Proper family planning initiatives to promote country’s economy

Despite various government initiatives designed to boost the health sector in the country, there have been challenges affecting the supply of contraceptives at a few health centres, which offer family planning services, especially in rural areas. James Mlali, project implementation manager at the Tanzania Communication and Development Center (TCDC), shared these observations while addressing the media over the weekend.

Mlali said the challenges are due to insufficient budget allocated towards family planning initiatives, something which has contributed to many Tanzanians failing to use family planning adequately, particularly those residing in rural areas. Mlali added that TCDC, together with key family planning stakeholders, has been pushing for a budget increase for the health sector and specifically on family planning in order to push for increased use of modern family planning methods.

“Unless the government sees the importance of family planning, society will always be faced with countless challenges, such as poverty and lack of education for most who live in rural areas. When people lack family planning methods, then there is no proper control of birth. This, according to Mlali, increases the number of dependents within a family. “When you have many dependents in a family, most of the income is used to feed them meaning other areas will not be developed or pursued,” Mlali added.

Since Tanzania gained independence more than five decades ago, most people living in rural areas continue to be affected by poverty to this present day. This is mainly due to the fact that most people in households depend on one person, either the father or mother. In addition, most productive people in rural areas are women and when these women birth and raise children every now and then, without proper of family planning, the household remains trapped in a cycle of poverty. This is the unfortunate predicament facing many rural households that are faced with increasingly more mouths to feed and lower levels of income, which inevitably increases poverty levels of rural families, said Mlali.

He added that for the country to achieve the industrialization drive, it is important for the country to invest heavily on family planning. In addition, the government must also make sure that the increase in population go hand-in-hand with the available resources and economic situation of the country. Mlali further explained this scenario by adding that we can have a high population, but again as a country, are we producing enough to cater to the population? If we look at the example of post-secondary education, are graduates getting employment opportunities after completing school? Mlali asked. This is an important aspect to consider particularly given the close correlation between employment and economic growth.

‘When a country attains a middle economy, it is important for the people to depend on themselves economically.” This is very important and it is precisely where our country should focus on, Mlali concluded.

 

Youth: The Pillar of Social Transformation

One of the biggest wins at the London Summit on Family Planning held on July 11th, 2017, is the engagement of young people in almost all panels and consultations, underscoring the reality that youth are both beneficiaries and key actors in sexual and reproductive health interventions across countries.

About 15 young people from a number of developing countries formed the Summit’s Youth Advisory Group that demonstrated the dynamism young people have, once empowered and given opportunities to act. And youthful countries have no choice but to open doors to these upcoming champions and youth networks in their respective societies.

IMG-20170714-WA0042

“I have listened and learnt a lot from the various sessions at the Summit, and I see a lot of opportunities to rally other young people around SRHR issues in my country,” said Qaisar Roonjha from Pakistan. Globally adolescent and youth constitute the largest group of over 1.2 billion people aged 10 – 19 years, the majority of whom (89%) live in developing countries.

Meaningful youth engagement through knowledge building, funding of youth-led programs, and sustained mentorship, is an opportunity for countries to harness youth potential in transforming their respective societies. And the SRHR focus, which includes family planning services, is an investment towards attaining socio-economic development.

IMG-20170711-WA0131

Today, a number of countries in sub-Sahara Africa, Tanzania included, are grappling with high fertility rates within a resource-stricken environment leading to high dependency ratios and poverty. Unfortunately, adolescents and youth are among those who contribute to and impacted by these conditions.

Therefore, with the right investment in engaging young people, building their knowledge, and granting them opportunities to access and make contraceptive choices, transformation in developing countries is inevitable.

The Summit’s Youth Advisory Group move to develop an Accountability Framework to guide the Group members in mobilizing fellow young people at country level to undertake youth-led social accountability and advocacy initiatives, is a solid step forward.

The framework will open doors for youth to participate in as well as monitor implementation of commitments made by their governments intended to scale up SRHR access. Success is more likely if this growing ‘army’ of knowledgeable youth across countries is tirelessly mentored to acquire greater heights in life while resources continue to be directed to youth-led initiatives.

It is indeed in this spirit that the Advance Family Planning (AFP) and partners – HDT and TCDC – embarked on a partnership journey November last year with the Tanzania Adolescent and Youth SRHR Coalition (TAYARH), also represented in the Youth Advisory Working Group, to push for youth meaningful engagement in SRHR especially family planning.

Global Family Planning movement re-energized

The London Summit on Family Planning ended on July 11th with at least 49 countries committing to improve family planning services, and many more are making commitments towards attaining the 120 million more users by 2020 – a goal set in 2012.

The family planning movement gained an impetus at the first London Summit five years ago, and today the landscape has changed; the global community has accumulated a number of lessons, substantive data and evidence, strengthened supply chains, and stronger partnerships.

Committing countries – 38 prior to the second London Summit – are not only committing domestic resources to family planning, but also mobilizing leadership at national, sub-national level, and enlisting cultural, religious and influential leaders to rally communities behind family planning.

“In 2012, the goal was purposefully set high: 120 million reached with family planning information, services, and supplies,” said Melinda Gates during a plenary session. And the Summit was a demonstration of collective accountability and a reflection of increased dedication to the cause.

The global community remains optimistic, and re-energized to accelerate progress to attaining voluntary, quality family planning services, despite reaching 30.4 million women thus far. The gathering witnessed a number of commitments made: a total of 64 new policy and financial commitments in developing countries, donors, civil society organizations, and private companies; USD1.5 billion in new financial commitments by countries in Africa and Asia, USD 660 million in new donor financing, and USD 19 million in new private sector commitments.

Reframing family planning within the sexual and reproductive health agenda would bring in a cross section of actors to work towards the goal, but most importantly, situate family planning as a tool to alleviate poverty. A number of speakers at the Summit reframed family planning as an anti-poverty intervention, a message likely to resonate with most governments especially in developing countries.

So as the dust settles after the Summit, all actors – donors, governments, private corporates, CSOs – are now challenged with putting the commitments to action, building on the work done so far, and more strongly, using the generated evidence towards implementing more effective interventions.

Photo caption: From left to right: Dr. Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director, UNFPA; Hon. Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie for Canada; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (Achang), Minister of Health, Uganda; and Melinda Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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.

 

 

MoU: TAYAHR advocate for Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Tanzania

The Tanzania Youth and Adolescent Reproductive Health Coalition [TAYAHR] founding members bring youth together to advocate for Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Tanzania.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) constitutes an agreement by and between the Founding Members of TAYAHR. The  main objective of this MOU is to express the willingness of TAYAHR founding members to engage in an effort of bringing youth’s together to advocate for Family Planning (FP) and Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in Tanzania.

Advance Family Planning (AFP) Tanzania has been instrumental in establishing this coalition.

The MoU TAYAHR (2017) can be accessed here.