Melinda Gates Answers Your Questions, Ctd.

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The second and third installments of Melinda Gates’ answers to reader questions are now available.

Topics include access to contraceptives in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh has made huge improvements in getting women access to contraceptives since its independence 40 years ago. The program has consistently maintained strong support from the highest levels of government and society, and has had great success tapping into the tremendous amount of latent demand for contraceptives. Nearly half of Bangladeshi women use modern contraceptives today, up from just five percent in 1975. The average number of births per woman has dropped correspondingly, from 6.3 to 2.3 over the same period. We often talk about all the benefits that stem from getting women access to family planning tools, but Bangladesh went to great lengths to prove this hypothesis.


Involving women in decision making:

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to travel to places like Bangladesh to talk to women about their lives. I learn so much from them. Some of the most extraordinary innovations in health and development in recent decades have come from simple conversations that start with asking people what they need. I particularly like to ask mothers what they dream about for their children’s futures, and the answer is almost always the same wherever I go. They want their children to grow up healthy, and they want to be able to send them to school.


And dealing with corruption:

It’s unfortunate and true that Bangladesh is perceived to be one of the world’s most corrupt countries. The Bangladeshis I have met have told me that they feel this in small ways on a fairly regular basis. Because the problem is systemic, it’s hard for them to go against the tide. One doctor I met with yesterday told me that nobody pays attention to traffic lights since you can buy your way out of a ticket for a small fee and because if you don’t run the red light, “everyone else will and you’ll never get to your destination.” Obviously, these unnecessary surcharges on everyday life and other forms of corruption are a major impediment to faster economic growth and it’s something the government and others must address.