Creative Approaches to Addressing the Unmet Need for Contraceptives

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By: Jill Sheffield, Founder and President, Women Deliver

This post is part of a blog series on maternal health commodities. To view the entire series, click here.

Recently, a new study by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) informed the world that while the overall unmet need for contraceptives has declined, in the Global South—where 73% of all women with unmet need live—the number has significantly increased. This is disheartening news. Family planning is hailed as one of the great public health achievements of the last century, and yet over 200 million women worldwide who want to use contraceptives don’t have access to them. The worldwide demand for family planning is clear.

Across the globe, grassroots and global leaders are taking creative approaches to meeting this demand. This March, on International Women’s Day, Women Deliver celebrated some of the innovators masterminding these solutions in our list of The Women Deliver 50, the “top 50 inspiring ideas and solutions that deliver for girls and women.” These programs help generate demand for contraceptives and dialogue about social justice. Here are a few of the pioneering efforts:

Leveraging the portability and privacy of mobile phones, Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) has tapped into the vast power of social media to revolutionize the way men and women learn about their contraceptive options–including implants, intrauterine devices, injectables, oral contraceptive pills, condoms, and emergency contraception. To date, m4RH has reached more than 13,000 users in Kenya and Tanzania.

– PATH and its research partners have developed a new form of contraception that puts power into the hands of women. The Woman’s Condom is an innovative, easy-to-use, and more comfortable female condom designed to promote greater control for women in their sexual decision making, and help prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

– Every year on September 26, World Contraception Day is held to raise and improve awareness on contraception and reproductive health. Under the motto “Live your life. Know your rights. Learn about contraception,” this year’s campaign encouraged youth worldwide to exercise their right to accurate, unbiased contraceptive information and services.

These solutions give us hope that we may one day see a world where every child is wanted, and every woman can control her own fertility.  In the last year, we have seen amazing successes: maternal mortality rates are finally dropping, and the launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child initiative has garnered unprecedented support from governments to civil society to the private sector. The recent London Summit on Family Planning brought global leaders together to raise funds to deliver contraceptives to an additional 120 million women worldwide.

Proven, life-saving solutions are out there, from removing barriers of access, to engaging heads of state as family planning champions, to ensuring village-level outreach to postpartum mothers.  We all must remember that change is possible, and that the momentum for girls and women is building. Let’s move forward with renewed energy to build a better world for girls and women!