Women Empowered: Impactful Innovation

Participant from the International Family Planning Conference

By Amerti Lemma, Save the Children Ethiopia

From Innovation to Impact: The Road Map for New Contraceptive Introduction,” presented by Saumya Ramarao from the Population Council, had me energized and excited about the future of women empowerment. It was the second day of the Third International Family Planning Conference held from November 12-15, 2013 here in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The presentation was on research findings about progesterone vaginal ring and assessing its acceptability when I could not help but think the connection that this innovation will have on women empowerment. Someone from a natural science background would probably marvel around the astonishing fact about the ring’s ability to last one year. On the other hand, more involved in the social sciences like myself; would be thrilled about what this could mean for women in my country. The fact that 89% or 9/10 of the women in the research were satisfied gave me high hopes of the ease to use the product and the continuation of use for an extended period of time, until women deemed it necessary to conceive.

According to Ethiopia Ministry of Health, there is a 50% funding gap of family planning services in the country due to mainly socio-economic, policy and system level constraints. With the government’s new commitment of reaching 6 million women with family planning services by 2015 and an additional 5 million by 2020, I am hopeful these challenges will be averted and women will have a say in their lives as to spacing the children that they have and limiting the number of children all together.

Cognizant to the major Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) problems facing adolescents, Save the Children has designed a project entitled “Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health in Amhara Region” that targets 373,397 adolescent boys and girls. This project focuses on SRH demand creation and increasing access and prevention of child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and sexual violence which are very much inter-linked with family planning and vis-à-vis maternal and child health specifically and women empowerment in general.

The vaginal ring showed high favor from married women than non-married. It also showed that education level did not matter. Initial counseling is of course very important but once a woman commits to using this family planning method, it showed that she will most likely continue using it.

I believe similar projects and researches should be encouraged and maybe benefit from being conducted in different countries to assess its acceptability in different cultural context of the country it is being used. If anything, it will create empowered feelings that women could have control of their bodies and their futures!