Everyone knows it transforms lives and societies. How do we make it a national priority?

How much would we save if everyone had the freedom and options that access to family planning brings?

Well, to give you a concrete example, according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research (CEBR), the average parent in the UK spends £230,000 from birth to age 21 to raise a child. That includes childcare costs, nappies, food, clothes, toys and many other essentials.

The CEBR’s estimated spend obviously varies from one country to another, depending on countries’ economic structure and levels of poverty.  But there’s one thing that’s constant when parents don’t have the necessary financial resources: poverty. That’s something we can all understand, no matter the continent or country we live in.

Decades of research has shown that when people can prevent pregnancies and plan and space births there are many benefits – including:

  • a reduction in the risk of mortality associated with pregnancy and childbirth
  • poverty alleviation
  • more investment in their children’s health and well-being.

Highlighting the extensive and far-reaching social and economic dividends that family planning investments can yield was the theme Investing for a lifetime of returns – the 5th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP 2018). It set out in simple terms why investment in family planning is the best buy a country can make in its future.

After an inspiring and thought-provoking opening plenary, the one question I repeatedly asked myself for two days was: how can civil society organisations (CSOs) influence greater national investment in family planning?

On the third day of ICFP 2018 I found a session on family planning policy, financing and accountability, which brought that question to life. A discussion about the Global Financing Facility (GFF) stimulated even more thoughts and ideas to go with the barrage of questions I already had.

The GFF seeks to contribute to global efforts to end preventable deaths of women, adolescents, children and newborns. It struck me as an important investment opportunity that CSOs can leverage to help countries improve access to family planning.  In other words, with strong CSOs engagement in countries investment cases the GFF can be a source of additional funding for family planning.

But when it came to questions and answers for this session, the challenges CSOs and countries are facing with the GFF became clear. The main issue I noted is that many CSOs and governments don’t fully understand the GFF mechanism in their country.

Someone asked, “How can the GFF help in creating an enabling environment for CSOs’ effective engagement and participation in national investment cases for reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) and the different stages of implementation?” The responses made clear that, at the national level, the GFF’s engagement with CSOs varies considerably. In many cases, the process for developing a national investment framework in RMNCAH isn’t clear or isn’t shared with CSOs, and there are limited tools and resources available to support them. CSOs’ capacities have not been fully harnessed.

But there are ways forward – as discussions at the conference highlighted. Government officials from Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria outlined key lessons to empower CSOs to really engage and participate in countries’ investment cases for RMNCAH (including family planning) and in setting priority areas. They said that CSOs should:

  • present themselves with a unified voice as trusted allies for development
  • understand countries’ key GFF documents (eg, concept note, business case) and their specific GFF processes, such as investment phases for RMNCAH and what each of the priority intervention phases entails
  • align work plans to key GFF documents and national priority areas to support the government to implement the RMNCAH investment case.

Out of all the GFF discussions, one thing remains clear to me: CSOs are important to the partnership model of the GFF.

The GFF is replenished and expanding to more eligible countries. If we can now strengthen our capacities, we’ll be in a better place to influence our national GFF platform – and to ensure that investment in family planning is a national priority.

 

 

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Comments

  • Alex Mulbah

    Family planning is major determinant of good maternal and child health. It also helps people plan their lives and contribute to national development. It is important for national governments to prioritize family planning services making it accessible and available.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Alex! You could not have said it any better.

  • Alex Mulbah

    An excellent piece of work well written. Thanks to the author. Permission to share…

  • Ngozi

    A very important topic. Access to free/affordable and socially acceptable family planning has a huge role to play in eliminating generational poverty at the micro level with great economic impact at the macro level.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    So true Ngosi! Thanks for reading and also your contribution to this very important issue.

  • wgomez

    An interesting read on family planning investment and CSOs. Governments must also endeavor to continue creating enabling environments to encourage the involvement of CSOs when it comes to such issues.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Woedem! Indeed, governments should involve CSOs in such an issue. Very good point.

  • zlankerwon gonsan-zeo

    Wow. Very insightful article and certainly and a topic that is generally swept under the carpet over the years. Thank you Delou for sharing your experience and spreading knowledge on this important topic. Prior to this article, I had never heard of the GFF, and I must say – I’m very pleased with what they are aiming to achieve.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Zlankerwon! I am glad you learned something new today. Thanks for reading.

  • Efe Akhimien

    The Effects of family planning on the wellbeing of a nation cannot be underestimated. Efforts must be made to make family planning free and accessible without discrimination for the development of a healthy nation. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation.

  • Massa Mamey

    Nicely written Delou. This post is really a food for thought. Aligning family planning with national priorities is so far fetched, it almost sounds impossible, yet it’s another means of alevating poverty and improving the standard of living.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Massa! We value your contribution to the this important issue.

  • Amanda Munah Karpeh

    Bravo Delou, this is good and believe me, I’m super proud of you my dearest.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Amanda!

  • Charlotte Blegay

    Great piece Delou, very informative and I’m glad to hear that the conference addressed several issues within this topic. As you highlighted, investment in family planning is ultimately a national investment.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Charlotte!

  • Josephine Gornor-Pewu

    Yes family planning does transform lives and societies. Therefore more awareness and should be given to reduce the rates of pregnancy and childbirth related mortality, henceforth improving the well-being of children.

    The article was well articulated. One of the best I have read on this subject. More of the author’s work should be published.

  • Delou Gonsan-Zeo

    Thanks Josephine for your time and contribution to the issue.

  • Jacob Tengbeh

    Thanks Delou for this useful information.
    So true, if only CSOs could engage governments and advocate for availability and accessibility of family planning services more lives would have been saved. Maternal mortality remains a global concern and should be seen as EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS.