Melinda Gates: Contraception is “A Totally Uncontroversial Idea Which Unfortunately Has Become Incredibly Controversial”

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At the April 5 TEDxChange event, Melinda Gates gave a speech that the  Gates Foundation has described as the launch event for “a major push for the foundation around the critical role family planning plays in advancing women’s health and ensuring that women are empowered to decide when and if to have children.” Melinda’s comments about contraception as “a totally uncontroversial idea which unfortunately has become incredibly controversial” have sparked a lively online conversation.

From Impatient Optimists:

How many of you reading this right now are currently using some method of family planning?

Go ahead and raise your virtual hands, and while you do, please think about how the opportunity to plan your family has changed your life, and think about the hundreds of millions of women and men around the world who would like to raise their virtual hands but don’t have access to contraception. Together, we have an opportunity to change this situation—to envision and to create a world where all hands are held high.

In a transformation talk at TEDxChange in Berlin last week, Melinda French Gates began a movement to change the conversation and to transform the field of family planning. She pointed out that there is something each of us can do to get more hands raised for family planning. We can start talking about it. We can have frank conversations about the incredible benefits to women, families, communities, and whole nations when we increase the ability of women and men to plan their families.

Read the full post here.

Excerpt from the speech:

When I was in the slum outside of Nairobi, I met a young businesswoman who sold backpacks she made from scraps of denim. She had three children, and she and her husband had decided to stop at three. She told me it would be impossible to keep her business if she had to take care of another child. On the other hand, she said, with the money she was earning, she’d be able to send all three to school. She was optimistic about their future.

This is the same mental calculus hundreds of millions of women have gone through, and the evidence proves that these women have it exactly right. They are able to give their children more opportunities by exercising control over when they have them.

In Bangladesh, there is a district called Matlab where researchers have been collecting data on 180,000 inhabitants since 1963. It may be the longest-running, most rigorous study in the field of global health.

As part of the study, half the villages in Matlab were randomly chosen to get easier access to, and extra education about, contraceptives. Twenty years later, the people in those villages had a higher quality of life than their neighbors.

They were healthier.

  • They were less likely to die in childbirth.
  • They were less likely to have a child who died.
  • They were better nourished.

Read the full speech here.

Watch the video of her speech here.

Continue this conversation on Twitter at hashtag #nocontroversy.