I’m Still Asking: Where’s The Family Planning?

From May 16 to 19 this year, advocates from around the world are coming together in Copenhagen for the Women Deliver conference. As they work to improve the lives of women and girls, we’re spotlighting their work and experiences here on the Ms. blog.


As thousands of advocates, policymakers and global leaders wrap up a week of discussion at the Women Deliver global conference on how to transform our world through the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I can’t help but keep asking: WTFP?! (Where’s the Family Planning?!)

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Family planning and reproductive health care remain one of the most effective investments in health and development, yet many women and girls around the world continue to face the same challenges accessing these essential services as they did when I joined this field 20 years ago.

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute released the week revealed that there are 23 million adolescents in developing countries who are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptives. That means 23 million adolescents who are potentially at risk of becoming pregnancy before they want to, before they are ready, or perhaps before it is safe for them to do so.

As a young woman Mea Olympio from our EngenderHealth office in Togo told us here this week, “even the mere mention of the word sex in front of adults is taboo.” Despite the taboo, young people are having sex and because they don’t have access to services, or feel too shy or fearful to seek them, are doing so at risk.

There is simply no way to achieve equality for women and girls unless every woman, no matter her circumstance, has the opportunity to choose if, when and how many children to have. Her ability to meet her reproductive intentions is essential because it can enable her to stay in school longer, earn more and have a healthier family if or when she wants—but it is also her essential human right.

Conferences like Women Deliver are great reminders of the untapped potential that women and girls offer. Our challenge now is how to bring these words into action. I hope others will join me in continuing to ask WTFP?! so that family planning remains high on the global agenda, and so that we can continue expanding our services on the ground to young women like Mea.

The SDGs must deliver on their promise for every girl, every woman, everywhere. By 2030 no one should be asking where the family planning is anymore.

Photo courtesy of the author.

160330B-050.02.web_FINALUlla E. Müller is President and Chief Executive Officer of EngenderHealth, a leading global women’s health organization committed to ensuring that every pregnancy is planned and every mother has the best chance at survival. Active in nearly 20 countries around the world, EngenderHealth trains health care professionals and partners with governments and communities to make high-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health services available—today and for generations to come.

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