The extensive evidence review and consultation process that informed the guidance, with input from Marie Stopes International and other expert partners, made it abundantly clear: the key to ensuring that contraceptive services are rights based, is to focus on women and girls as individuals with unique needs, preferences and objectives, that must be met and respected by service providers in all settings.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘inspiring change’. We hope that the new WHO guidance will contribute to realising change for women and girls globally.
Despite widespread consensus that a population control approach to family planning should remain in the past, there has been no practical guidance for programmes on implementing a rights based approach to contraception information and services.
These guidelines address that gap. Rights based contraceptive information and services must be offered as a means of improving health, individual development and empowerment. Improving access to information and services alone is not enough.
We must also ensure that services are available, acceptable and of the highest quality, promote informed decision making and community participation, and protect confidentiality and privacy. We are all accountable to this goal.
The new guidance from WHO contains twenty four recommendations for policy makers and programme managers on how to ensure that contraceptive information and services succeed in supporting the rights of individuals.
But for us to truly succeed in enabling girls and women to empower themselves, support for rights based contraceptive services needs to extend beyond those working within reproductive health to those who decide on levels of investment for the sector as a whole.
Make Women Matter
This is why I support Make Women Matter campaign’s call for the new, post-2015 development framework to prioritise the empowerment of girls and women, including through freedom of contraceptive choice.
If this dimension is missing, the new global development framework will be failing half the world’s population.
The twelve champions of change, highlighted for International Women’s Day as part of Marie Stopes International’s Make Women Matter campaign, provide inspiring examples of the change that can occur with vision and commitment.