Historic Commitments to Family Planning Made in London. But what really counts is what happens next, writes Maeve Shearlaw:
Today I attended the London Summit on Family Planning hosted by the UK Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, widely billed as ‘ground breaking’. Sure enough, the summit provided a big political platform for donor and country governments to pledge much needed new resources and policy commitments to provide women with the family planning services they most desperately need.
The momentum and support in the run up to the summit was amazing, with broad agreement on the need to focus attention on this issue. There’s no doubt that family planning saves lives, empowers women and delivers financial savings; it’s estimated that every $1 a government invests in family planning can save it $6 more on other essential public services including hospitals, houses and schools.
The summit started well. Melinda Gates said this ‘’was one of the most exciting days of my life’’. Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell said it was a ‘’truly momentous occasion’’, and quickly the hashtag # FPsummit started to trend as people followed the summit online. Melinda quoted Sadie, a woman she recently met in Niger, who said ‘’when you don’t do family planning, everyone in the family suffers’’.
A few of our favourite quotes and tweets came from Annie Lennox who said "I am so so happy because I feel this could be a major breakthrough". Twitter user @JessCordingly tweeted: ‘’watch for maternal death rates falling as women can at last start to decide how and when they have their children’’, while @cejaimadu tweeted that ‘’It's a good day in the world when we all come together today to save the future’’.
And then the commitments started to come through, thick and fast.
The Government of Zambia committed to increasing funding for family planning by 100%, so that the percentage of Zambian women who can access family planning should rise from 33% to 55%.
The Government of Malawi committed to increasing the contraception prevalance rate by 60%; they also plan to raise the legal age of marriage to 18, aiming for "no parenthood before adulthood’;’ this I’m sure will be welcomed by our partners @GirlsNotBrides, an international coalition working to prevent child marriage.
Both India and Indonesia made commitments to increase the number of people who can access family planning for free, as well as renewing their commitment to improve health systems - including well supported health workers – in order to provide family planning service to women. Both countries also expressed a willingness to share their successes and challenges with other countries.
The Minister of Health for India stressed that this must be ‘’country led’’ and culturally sensitive, making the point that although the summit happened in London, it was for women all over the world – and this is why it is so important to listen to grassroots voices before these commitments are put in to action.
The last big country commitment was from Nigeria who promised to increase money spent on family planning by 300% (as part of their commitment to save 1 million lives by 2018). This is an ambitious target, which of course got a massive round of applause - but when we shared the details with our Nigerian members on twitter some weren’t so sure:
@yeenka said that ‘’we need a realistic target’’, while @EreluAB’’ said ‘’this indeed an achievement and much needed dev. for Nigeria, but now how do we "nurture "the religious teaching to accept this dev’’. These comments are a good reminder that this summit is just the beginning of a long road ahead; if governments have made ambitious targets they must share plans on how they are going to deliver them, while it is also equally important to address religious and cultural barriers that affect women.
The total number of commitments collected today reached $4.6 billion which included commitments from the hosts of $500 million each. If we add this to the level of political will and support from people around the world, this is definitely something to be proud of - but it is just the first step. Next up is ensuring accountability and implementation.
This was confirmed for us in a couple of comments in our accountability #tweetchat we also held today: ‘’4.6billion means nothing without a concrete plan of #accountability #transparency’’, and ‘’We need to work together, especially w/ dev. country partners’’ and we must ‘’Keep global convo going to ensure accountability’’
Today we heard from The Gates Foundation, the UK Government and many others about their commitment to accountability and transparency. This is core business for members of the White Ribbon Alliance and so we look forward to working together to ensure a transformational change for women around the world!
Get Involved in the Summit
- For more on the White Ribbon Alliance’s work around the Family Planning Summit please visit http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/index.cfm/the-issues/family-planning/
- Please also stayed tuned for our citizens’ video report live from the summit available on our YouTube Chanel shortlyhttp://www.youtube.com/whiteribbonalliance
- To comment on your countries commitment please see our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/whiteribbonalliance