2018 Ouagadougou Partnership Meeting
Thursday, December 13, 2018
The United States has been a proud supporter of the Ouagadougou Partnership since its formation seven years ago. The ambitious goals set by the partnership have resulted in programs and policies that have increased the number of family planning users in its nine member countries. In turn, this has improved health outcomes for many people across West Africa.
Family planning is important because it offers options. It offers the option to reduce unplanned pregnancies. It offers the possibility to regulate birth spacing. And it offers people the chance to plan their futures.
But, most importantly, family planning offers choice. Family planning gives women the choice to make critical decisions about their personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families. As such, investments in family planning are investments in their futures, and – given the critical role of women in society – investments in the overall development of the region.
The Ouagadougou Partnership has made great strides improving family planning in West Africa. But the journey is far from complete. By 2020, there will be more than 2 million more women needing family planning services.
Planning needs to keep pace with this growing demand. Preparing for the future needs to start now.
First, we must consider how to increase access to family planning. If a woman wants family planning resources, can she easily find them in her area? Is there a health worker nearby who can assist her? Is there transportation to reach those services, or will someone come to her?
Secondly, we must consider access to products. When a woman meets with a health worker, or travels to where family planning products are sold or distributed, will she be able to find the one she needs that day? Will products be available in cities as well as rural villages? Is there a strong and dependable supply chain?
Thirdly, we must address cost. Are family planning products affordable for individual users? Are distribution systems adequately funded? Are government financial commitments sustainable?
Finally, we must consider how social norms influence access. This is perhaps the most complex consideration because family planning can be a sensitive topic. What can we do to make it easier and more comfortable for people to access family planning? How can we reach out to young people, who comprise more than half of Africa’s population? How can we change old ways of thinking to match the new realities of modern family planning approaches?
Thanks to the work of all you in this room today, family planning is more readily accessible and more widely accepted across West Africa than ever before. Most importantly, dialogue on family planning issues has been sparked – within couples, families, institutions, and religious communities.
The success of family planning in West Africa will depend on government commitment. It will depend on financial support. And it will depend on the drive and determination of the different people from different places who make up the Ouagadougou Partnership to continue to change lives for the better.