Reaching the Last Mile with Contraceptives: Parliamentarians Commit to Take Stock

On March 8th 2017, the Tanzania Parliamentary Association on Population and Development (TPAPD) made a number of commitments including;

  • Holding the government and its institutions accountable for allocating, disbursing, and utilizing resources for provision of reproductive health and family planning services; as well as
  • Engaging community leadership in promoting public demand, greater acceptance and use of the services so that the national contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) target of 60% for all methods, (45% for modern methods) is attained by the year 2020.

Just three months later – on Thursday, June 22nd  2017 – TPAPD leadership and other members adopted an Action Plan to strengthen collaboration with key family planning partners such as the Advance Family Planning (AFP) project. The plan anchors on strengthening capacity in advocacy, and accountability to sustain efforts to catalyze community participation towards increased family planning uptake.

One critical issue that generated a lot of discussion was on how to monitor commodity stock levels in facilities in their respective constituencies. For some Members of Parliament (MPs) AFP’s Commodity Monitoring Tool introduced and validated last year was the option to facilitate their community work. TPAPD adopted the tool and demanded that it be used by its committed members beginning July this year.

TPAPD Chair Hon. Mary Mwanjelwa (Special Seat MP for Mbeya Region) and Secretary General, Hon Sebastian Kapufi (MP for Mpanda Urban in Katavi Region) made special appeals to parliamentarians to ensure that family planning remains at the centre of development planning, and see to it that sub-national level governments get serious with making contraceptives available everywhere all the time.

“This tool comes at the right time, as we see that maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies in the country are on the rise as a result of low coverage and use of family planning services. It will equip us with the ability to collect evidence and use it in decision making bodies in our respective constituencies” said a TPAPD member.

Rising rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality have been mind-boggling issues that generated great concern given their impact on the status of girls and women, and especially on the overall movement to empower women – one of the key pillars in building a just and equitable society. About two-thirds (16) of Tanzania Mainland’s 26 regions have a teenage pregnancy rate that is above the national average of 27%, which in fact has risen from 23% in 2010.

Given the President’s directive recently on disallowing re-admission of girls who become pregnant while in school, efforts to ‘save’ this generation from poverty and deprivation as they become adult women become more complicated. This group of girls aged 15-19 comprises of a larger segment of society with more girls who are either married, divorced, or work as petty traders struggling to fend for themselves and their families after missing on education and other more decent opportunities.

Undoubtedly, at any one point, a generation of girls in this age group is lost because only a small percentage makes it to higher learning institutions including universities to enhance their knowledge and skills for presumably better paying jobs, or other opportunities for better lives.

Now as parliamentarians and other advocates take on this agenda to ‘save’ Tanzania’s girls, it is imperative to face this challenge head on: Equip girls and young women with information, knowledge, counseling on contraception, and provide contraceptives to those who are sexually active; invest in gender empowerment initiatives so that equal treatment and participation of girls and boys becomes a norm across all sectors; taking to task culprits who find comfort in preying on innocent girls.

This is called Prevention – it means taking responsibility of nurturing this future human resource, while remaining accountable to delivering on Tanzania’s Development Goal 2025 that states in part – “… to achieve a high quality of livelihood for its citizens; peace, stability, and unity; good governance; a well-educated society; and a competitive economy capable of producing sustainable growth and shared benefits”. It means girls will no longer be abandoned or condemned to figure out their own lives after pregnancy.

 

 

London Family Planning Summit, 11 July 2017: The Moment to Recommit for Progress

Family planning advocates around the world have been working tirelessly to accelerate the momentum towards attaining the July 11th 2012 family planning goal of reaching 120 million additional users with information, services and supplies. Progress recorded thus far is encouraging though falls short of meeting the set national and global targets.

This year’s Family Planning Summit, which takes place on July 11th 2017, is yet another opportunity for global and national actors to recommit to this noble goal when they convene in London. This time around, youth advocates from some of the 38 Family Planning committing countries will join global leaders – governments, private sector, multilateral organizations, and CSOs; to seek ways to transform key lessons into actionable interventions that countries would adapt within their contexts.

Special forums dubbed Spotlight Events will be interactive sessions to discuss how best to build on what has worked, as well as generate advocacy messages to promote and sustain change. These dialogues will further underline the role of family planning in promoting socio-economic development with a focus on six thematic areas namely, – i) Innovative financing; ii) Commodity financing; iii) Supply Chains; iv) Expanding method mix; v) Humanitarian approach – leaving no woman behind; and vi) Adolescents and youth.

The London Summit coincides with the World Population Day (WPD) marked globally every July 11th, with activities revolving around fertility, population growth, and development. World leaders make statements on #WorldPopulationDay #WPD to further rally different players around population-related issues.

While the global community gears up to the Family Planning Summit, country-level Satellite activities in committing countries will be running at various times during #WorldPopulationDay. These activities will take different forms and shape but all have family planning as one common agenda. Taking on board this year’s WPD theme (Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations), family planning stakeholders in Tanzania plan on providing family planning services and conducting demand-creation activities. These will be held at the national level at Mwembeyanga grounds in Temeke Municipality in Dar es Salaam.

To cap it all, family planning partners will be hosting a breakfast meeting with the private corporates to deliberate on how best public-private partnership for family planning could be strengthened. This forum, to take place on #WorldPopulationDay, is expected to revitalize private sector commitment and broaden partnerships for change.

The private sector has played and continues to play a critical role in the country’s development efforts in all sectors, education and health in particular. A number of companies complimenting government efforts to fight malaria – The Malaria Safe Consortium – have acknowledged the benefits of supporting family planning initiatives towards increased productivity. Better-planned families reduce demands on man-hours for child rearing and absenteeism due to illness, among other things. In any production work this is considered ‘lost’ time.

By 2020, Tanzania should witness significant progress in ensuring that family planning services are universally available and that women and girls are better able to access contraceptives of their choice. This should be possible with the government’s continued budgetary commitments for family planning at both national and sub-national levels, as efforts to reach the ‘last mile’ are granted serious attention.