Deciding to have a family is a deeply personal decision for any woman, who has to consider what is best for themselves, their health and their families.
However, millions of women worldwide lack access to modern contraceptives, meaning that often this decision is beyond their control. The UN has recognised that women’s sexual and reproductive health is related to multiple human rights, and is a key objective in achieving gender equality.
Providing access to birth control and family planning is a key pillar of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2012, the Foundation pledged to provide family planning services to 120 million women worldwide.
Now, in an opinion piece for the National Geographic, Melinda Gates has written why birth control is so important for the empowerment of women.
In the essay, Gates shares how she was able to make her own decision about having a family, “The decision about whether and when to get pregnant was a decision that Bill and I made based on what was right for me and what was right for our family – and that’s something I feel lucky about,” she says. “There are still over 225 million women around the world who don’t have access to the modern contraceptives they need to make these decisions for themselves.”
Gates says that since starting their Foundation, they have heard from women all over the world about how important birth control is in helping them make decisions about their lives. “When women are able to plan their pregnancies around their goals for themselves and their families, they are also better able to finish their education, earn and income, and fully participate in their communities.”
The positive benefits are felt throughout the community. “In communities where women have access to contraceptives, children stay in school longer, and entire families are healthier, wealthier and far better equipped to break the cycle of poverty,” says Gates.
The Foundation was integral in establishing the global partnership, Family Planning 2020. The group pledged to get 120 million more women access to contraceptives by the year 2020. So far, 24 million women have been provided services, but the partnership has a long way to go to achieve that goal.
“Unless we begin making up for lost time, we will miss the chance to make this a turning point for women around the world,” writes Gates.
To find out more about Family Planning 2020 visit their website here