Family Planning Conference closes with commitment towards universal access to reproductive health services

The fifth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) has come to a close in Rwanda with remarks from government officials, global leaders, advocates and youth reaffirming their commitment to ensuring every woman and girl has access to high-quality, affordable family planning information and services. 

Speakers highlighted impactful programs that have driven progress toward the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) goal of adding 120 million contraceptive users by 2020, and called for collective action to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030, a press statement from the conference said.

During the morning plenary, moderated by Beth Schlachter, Executive Director of Family Planning 2020, speakers highlighted successful country-led initiatives and discussed the future of the family planning movement as 2020 approaches. 

Honorable Professor Nicolas Meda, Minister of Health of Burkina Faso, and Quazi A.K.M. Mohiul Islam, Additional Secretary of the Medical Education and Family Welfare Division of the Mefwd and Mohfw in Bangladesh, spoke of their respective countries’ commitment to building strong health systems and expanding contraceptive access. 

“Burkina Faso is on track to self-reliance and domestic resource mobilization,” said Hon. Professor Nicolas Meda. “We are in the process of declaring family planning free at all levels…and from January 2017 to January 2018 we moved from 24.6% mCPR [modern contraceptive prevalence rate] to 30.1% mCPR.”

Burkina Faso has the highest mCPR in West Africa. The country is a regional family planning leader and birthplace of the Ouagadougou Partnership, a consortium of nine countries which set and achieved a collective goal of reaching one million women with family planning services by 2015. 

The partnership has since expanded its goal, and aims to add 2.2 million more contraceptive users by 2030, illustrating the impact of country-led initiatives.

Despite advances in many countries, the FP2020 partnership is unlikely to meet its goal of reaching 120 million additional women with contraceptives by 2020. 

Speakers shared their vision for what comes next, emphasizing the importance of situating family planning within efforts to build comprehensive health systems as the community looks toward 2030, and reframing conversations around youth access to contraception.

“Along with accessibility [of contraceptives] for young people, it’s also important to increase the acceptability of contraceptive use among youth,” said Manasa Priya Vasudevan, FP2020 Youth
Reference Group Member and Program Manager at the YP Foundation. “[This] requires the international community to recognize that adolescents are sexual beings…We need to inject diversity into our international community so vulnerable groups [and young people] can come to the table.”

“We wouldn’t have FP2020 if we didn’t have ambitious targets [and] we shouldn’t look at missed targets as a bad thing, as long as we are adding and iterating on new targets going forward,” said Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of AVAC, before highlighting the importance of working together across the family planning and HIV communities to achieve collective goals. 

“At the end of the day,” he continued, “we need to create a method mix for family planning and HIV prevention that is truly about informed choice.”

During key presentations of the day, speakers also addressed goals, gaps, achievements and the agenda for family planning.

“In the future, family planning goal models could potentially be used at the decentralization level to identify subnational goals and customize plans of action,” said Dr. Felix Sayinzoga, Division Manager, Maternal Child and Community Health at the Rwanda Biomedical Center.  

The increase of service provision through secondary health posts and Community Health Workers, as well as public family planning campaigns, have proven effective and replicable.

At the closing ceremony, parliamentarians from 20 countries committed to ensuring the right of all individuals to access comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Faith leaders also committed to support quality family planning education and service delivery, and to work with governments and stakeholders to enact policies that expand contraceptive access, especially among youth. 

Young leaders on stage called on conference attendees to remain accountable to their commitments, and on governments and donors for greater transparency in decision-making and funding to support young advocates.

The conference co-hosts also announced the winners of the 2018 Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning (EXCELL) Awards, recognizing remarkable contributions by countries, organizations and individuals to expanding access to voluntary family planning information and services.

 The conference concluded with a musical performance after remarks from the Honorable Minister of State of Rwanda, Patrick Ndimubanzi.

“We loved the energy [of the young people], we enjoyed hearing your perspectives and valuable contributions,” said Ndimubanzi. “This has been a fantastic opportunity to learn from each other and discuss the unfinished agenda. We’ve come a long way, but there is still much to do.”

More than 3,700 people – including over 600 youth leaders – participated in the 2018 ICFP, making it the largest ICFP in history. The next ICFP will be held in 2020, and location to be announced later.

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