* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Family planning is about women choosing if and when to have children. It’s about women having safe pregnancies and being supported in their choices. Preventing and ending the transfer of HIV/AIDS from mother to child is about women having access to the power of information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
When we talk about family planning and creating an AIDs-free world, the key actors should be women. The key factors should be women’s rights and women’s choice.
At the London Summit on Family Planning, I am hopeful that we can indeed change the world.
The Summit will only succeed if we remember that family planning saves lives. We live in a time when women’s reproductive rights are contested. The “language of rights” was edited out of the outcomes of Rio+20, and in the U.S., the “war on women” means contraception is increasingly under attack. How did we get to this point? Or as Melinda Gates asked in her recent article: “where’s the controversy in saving lives?”
The UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and UN Population Fund (UNFPA), along with those in attendance, have the power to shift the earth on its axis and put women, their rights and choices, front and center. Women are critical in reducing poverty, boosting economic growth and agricultural productivity, promoting children’s development, and realizing sustainable development.
To ensure that the investment spearheaded by the Gates Foundation and DFID enhances governments’ commitments to meet family planning and HIV/AIDS obligations, a rights based approach must be used. This includes the right to protection from violence and harm; the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress; right to education and information, food, shelter, jobs, and self-determination. A human rights approach includes all women and all rights, without exception.
The health of women is an important marker for the health, security, and well being of a nation. Advancing the health of women cannot be achieved without increasing access to quality family planning, and protecting women from all forms of gender based violence, including that which women face in health care settings. When women have access to family planning information, programs, and supplies in a safe and secure environment, and with respect and dignity, they are able to plan and space their births as they and their families determine. Quality family planning is also associated with significant decrease in maternal newborn and child death, and abortion related morbidity and mortality.
Every child needs and deserves a living, happy, healthy, and safe mother.