Increased investments in family planning to drive social/economic returns in developing countries --Global leaders

Speakers at the plenary, including Mrs. Toyin Ojora-Saraki, wife of Senate President
Youths at the conference take to the stage
Photos:       Conference web site

On Tuesday and Day Two of the Fifth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) presently holding in Kigali, Rwanda, global leaders called for increased funding for family planning programs, with major donors announcing an additional $350M USD in family planning funding.

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development had in the hours surrounding plenary, announced UK aid is investing over £200 million (approximately $260M USD) in a new flagship program Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH), which will ensure six million couples can reliably gain access to life-saving voluntary contraception in some of the world’s poorest countries every year of the program.

The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development of Canada, announced up to Can$104.4 million ($78.8M USD) in funding for projects that take a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including universal access to family planning and access to safe and legal abortion. This investment is part of Canada’s $650 million commitment to address gaps in funding for SRHR, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2017.

Also, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched an $18 million USD family planning fund, managed by UNFPA Supplies, for the Ouagadougou Partnership countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo): $15 million for a commodity matching fund and $3 million USD for accompanying technical assistance. The commodity matching fund will allocate two dollars for every additional dollar that these countries invest into family planning from domestic resources, based on the previous year’s allocation. This funding follows an announcement from Melinda Gates in Burkina Faso earlier in 2018.

These announcements complemented the morning plenary, in which Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of the Republic of Rwanda, had emphasized the benefits of family planning for health, education, economies and the environment, in remarks made alongside economists and young advocates at the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP). 

Addressing over 3,700 attendees, speakers called for increased funding for programs expanding access to contraceptives in developing countries to promote long-term stability and economic growth. 

Dr. Ndagijimana was joined by Dr. Ernesto Pernia, Economic Planning Minister of the Philippines and Annette Dixon, Vice President of Human Development at the World Bank, on a roundtable discussing the critical role of family planning in achieving the demographic dividend. 

Experts define the demographic dividend as the potential for economic growth that results from shifts in a population’s age structure, a press statement from the conference stated. 

It also maintained that as health outcomes improve and more women gain access to contraceptives, birth rates decline and the working population increases while the number of dependents decreases, stressing that when paired with the right social and economic investments, countries can position themselves to experience sustained economic growth.

“The demographic dividend refers to gains in economic growth and changes in the population age structure when we have a larger working-age population and fewer dependents,” said Dr. Uzziel Ndagijimana, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda. “For this workforce to generate a dividend, it must be well-equipped with the right knowledge and skills [including family planning] to be productive to help the economy grow.”

Plenary panelists emphasized that the world is entering a particularly critical moment: more than half of the world’s 1.2 billion young people (aged 10-19) live in developing countries and many still lack access to contraceptives. Speakers described how greater access to reproductive health services could enable this generation of young people to plan their pregnancies – thereby increasing their chances of staying in school, joining the workforce and becoming the next generation of productive adults rearing healthy families and fueling prosperous economies.

Demographer and economist Dr. Hans-Peter Kohler of the University of Pennsylvania and 24-year-old ICFP Young Leader from Zimbabwe, Ms. Jane Nyathi, reinforced these points at a second roundtable, which closed with a special message from environmentalist Jane Goodall.

Ms. Jane Nyathi emphasized “Family planning issues mostly affect young people. [Many] African countries have not lived up to their [FP2020] commitments and people’s future are diminished and destroyed [as a result]. It is important that youth be taken seriously because we are the present and we are the future.”

In addition to reducing newborn and maternal deaths and school dropouts due to early pregnancy, experts estimate that achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030 and eliminating unmet need for modern contraception by 2040 could realize health and economic benefits worth $120 for each dollar spent.  Studies also suggest that sufficient investment in voluntary family planning services and girls’ education would reduce carbon emissions by nearly 60 gigatons through 2050.

Following the morning plenary, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, was joined by distinguished female leaders including Her Excellency Martine Moïse, First Lady of Haïti; Her Excellency Toyin Ojora-Saraki, Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Her Royal Highness Sarah Zeid, Princess of Jordan on a panel discussion, “Women of Impact: Global Leaders Creating Positive Change.”

“This is what women’s leadership is about. We catalyze positive change, we lead without imposing. We face challenges head on as ‘natural leaders,” said First Lady of Rwanda Mrs. Jeannette Kagame.
“Our collective knowledge, skill sets, vast and varied experiences, will help us innovate, challenge norms and standards that do not promote equality, and always find the best possible solutions, which truly ensure that ‘no one is left behind.”

Another session of the day was on Community Health. The discussion was about overcoming barriers to access community based provision program of family planning services by Community Health Workers (CHWs).

Mrs. Katty Mugeni in charge of Maternal and Child and Community Unit in Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) said "Family Planning is a priority in Rwanda, we don't just talk about it but we implement it!” 

Minister of Health Dr. Diane Gashumba commended work done by CHWs in Rwanda: "There is no cost for the work you do, thanks to your efforts, we achieved the health related MDGs because of your great contribution.” CHWs contribute in raising awareness on the importance of Family Planning, educate them about the existing methods and provide services to those who chose to use them. 

 Women of Impact, Tuesday night, joined fellow political leaders, advocates and celebrities for a “Red Carpet Celebration: An Evening Among the Stars,” co-hosted by Population Services International, where the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to four champions of the modern contraception movement. A Young Maverick Award was also given to a young philanthropist who has worked to revolutionize access to reproductive healthcare.

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