“It is important for political will to be maintained”

Sarah Lindsay

Senior Technical Officer

Wednesday morning’s plenary session highlighted successes in multiple countries in increasing access to family planning. These inspiring successes in countries like Senegal, the Philippines, Zambia, and Malawi had two things in common: political commitment and strong leadership.

Senegal has rolled out the Informed Push Model for reproductive health commodities to ensure stock outs are eliminated across the country and women have access to multiple methods of contraceptives. Dr. Awa Coll-Seck, Minister of Health in Senegal described not only the contributions of the commitment at the upper levels of government, but the contributions of the private sector and civil society in creating the Informed Push Model and actually implementing the plan. Country leadership is vital for countries going forward, she said, “It is important to have countries themselves make the plan and not wait for donors to come and support them.” While great progress has been made, the work is not over. To continue the success, “It is important for political will to be maintained,” Coll-Seck said.

Political will was similarly important in the Philippines and Zambia. In the Philippines, the leadership of two presidents and multiple parliamentarians led to the passing of the Reproductive Health Bill after fifteen years. In Zambia, the President’s support has had great impact on increasing access to family planning. As a Catholic, the President was able to influence churches to allow medical professionals to speak to congregations in the 80% Catholic country, the First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba told the plenary crowd. This has been helpful as Zambia has substantially increased the commitment to family planning in the national budget and is implementing a national plan for scale up of family planning services.

Dorothy Ngoma, head of Malawi’s Safe Motherhood Initiative, shared that the strides made in giving women family planning access would have been impossible without President Joyce Banda championing the cause.  Now the country is deploying community midwives to regions across the country.

It is evident from these countries’ stories,  Melinda Gates said, that universal access to family planning, “…is not wishful thinking. This is happening.”

And this progress is here to stay due to strong leadership Dr. Babatounde Osotimehin said as he closed the session, “Sustainability comes from government commitment.”