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EC Jamboree honors champions

On October 4th and 5th, 2012, the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), which is hosted by FCI, and the American Society for Emergency Contraception (ASEC) held the annual EC Jamboree in New York City. The EC Jamboree brought together more than 100 advocates, researchers, pharmaceutical representatives, and other leaders in the field to discuss expanding efforts to ensure access to emergency contraception (EC) nationally and globally. EC is a crucial contraceptive tool for women, as it is the only available means to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. It offers women an important second chance to prevent pregnancy when a regular method fails, no method was used, or sex was forced. Emergency contraceptive options include several kinds of EC pills (ECPs) as well as insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). You can learn more about methods of emergency contraception here.

At the meeting,  honors were presented to three “EC Champions.” ICEC and ASEC staff were delighted to present the Felicia Stewart Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. James Trussell of Princeton University. This award, which honors the leadership of the late Felicia Stewart, is presented to “an outstanding leader who, through a substantial and prolonged body of work, has changed the face of, access to, and understanding of EC through programs, policy advocacy and/or research.” The Steering Committees of both organizations agreed that Dr. Trussell, a pioneer in the EC world, embodies the spirit of this award. He has published extensively on EC, developed the website, and personally responds to consumer questions about EC that are received through the website. He also created the contraceptive effectiveness chart that is mandated to appear on all birth control labeling in the US.

The Charlotte Ellertson Award, established in honor of the late Charlotte Ellertson and supported by Ibis Reproductive Health, which she founded, was presented to the Venezuela Ministry of Health and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. This award specifically recognizes innovation and goes to an individual or organization that has made a “bold EC move.” The Ministry of Health of Venezuela registered EC as an over-the-counter, non-prescription product with no age restrictions, making Venezuela the only country in the Western Hemisphere to have such unimpeded access to EC. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service spearheaded a nurse-led advance EC provision service over the Christmas holidays and during the London Olympics. The manager of this service, Karen Beechey, and the nurse who ran the program, Tracey Forsyth, attended the EC Jamboree to present on their program and accept the award.

ICEC and ASEC are grateful to all three of these leaders for their impressive work to expand women’s access to EC.

You can learn more about emergency contraception and ICEC’s work to expand access to EC on the ICEC website, and you can join the International Consortium for Emergency Conception by submitting this form.

Keep up with the latest news on EC by following ICEC on Facebook.

Web event rethinks family planning: April 5th

TEDxChange, a partnership of TED and the Gates Foundation, was created to spark global conversations about social issues. An event in Berlin this Thursday  TEDxChange: The Big Picture, will challenge traditional thinking around a critical global issue — contraception.

Speaking at the event, which will be webcast live, Melinda Gates will kick off a long-term initiative to change the global conversation around family planning,  leading up to a major global summit on family planning in London this July. FCI is a partner in the global coalition supporting this campaign.

TEDxChange: The Big Picture
Thursday, April 5 at 12:30p EST
Webcast live in 7 languages |

Speakers include:

This will be a truly global event, bringing together an online audience of thousands, as well as 190 local simulcast events in 60 countries.

Connect with the TEDxChange network on Facebook at and on Twitter by following at Join the Twitter conversation on the hashtag #TEDxChange.




Partnering to promote reproductive health for Latin America’s indigenous women

Martha Murdock is FCI’s vice president for regional programs.

I have just arrived in Lima, Peru, where — together with Alexia Escobar and Maritza Segura, FCI’s national coordinators in Bolivia and Ecuador — I will be attendingthe High Level Meeting on Reproductive Health and Intercultural Care in Latin America.

This meeting, hosted by the Peruvian Ministry of Health and the Organismo Andino de Salud as part of  a regional framework sponsored by the Spanish Agency for International Development (AECID) and the UN Population Fund—UNFPA, will bring together high-level health officials from the health ministries of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela. FCI, a partner in this regional program, is one of the few NGOs invited to the meeting.

In Latin American and the Caribbean, maternal mortality was reduced by 41% between 1990 and 2008. Looking at overall regional and national data, the many countries in the region seem to be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal(MDG) 5 target of reducing maternal mortality by ¾ over 20 years. However, when the data is disaggregated by ethnicity,there remain substantial gaps in access to reproductive health services, information, and commodities among indigenous women. Surveys in countries like Guatemala have shown that maternal mortality is up to 3 times higher among indigenous women (211 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) than among non-indigenous women (70 per 100,000).

In seeking to address these gaps and achieve MDG 5 among all population groups, governments in the region recognize the need to adopt an intercultural approach to maternal and reproductive health services. Since 2009, FCI has been working to strengthen the advocacy capacity of indigenous women’s organizations to demand culturally-appropriate health care, and to promote their direct participation in the design and monitoring of maternal health care services that are sensitive to their cultural traditions. We also work with ministries of health across the region to advance maternal health policies and programs that better respond to indigenous women’s cultural expectations and needs.

This week’s meeting will review the progress that has been made so far, share lessons learned, and set a path to define and agree upon a basic set of indicators of culturally-friendly maternal health services. One expected, and important, outcome of the meeting will be the adoption by all of the Ministers of Health of a joint statement that commits to strengthening and further intensifying measures to make maternal health services more culturally acceptable to indigenous women, in order to improve their health status. Follow The FCI Blog to read their final statement, and to stay up to date as FCI closely monitors its implementation.

FCI co-sponsors UN event on girls, women, AIDS

The International Peace Institute, in collaboration with FCI, the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, and Women Deliver, hosted a policy forum entitled Prevention and Protection Save Lives: Girls, Women, and HIV on the sidelines of the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS on June 8th. This description of the event is cross-posted from the UNAIDS website.

HIV is now recognized as the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. The forum aimed to identify and strengthen the response to HIV, and to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of women’s health issues in relation to the broader development agenda.

In this light, the high level panel brought together Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director, UN Women; Purnima Mane, Deputy Executive Director (Programs), UNFPA; Carmen Barroso, Regional Director, IPPF/WHR; Jan Beagle Deputy Executive Director, Management and External Relations, UNAIDS; and Ms Lindsay Menard-Freeman, programme officer at Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, to discuss lessons learned, current challenges, and the path forward.

“Young people are now the actors, mobilising for prevention, taking ownership of the AIDS response and shaping the attitudes of future leaders,” said UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassadors Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Norway Mette-Marit who opened the forum. “We have to make sure that the next wave of leadership is equipped, engaged and sufficiently supported to maintain and develop the response.”

Photo credit: Women Deliver

Also participating in the discussion was UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Annie Lennox, a strong women’s rights activist: “We have the knowledge, we have the treatment,” said Ms Annie Lennox and urged world leaders gathering at the High Level Meeting on AIDS to take action on women and girls: “This is our moment: Don’t let us down.”

The Executive Director of UN Women called for leadership on this: “We know what has to be done and we know what works. And we can do better to stop this epidemic. With political will we can create the fiscal space to make women and girls a priority,” said Ms Bachelet.

The discussion, moderated by James Chau, Goodwill Ambassador, UNAIDS and a journalist with China CCTV, highlighted that young women in particular are vulnerable to HIV.  As a result of a combination of biological and socio-cultural factors, nearly a quarter of all new global HIV infections are among young women aged 15-24. “Knowing your epidemic in gender terms is critical. Human rights, including the sexual and reproductive rights of all women and girls – in particular women and girls living with HIV – must be protected and promoted in all HIV and global health programmes.”

However, progress has been made. More than 60 countries have shown their commitment to gender equality by implementing the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls and HIV, engaging over 400 civil society organizations.

“It’s important to remember that young people are actors, and young people are asking for what they need,” said Ms Menard-Freeman. “Now that we are here [at the High Level Meeting on AIDS], we need the voices of young people to be heard.”

One of the critical examples raised as a model for a consolidated approach to women’s health was the United Nation’s Every Woman Every Child campaign. The campaign, launched during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, has so far seen a US$ 40 billion commitment by countries to improve the health of women and children. If implemented, it is estimated that the strategy could save up to 10 million lives of women and children by 2015.

The new UNAIDS Strategy 2011 – 2015: Getting to Zero [pdf] has made advancing human rights and gender equality for the HIV response one of its three key strategic directions, and is committed to ensure that the rights of women and girls in the context of HIV.

SRH Accountability in Ecuador (part 2)

Maritza Segura is FCI’s national coordinator in Ecuador. Last week, she and FCI colleagues helped to coordinate the launch of Ecuador’s National Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health Observatory in Quito. You can read Maritza’s previous post about this meeting here. This successful technical meeting, organized by Ecuador’s National Health Council (CONASA) with generous support from the MacArthur Foundation, had a regional profile; at the end of the meeting, Maritza provides this update:

The role of Ecuador’s national Observatory will be critical – it will monitor and produce reports measuring the country’s fulfillment of its obligations around sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a particular focus on diversity, gender, and generational issues and on the rights of women in indigenous communities.

The Quito meeting was designed to foster a regional dialogue about accountability. In addition to Ecuadorian participants, delegates from similar observatories in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile, and Uruguay were invited to share their challenges, strategies, and lessons learned. While Latin America is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity, political dynamics, and other factors, all of the observatories share certain common challenges. Access to relevant data is often difficult, and transparency legislation varies from country to country. Processing statistics, updating data, translating it for different political and technical audiences, and producing relevant and timely reports are all complex, time-consuming, and costly. All of the national observatories shared concerns around their financial sustainability, because this kind of accountability work is only effective if data and analysis are produced on a consistent basis.

Accountability is becoming an increasingly important and visible issue in global health, both nationally and on the international stage, and these three days were an interesting and rewarding learning experience for all of the participants. These observatories, by providing relevant, up-to-date information, are an invaluable tool for strengthening political commitment to maternal health. For representatives of the national observatories, each of which has developed independently and organically based on each country’s unique conditions, this meeting provided a valuable opportunity to compare experiences, share ideas, and build relationships. For FCI’s part, we will continue developing and supporting strategies to articulate this regional vision, one that drives action and impact, demands accountability, ensures equity, and focuses on rights.


Rendición de cuentas en Ecuador (parte 2)

Maritza Segura es la coordinadora nacional de FCI en Ecuador. La semana pasada, junto con otras colegas de FCI, Maritza apoyó la presentación del Observatorio Nacional de Derechos y Salud Sexual y Reproductiva en Quito. La reunión técnica -que tuvo un perfil regional-  fue organizada por el CONASA, y con el generoso apoyo de la Fundación MacArthur, y fue sumamente exitosa. Pueden leer el post anterior de Maritza aquí. Finalizada la reunión, Maritza escribe:

El rol del Observatorio Nacional en Ecuador será fundamental para garantizar la rendición de cuentas. Se dará seguimiento al cumplimiento de las obligaciones del país en relación a la salud y los derechos sexuales y reproductivos, teniendo especialmente en cuenta la diversidad, y las cuestiones de género, de derechos y de interculturalidad.

El encuentro en Quito fue diseñado para promover además un diálogo regional sobre la rendición de cuentas. Además de los actores clave de Ecuador, fueron invitadas al encuentro delegadas de observatorios similares de México, Guatemala, Perú, Chile y Uruguay para compartir sus retos, estrategias y lecciones aprendidas. Si bien América Latina presenta condiciones muy diversas en términos étnicos, de dinámica política y avances jurídicos, todos los observatorios comparten algunas preocupaciones. Por ejemplo, el acceso a datos es a menudo difícil y la legislación sobre transparencia es diferente en cada país. El procesamiento y la actualización de los datos, la producción de informes relevantes y la adaptación y diseminación de la información para las diferentes audiencias técnicas y políticas son procesos complejos, exigentes y costosos.  Todos los observatorios compartes dificultades para su sustentabilidad financiera ya que solamente son efectivos si cuentan con una producción consistente de información actualizada, relevante y de calidad.

La rendición de cuentas es un tema cada vez más destacado en el área de la salud, tanto a nivel global como a nivel nacional y estos tres días constituyeron una experiencia de aprendizaje muy interesante para todos los participantes. Los observatorios tienen un enorme potencial tanto por su capacidad de generar información relevante como de movilizar compromiso político hacia la salud materna. Para los representantes de los Observatorios de ALC la reunión en Quito fue una oportunidad para comparar experiencias, compartir ideas y construir alianzas. Por nuestra parte, FCI continuará promoviendo la articulación de una visión regional que fortalezca la acción y el impacto de los Observatorios, asegurando la equidad y el ejercicio de derechos.

FCI helps launch Ecuador’s first Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory

Maritza Segura is FCI’s national coordinator in Ecuador.

FCI, along with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Center for Research, Promotion and Popular Education (CIPEP), provided technical support to Ecuador’s National Health Council (CONASA) for the launch of Ecuador’s first National Sexual and Reproductive Rights Observatory.

The meeting, titled Towards the Ecuadorian Center of Human Rights and Sexual and Reproductive Health, is taking place in Quito from May 30th to June 1st. Participants include representatives from other observatories in the region, including Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, and Uruguay, who are sharing their experiences and lessons learned.

The meeting launches and seeks to strengthen the national Observatory for monitoring and reporting on the rate of compliance with health and reproductive rights, especially in relation to ethnic groups, diversity, gender, and generational issues.

CONASA is a representative body of members of the national health system, comprised of public, private, autonomous, and community health sectors. This meeting will include the nomination, by civil society participant organizations, of a citizen’s oversight board to participate in the construction and methodological definition of the Observatory.

It is expected that, in the medium and longer term, the Observatory will help lead to the reduction of maternal mortality in Ecuador, and will thereby help the country to achieve its targets under MDG (Millennium Development Goal) 5.

FCI is grateful for the generous support from the MacArthur Foundation.


FCI apoya la conformación del primer Observatorio de Salud y Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos del Ecuador

Maritza Segura es coordinador nacional de FCI en Ecuador.

FCI, junto al Fondo de Población de las Naciones Unidas (UNFPA), la Organización Panamericana de la Salud (PAHO), y el Centro de Investigación, Promoción y Educación Popular, apoya al Consejo Nacional de Salud (CONASA) de Ecuador para conformar el primer Observatorio Nacional de Salud y Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos.

Del 30 de mayo al 1ro de junio de 2011 se lleva a cabo en Quito la reunión “Hacia el Observatorio Ecuatoriano de Derechos y Salud Sexual y Reproductiva”, con la participación de representantes de otros observatorios exitosos de la región con el fin de compartir experiencias y lecciones aprendidas, entre ellos de los observatorios de México, Guatemala, Chile y Uruguay.

El encuentro tiene el objetivo de fortalecer la propuesta nacional de un Observatorio para la vigilancia e información sobre él índice de cumplimiento de la salud y los derechos sexuales y reproductivos, especialmente en grupos étnicos, diversidades, por género y generación.

En este marco, el CONASA, como organismo de representación de los integrantes del Sistema Nacional de Salud, conformado por entidades públicas, privadas, autónomas y comunitarias del sector salud, ha previsto que el evento incluya la nominación, por parte de las instituciones y organizaciones de la sociedad civil participantes, de un consejo ciudadano de veeduría que participarán en la construcción y definición metodológica del Observatorio.

Se espera que, a mediano y largo plazo, el accionar del Observatorio ayude al Ecuador a reducir la razón de mortalidad materna y, así, a lograr las metas del ODM 5.

FCI agradece el generoso apoyo de la Fundación MacArthur.



WHO approves misoprostol to prevent hemorrhage

Shafia Rashid is a senior program officer in FCI’s Global Advocacy program.

Last week, the WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines approved the inclusion of misoprostol for the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) on the WHO List of Essential Medicines.  PPH,or severe bleeding following childbirth, is one of the major causes of maternal death and disability in developing countries. The Expert Committee noted that “600 micrograms [misoprostol] given orally is effective and safe for the prevention of PPH” in settings where oxytocin, currently the standard of care to prevent PPH, is not available or feasible. Moreover, the committee moved misoprostol from the complementary to the core list of essential medicines, validating the drug’s important role in women’s health.

Structure of the misoprostol molecule/
Structure of the misoprostol molecule

Misoprostol, a prostaglandin, offers several potential advantages over oxytocin for managing PPH in resource-constrained settings. It is widely available in developing countries, is relatively inexpensive, can be transported and stored without refrigeration, and can be administered without an injection.

The addition of misoprostol to the WHO List of Essential Medicines is an important step forward in making the drug more widely available for PPH, and provides a critical opportunity for disseminating clear, evidence-based information to ministries of health, regulatory authorities, health system managers, health workers, and other audiences.

Strong, effective, and consistent advocacy at the global, regional, and country levels is critical for improving women’s access to misoprostol for both prevention and treatment of PPH. FCI is working with Gynuity Health Projects and other partners to develop an evidence-based advocacy agenda and communications plan to harmonize and disseminate messages on the use of misoprostol for preventing and managing PPH.

  • For more information on FCI’s work on misoprostol for PPH, click here.

FCI co-sponsoring NYC event on indigenous women

FCI, together with partners UNFPA, the Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas, the International Indigenous Women’s Forum—FIMI, and Spanish International Development Cooperation Agency—AECID, are organizing a side event as part of the 10th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The side event — Indigenous Women, Health & Rights: Strengthening indigenous women to realize their right to reproductive health — will feature presentations by indigenous women leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. Speakers will discuss ways in which the “Indigenous Women, Health & Rights ” initiative, launched by UNFPA and AECID in 2008, has strengthened the capacity of indigenous women’s organizations to advocate for safe motherhood, and will discuss advances, challenges, and plans for the future. The event will be held on Tuesday, May 17, 2011, at the Beekman Tower Hotel, NYC, from 1 to 3PM. English/Spanish translation will be available.

FCI está co-organizando con UNFPA, el Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de las Américas, el Foro Internacional de Mujeres Indígenas—FIMI y la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo—AECID, un evento paralelo en el marco de la 10 ª Sesión del Foro Permanente para las Cuestiones Indígenas de las Naciones Unidas. El evento, titulado “Mujer Indígena, Salud y   Derechos: Fortaleciendo a las mujeres indígenas para la realización de su derecho a la salud reproductiva” contará con presentaciones a cargo de mujeres líderes indígenas de Ecuador, Bolivia y Perú. Las lideresas hablarán sobre lo que ha significado para ellas y sus organizaciones la iniciativa “Mujer Indígena, Salud y Derechos“, lanzada por el UNFPA y la AECID en 2008. La iniciativa se ha centrado en el fortalecimiento de las organizaciones indígenas para abogar por sus derechos reproductivos, en especial la salud materna. El evento tendrá lugar el martes, 17 de mayo 2011, en el Beekman Tower Hotel, Beekman Ballroon, Nueva York, de 13 a 15 horas. Se facilitará interpretación simultánea: español/inglés.

Defending women’s rights at the CPD

Amy Boldosser is Senior Program Officer for Global Advocacy at Family Care International.

As I wrote in a previous post, the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) held its annual meeting last week in New York. The CPD’s mandate is to further the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, a groundbreaking 1994 agreement that confirmed the central place of women’s rights and access to reproductive health in population and development policy.

UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin
UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin

Remarks by UN leaders made it clear that the stakes in these discussions are very high. In his report to this year’s CPD, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that current funding levels for family planning, reproductive health services, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are so low that they jeopardize the fulfillment of both the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals. The Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs noted the cost-effectiveness of investments in family planning: “For every dollar spent on modern contraceptives, $1.30 is saved in maternal and newborn care.”  Babatunde Osotimehin, the new UNFPA Executive Director, stated it clearly: “Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure, it is an investment in our future.”

After a long week of intense  negotiations lasting late into the night, the Commission’s final Resolution reaffirmed the ICPD Programme of Action; it also welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health which aims to reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality.  Support for implementation of the Global Strategy was also reiterated by a number of governments in their formal statements to the CPD.

For those of us who work on global health, the connection between women’s reproductive health and rights and broader development and population issues is an obvious one.  Unfortunately, a small but vocal minority of governments led by the Vatican, which is not a member state but has observer status at the United Nations, refuse to recognize that interconnectedness and opposed rights- affirming language in negotiations on the CPD Resolution for this year. These opposition governments at the CPD raised repeated roadblocks in negotiations on language around women’s rights — and particularly references to gender, abortion, sexuality, reproductive rights,  comprehensive sexuality education, and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people— challenging international commitments that date as far back as the ICPD in 1994.  Their stalling tactics included repeatedly questioning the  definitions of such basic terms as “reproductive health commodities,” “fertility,” and even “girls.”  One African CPD delegate put it best: “A small minority are intent on ignoring the facts on the ground and the need of working on measures to save the lives of women.” In the end, the Commission safeguarded the rights of women and young people to access education and lifesaving services in its final Resolution, but this result did not come without a struggle. This year’s experience shows the urgent need for continued advocacy to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights, both for their own sake and because they are crucial for sustainable development.

The theme of the 2012 CPD will be “Adolescents and youth.” A number of youth-led advocacy groups were key players at this year’s meeting. (You can read about the CPD Youth Caucus here, and can also see video of their powerful statements at the CPD.) The opposition is sure to be out in force again next year, opposing policies that educate and empower young people, and FCI will work in close alliance with youth-led groups and other advocates from around the world to ensure that the development goals laid out at the ICPD, including universal access to reproductive health, finally become a reality for all women and young people.