Family planning; addressing the gaps for young people

Last week, on 11 July 2012 the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with UNFPA and IPPF has conducted the Family Planning summit in London. This event is one of the milestones to bring the world’s attention toward family planning agenda worldwide. At the end of the summit, governments, private foundations, NGOs, and medical companies will be mobilized to support the commitment made from this summit. Global policy, financing, commodity, and service delivery will support commitment to fulfill the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptive information, services and supplies, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020.

It is clear that once a country has a family planning program that is rights-based, it can help prevent more young girls from having unplanned pregnancies and also from dying in childbirth. These features contributed in reducing the number of Maternal Mortality Rate and provide a greater chance for young women to continue education.

However, few gaps in providing family planning services for young people should be addressed. One thing for sure, when it comes to the term “family planning” it would be hard for young people, particularly unmarried young people to access family planning services. The access of family planning might be widely available, but this has to be inclusive with the principle of youth friendly services.

Aside from providing contraceptives, family planning services should include access to safe abortion where it is legal. Integrating access to safe abortion would save millions of women’s life. As in 2008, there was an estimation of 10.8 million unsafe abortions in Asia (Advocates for youth, 2011).

When a government wants to integrate family planning access into their health system, it must emphasize on voluntary family planning. Experiences from Indonesia a few decades ago on forced family planning and one child policy in China should be a lesson learned on how family planning being misused by the government as a means to violate reproductive rights in the name of controlling the population size.

Above it all, family planning program must respect the sexual and reproductive rights of young people especially young women. Family planning should be promoted as voluntary and accessible to young women regardless of their marriage status. In the end, all young women must be able to make informed decision and empowered to decide whether or not, how and when, to have children.


International Conference on Family Planning: role of young people


I attended the 2nd International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices which took place at Le’ Meridien President Conference Center, Dakar from  29th November to 2 December 2011. The aim of this conference was to discuss the problems we face nowadays in the Family Planning work  and what are the other ways to solve or reduce the tension.

This was my first time attending an international conference held abroad. I have mixed feelings when I got the news from RHAM that IPPF is willing to sponsor one youth from ESEAOR region to participate in this conference. It was like a dream came true and without hesitation I replied with a big yes. Fear, excitement and eagerness are all the feelings that I had before going there. I honestly was scared before the trip because well this is my first time travelling outside Malaysia alone without any companion but it turned out to be the best experience ever.


After 16 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to Dakar, I arrived there around 4.50pm (Dakar local time). My arrival was greeted with a big smile from the Conference staff who was holding a big banner of International Conference on Family Planning logo. I must praise the organizer for this! They made such an amazing work in handling people who arrived and organized for a shuttle bus to our hotel.

On the first day of the conference, youths all around the world gather at Salon Brun for our  Pre-Conference Workshop which was entitled “How to Participate, Communicate & Advocate : A Pre-Conference Workshop to Increase Youth Participation in the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning. This session was hosted by Alexandra Hervish who is a Policy Analyst in the Population Reference Bureau in United States. This pre-conference workshop indeed has built up the skills of young people to develop evidence-based messages about adolescent and youth sexual reproductive health and to communicate those messages to policymakers and donors using different communication channels.


(The pre-conference workshop)

Ready for action, the next day we were exposed to how technology can be used to promote Family Planning Among Young People. I was very impressed with this topic because we did not have these technologies in Malaysia even though Malaysia is one of the country that has good  access to technology and growing rapidly among young people.

The next session I attended  I find most interesting session and one of the panellist became a good friend throughout the course of this conference. This session was called “Start a Revolution : Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Further the Abuja Call to Action”.  The panel discussed the current relevancy and status of the Abuja Call to Action and developed strategies for an effective social media advocacy campaign for youth’s  sexual and reproductive health and rights . It was very interesting how the panel of speakers shared about their campaign of awareness through social media such as blog, Face book, twitter and so on.

(My friends who panellist in one of the session regarding social network)

In the evening, I hosted a roundtable discussion together with Kat Watson from IPPF Central Office in London and our discussion was about Peer Educators. Few fascinating stories were shared by the roundtable participants from Zambia, United State and Uganda. Different stories related to different epidemics. [j1] The session ended successfully with me gaining more knowledge from other countries’ participants.

The next day which is the third day was actually a big day for me. I was invited to showcase a film from Girls Decide programme which is one of the seven films made by IPPF. I show cased the film from Indonesia entitled, Halimah’s Journey together with my lovely colleague, Katie Chau from IPPF Central Office in London –  theperson who was  involved in the making of the film. It was actually my first time speaking in such a big amphitheatre hall and I was very nervous! Luckily Katie was there beside me and she consoled me from having a panic attack.

Every start must come to an end, so does  this conference. The last day of trip to Dakar, I joined a roundtable luncheon with Rebecka Lundgren. She’s from Institute of Reproductive Health, Georgetown University. It was a great discussion we had with her.

My journey to Africa was indeed  remain an unforgettable memory. It was my first and will always be the best experience that money can’t buy. Meeting new friends from all over the world, experiencing things I have never experienced and the most important thing is the knowledge that I gained throughout the 4 days is priceless. Regardless of  the long journey I had all the way from Malaysia to Dakar, I really had fun and thank you very much to IPPF who sponsored my trip to the conference. Without this sponsorship all of these experiences will never come into reality. To Kat Watson, Katie Chau, Joan Soto and Lasma, you guys were so awesome and thank you for guiding and taking a good care of me while I was there, especially Kat and Katie.

In conclusion, I also want to thank Federation of Reproductive Health Association (FRHAM) and Reproductive Health Association Melaka (RHAM) especially my state manager, Madam Mehala for guidance and advice before I left. Thanks to all of you who were involved directly and indirectly, whose names I may not have stated here but I do appreciate all of you.

Merci beaucoup 🙂

Written by: Norhidayah Nadilla, youth volunteer from FRHAM, Malaysia. You can find her at @dila2lala