role in high maternal mortality and unmet need for family planning and the continuance of sexual and gender-based violence. As long as women and girls must continue to fight for equal voice and an equal share of opportunity and power, their lives and health will remain under threat. Gender influences health outcomes, access to care, providers’ treatment of patients, relationships among health workers and supervisors, and health career barriers and opportunities.