PSN discusses the links between health and climate change on French radio

February 3, 2016


PSN was interviewed on French radio station, RCN, to discuss the importance of including health and gender in climate change policy discussions and PSN’s key messages at the COP21 conference in Paris last year.


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PSN’s Advocacy and Policy Manager, Carina Hirsch, was interviewed by French journalist, Sylvain Blondin, on his radio show ‘Libre echange’.

Mr Blondin, who is based in Nancy in France, focuses his work on healthcare and in particular healthcare provision in rural areas.

In the interview (available as a podcast), Carina provides an overview of the unique nature of PSN in terms of structure and geographical reach, working as both an advocacy and project implementing organisation aimed at increasing understanding on the links between population, health and the environment.

Mr Blondin was interested to hear about PSN’s advocacy messages from COP21, because PSN was one of the few organisations at COP talking about population, health and the environment.

Carina explained that, despite its importance, health still doesn’t feature prominently in climate change discussions and she highlighted the importance of women’s empowerment in achieving sustainable growth, "Empowered women are more educated and therefore more likely to have healthier families, higher paid employment and fewer children", explained Carina.

Listen to the interview

PSN participates in High Level meeting with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development

January 27, 2016


PSN participated in the High Level meeting with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, organised by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


SDGs 250SDGs: indivisible and inter-linked

In addressing the audience of international development NGOs and Members of Parliament, EU Commissioner Mimica reiterated the universal nature of the 2030 development agenda as well as its “indivisible and inter-linked nature” affirming that “work in one development area, has a knock-on effect on other areas”.

Commissioner Mimica stressed the importance of supporting the poorest countries to achieve their development goals and ensuring that women and girls’ empowerment is a cross-cutting issue on the international agenda with a focus on action; and the EU will play a leading role in this.

Further, Mimica emphasised that strengthening synergies between economic, social, and environmental policies and embedding human rights in all aspects of development work is instrumental to achieving a sustainable future. He concluded by recalling the important role that civil society organisations play in achieving global development objectives.

PSN acknowledges the integrated nature of the SDGs and is already working with member organisations at the project and advocacy level to promote integrated solutions to complex development challenges, through the Population, Health and Environment approach. In particular, PSN is focusing its efforts to ensure women in developing countries have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including voluntary, rights-based family planning, and promoting environmental sustainability in areas already affected by climate change and other forms of environmental degradation.

PSN speaks at the Royal College of Physicians

January 13, 2016


PSN’s Advocacy and Policy Manager, Carina Hirsch, presented the organisation’s advocacy and project work today at the Margaret Pyke Reproductive Health Training Conference held at the Royal College of Physicians.


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The talk focused on PSN's engagement in two project sites: Hluvukani village, South Africa and Rwamwanja refugee settlement, Uganda. Both sites have high unmet needs for family planning services and elevated levels of sexual gender-based violence.

PSN is providing sexual and reproductive health training materials in South Africa and family planning information to refugees in Uganda fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Both sites would benefit greatly from having input from UK-based clinicians to train local nurses in a variety of topics including how to fit LARCs (Long-acting reversible contraceptives), such as coils, and emergency contraception.

Doctors and nurses attending the conference were delighted to hear about PSN's work in developing countries where there are 225 million women with an unmet need for modern forms of contraception. Many have signed up to become a 'Friend of family planning for the planet' or registered interest in becoming a volunteer as these projects take shape on the ground.

PSN supports provision of family planning information to Democratic Republic of Congo refugees

January 11, 2016


We're proud to announce that we are helping Network member, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme, provide family planning information to refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.


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UNHCR estimates show that there are currently around 250,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Uganda. Around 60,000 live in the Rwamwanja refugee settlement, where a large proportion of women are rape survivors. For many of these women, escaping sexual violence as a weapon of war in the DRC is not the end of their ordeal, as levels of this form of violence in the settlement itself remain high. As a result, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP) and the Population Council-led Africa Regional SGBV Network is providing technical assistance in Rwamwanja for the implementation of its model programme designed to combat violence against women.

Chi-Chi Undie of the Population Council explained, “The Population Council has supported TVEP’s work in combatting violence against women in rural South Africa for many years, including assessments of this work to strengthen the evidence-base on effective SGBV responses. We believe TVEP’s approach will be beneficial for persons of concern in the refugee settlement of Rwamwanja, and we look forward to assessing the actual effects of this work. It’s hard to think of somewhere with greater need.”

TVEP are providing training to Uganda’s Lutheran World Federation (LWF) so LWF can implement an adapted version of TVEP’s “Zero Tolerance Village Alliance” programme. The four thematic areas of this programme are combatting sexual assault, child abuse, HIV stigma and domestic violence. Programme activities include empowering community members with educational activities on their rights and responsibilities in these areas, interventions leading to community-wide attitudes of “zero tolerance” towards these social crimes and actions to increase women’s agency. Evidence shows that implementation of TVEP’s model in other settings had led to enhanced knowledge among community members of where to obtain post-rape care services, and to a change in negative gender beliefs.

Fiona Nicholson, TVEP Programme Director said, “TVEP joined the Population and Sustainability Network as we wanted to develop our work to have an additional focus on voluntary family planning. When we arrived in Rwamwanja we realised this project required that input.” From a family planning perspective, there are two primary issues needing urgent attention in Rwamwanja. Many of the refugees, having lost their entire families in the process of escaping the DRC, are keen to have large families but lack information on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy. Additionally, with such high rape prevalence, it is important that women have access to emergency contraception at Rwamwanja’s health centres. David Johnson, PSN Chief Executive said, “We’re already working with TVEP at a South African site, where we are providing the community information, education and communication materials and training on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, and we were only too happy adapt those materials for this different setting and add a greater focus on emergency contraception options.”

PSN is the international programme of the Margaret Pyke Trust, the UK’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) training for healthcare professionals, and so has contacts with hundreds of specialist SRH professionals. We are exploring possibilities for these SRH medical practitioners to volunteer to plug any gaps at Rwamwanja.

The global refugee crisis is currently gaining a great deal of coverage, but the focus is mainly on refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe. All the organisations involved at Rwamwanja are all too aware that the crisis is in no way restricted to Europe and that the sexual and reproductive rights of all refugees must never be forgotten.

Happy birthday Margaret Pyke!

January 8, 2016


Today we’re celebrating the life of Margaret Pyke, one of the UK’s family planning pioneers, on what would have been her 122nd birthday.


Margaret Pyke

Margaret Pyke OBE, born on this day in 1893, was a British family planning activist and pioneer who, at the time of her death in 1966, had worked in the family planning movement for 36 years. She was one of the first secretaries of the National Birth Control Council (NBCC), a society which promoted and provided family planning services.

The NBCC was formed in 1930 when a group of family planning societies, established across the UK throughout the 1920s, organised themselves into a national body, which helped to strengthen their position and their voice in support of family planning in the UK.

The NBCC changed its name to the National Birth Control Association (NBCA) in 1931, and then to the Family Planning Association (FPA) in 1939.

Since 1998 it has been known as FPA. Originally only offering a service to married couples, during the 1950s FPA clinics began to offer pre-marital advice to women, although proof, such as a letter from a vicar or family doctor, was often required before contraceptive supplies were provided.

The FPA’s first chair, Lady Denman, died in 1954 and Margaret was her obvious successor. By this time the Association had developed a network of clinics and much work had been done to ensure that the subject of family planning had become more respectable in society.

During the 1960s, social and sexual attitudes changed dramatically. The combined pill was first prescribed in FPA clinics in 1961 and within ten years was being used by over one million women.

At the time of her death in 1966, Margaret’s son Dr David Pyke and her friend Lady Jean Medawar, decided to set up a charitable trust in her honour. The Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust opened the Margaret Pyke Centre in 1969, which offered family planning services and advice to around 200 patients daily. In 1974, when family planning became a part of the NHS, the Trust turned its focus to undertaking contraceptive research and providing essential training to healthcare professionals in contraception updates. The Margaret Pyke Trust became, and remains, the UK’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health training for healthcare professionals and its international programme, the Population and Sustainability Network, is working internationally to promote voluntary family planning programmes. Together they are ensuring that Margaret’s legacy remains alive and well.