Interview by Adam Phillips with Lori Adelman | Voice of America | 21 November 2018
MC: Whether one is talking about ending poverty and hunger, taking action on climate change, or building peace, justice and strong institutions, each of the united nations’ 17 sustainable development goals interlocks with all the others. However, for Lori Adelman of Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization that champions girls and women, it is goal number five - gender equality - that holds the key to the others’ success. Adelman began her conversation with VOA’s Adam Phillips, by explaining that family planning, including for young people, is crucial to achieving that goal.
Adelman: “The bedrock of gender equality is really women’s ability to decide on their own bodies and their own fertilities. We know that it’s so important to reaching global goals that we all share for driving development, and family planning is a key piece of that.”
Phillips: “What are some of the hard numbers that bear this out?”
Adelmans “We know that over 200 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning. There are then 74 million unplanned pregnancies worldwide that occur as a direct result of this unmet need. We know that it’s also not cost-effective to leave that unmet need on the table. If we were to invest in family planning, spending just one dollar for contraceptive services reduces the cost of pregnancy-related care by near a dollar fifty. So we really are looking at family planning as not only the right thing to do, the smart thing to do, but also just a great investment from the perspective of growing a country and developing a nation.”
Phillips: “Well, family planning isn’t just about national development.”
Adelman: “Exactly. That’s why our goal also includes information and education because no woman is only her reproductive health system. She has a whole life and future that she deserves to plan for herself. And this includes people who may be living in poverty and this includes marginalized people who often face increased barriers to accessing these kinds of options. So everyone should have the same opportunity to plan their lives and their futures in the way that they choose. It’s the smart thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.”
Phillips: “I know Women Deliver operates worldwide, but isn’t the need for proper family planning for women especially acute in sub-Saharan Africa?”
Adelman: “That’s very much the case across sub-Saharan Africa, and this has huge implications for example in enrollment rates in schools in sub-Saharan Africa where just 92 girls per 100 boys are enrolled in primary school. Whereas, we know that if we could keep girls in school beyond grade seven, they’re more likely to marry later, they’re more likely to voluntarily choose to have fewer children. And so this is all tied to many different factors, how we value girls, but also in particular their access to family planning and contraception. And this is really where the role of advocacy comes into play. It really comes down to needing all different kinds of partners to come together—political leaders, the scientists and the researchers, the policy-makers, young people. Young people are leading the way in many cases on this issue.”
Phillips: “Are these young advocates mostly health professionals or even health care trainees, per say?”
Adelman: “So not all of them are health care professionals. Some of them are working directly with the government or themselves running for office with this issue as part of their agenda. Some people are using more creative or non-traditional approaches to raise awareness about the importance of family planning, engaging in for example a flash mob in a busy local square or mall so that people can kind of stop and have a better understanding of their rights and how family planning could fit into their life. This is not a case of a top-down method, some leaders telling young people what they need, people are actually demanding access to their health and rights via voluntary and high quality family planning services that really do meet them where they are and their needs. So with Women Deliver, we support an awesome network of young leaders, and they’re taking charge in their communities to make sure that not only they themselves, their peers, their colleagues, members of the community that they care about have access to these services that they know will have such a big impact on their lives.”
MC: That was Lori Adelman, the Youth Engagement Director for Women Deliver, a global advocacy organization dedicated to the health, rights and well-being of women and girls worldwide. She spoke with VOA’s Adam Phillips in New York.