On July 11th the London Family Planning Summit brought together representatives from national governments of developing countries, donors, civil society, private sector, and research and development communities, to support the right of women and girls to have control over their sexual and reproductive lives. Restless Development were there to show world leaders the importance of youth involvement in decision-making on family planning.

Photograph: Carl Court/AP
Youth delegates with PM David Cameron, Andrew Mitchell and Melinda Gates

On July 11th at the London Family Planning Summit Restless Development, Save the Children, IPPF and Nike Foundation showed world leaders the importance of youth involvement in decision making on, and service delivery for family planning.

The London Family Planning Summit, hosted on July 11th by the UK government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with UNFPA, brought together representatives from national governments of developing countries (such as Uganda, India, Malawi and Bangladesh), donors, civil society, private sector, and research and development communities, to support the right of women and girls to have control over their sexual and reproductive lives.

Contraceptives are one of the best investments a country can make in its future. Each US$ spent on family planning can save governments up to six dollars on health, housing, water, and other public services. And yet, according to the UN, 220 million women and girls in developing countries who want to delay, space or avoid becoming pregnant are not using effective methods of contraception, resulting in over 75 million unintended pregnancies every year. This puts women and girls at serious risk of death or disability during pregnancy and childbirth, and severely affects the country’s process of development.

The aim of the Family Planning Summit was to mobilize the international community to commit to providing family planning services (access to contraceptive information, services and supplies) for an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020, and to sustaining coverage for the estimated 260 million women in these countries who are currently using contraceptives.

Delegates, supported and praised by civil society, acknowledged the importance of involving young people in family planning programmes that respect local cultural and religious attitudes. Restless Development, in partnership with Save the Children, IPPF and the Nike Foundation, led an interactive lunch time session where delegates had the opportunity to hear from young people themselves on the importance of youth involvement in decision-making around family planning. In many of the countries being represented, the youth population is staggeringly high, and it is these young people who are most affected by the lack of access to youth-friendly family planning services. Young girls like Kadiatu, from Sierra Leone, forced into an early marriage at the age of twelve and abandoned by her husband a year later when she got pregnant, suffer from sexual assault and harassment, teenage pregnancy, gender based violence, and are denied the rights to education and to freedom of choice.

Youth delegates Jo, Jack and Maria with Nik Hartley, CEO of Restless Development
Youth delegates Jo, Jack and Maria with Nik Hartley, CEO of Restless Development

At the Family Planning Summit, Restless Development’s youth representatives, Jack, Jo and Maria, shared their first-hand experience of youth-led family planning work in India, Uganda and Tanzania with Prime Minister David Cameron, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Melinda Gates. They called on donor agencies and governments to invest in youth-led and youth-friendly family planning services that enable young people to make informed decisions about pregnancy and reproductive health. They requested governments to listen to the voices of young people and to focus on the issues that young people themselves identified as having a direct impact on their lives: free medical health services, quality information on the dangers of early marriage and teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, free education for girls, and youth employment. In his address to the summit later in the day, David Cameron referred to his talk with the youth representatives and how they, as young people, were able to effectively spread messages about sexual and reproductive health and family planning to their peers. This meeting was an amazing opportunity for both the young delegates as individuals, but also for Restless Development to not only be represented at the highest level, but also be praised for the effective delivery of youth-led programmes.

The outcome of the Family Planning Summit was a series of pledges by both donor countries and developing countries, such as India, which pledged to have universal access to family planning by 2020. Overall $4.6 billion was committed over the next eight years, which Andrew Mitchell said ‘will support the rights of women to determine freely, and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have’. The governments of 20 developing countries committed to policy changes that will provide increased access to family planning through increased spending and a stronger recognition of women’s rights. The EU development commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said that “the first success is that developing countries have been very active. It’s not the case that donors have driven the event”. Ahead of the event, the EU had pledged €23m ($28m) towards family planning in developing countries.


Featured Image Credit: The ASAP Blog

Written by Restless Development

Restless Development is a youth-led development agency placing young people at the forefront of charitable development in Africa and Asia.