Climate change is one of the key investment areas that has been identified by Women Deliver’s Deliver for Good Campaign. Deliver for Good is a global campaign that applies a gender lens to the Sustainable Development Goals and promotes 12 critical investments in girls and women to power progress for all. For the second year running, The Margaret Pyke Trust has provided the feature article on this theme marking the opening of the annual global climate change conference, COP 23, beginning today in Bonn, Germany.
The recent publication entitled Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, details the top 100 solutions that have the greatest potential to reduce emissions or sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The team of over 200 scientists and researchers behind the publication have modelled and detailed 21st century solutions to a 21st century problem, namely those that benefit the environment and society in a variety of ways. It is therefore not shocking (at least to those of us in the sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender sectors) that girls’ education and family planning rank 6th and 7th respectively on this comprehensive list of solutions to save the planet, sitting well ahead of many infrastructure and energy related solutions, which are the most widely known climate change solutions.
For women to have children by choice rather than by chance and to plan and space their family size is a matter of dignity, autonomy and empowerment. At the Margaret Pyke Trust, with the Population & Sustainability Network, we advocate for those 214 million women and girls around the world who are not able to choose- because of either cultural norms, myths, attitudes of clinic staff or needing to travel long distances to reach their nearest health facility- to name but a few barriers to family planning that women face. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 21% of women and girls have an unmet need for contraception, while Southern Asia is home to the largest absolute number of women and girls who lack access - 70 million. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 24% of women and girls in Uganda and 14% in Niger have an unmet need for family planning.
Access to voluntary and rights-based, quality family planning information and services is not only essential to women and girls’ health and empowerment but also has the potential to make a significant contribution to sustainability- including adapting to and responding to climate change.
High levels of unmet need in developing countries (see map of the 69 FP2020 focus countries here) account for some of the population pressure felt in these countries and risks undermining their hard won development successes as population growth outpaces development efforts. Incidentally, many countries with high levels of unmet need are also already affected by the severe effects of climate change. Indeed, there is a high degree of convergence and overlap between these complex development challenges. Many countries recognize “population pressure” as an issue for adapting to climate change, but few incorporate family planning into national adaptation planning or poverty reduction strategies. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)- the global scientific body informing the United Nations’ agency for Climate Change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, acknowledged the role family planning can play in responding to and adapting to climate change. Improving access to family planning helps save women’s lives by reducing the total number of births per woman and helps reduce birth rates among high-risk groups. Meeting the need for family planning services in areas with both high fertility and high vulnerability to climate change (such as the Sahel region of Africa) can reduce human suffering and help people adapt to climate change. This is also important in wealthier countries like the U.S., where there is unmet need for services as well as high CO2 emissions per capita[i]. It is clear that family planning directly benefits women, their children and families, and there is increasing understanding that furthering women’s rights benefits women and the environment; it’s a win-win. Women with more years’ education have fewer, healthier children and are better able to actively manage their reproductive health. It is precisely in those areas of the world where girls are having the hardest time accessing education that population growth is fastest and environmental degradation is greatest. Addressing these issues together, can kick start a positive chain reaction, improving women and girls’ well-being, while also responding to environmental concerns.
We believe that family planning has many benefits, to all genders, and for social and economic development, and it demands swift and sustained funding and action. Therefore we are pleased that there is increasing recognition of the role family planning can play in adapting to and responding to climate change. As the world prepares for the 23rd global climate change conference, or COP 23, girls’ education and family planning are some of the “unsung” solutions that merit much more attention and credit. However, this has yet to translate into policy or funding changes, nor has it been of much benefit to those living in areas around the world with high levels of unmet need, who are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change.
The Margaret Pyke Trust, coordinating organization of the Population & Sustainability Network, jointly with conservation organization, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Pathfinder International, are implementing an integrated family planning and environmental conservation project in the rural community of Groot Marico in the North West Province of South Africa. The community self-identified the need for improved access to general health and family planning information and services, in addition to become better equipped with natural resource management and alternative livelihood skills. On top of poor general health, the community also faces severe land degradation and increasing water scarcity. As part of the project activities, over 200 community members have participated in an integrating training program on Future Planning. The integrated training approach aims to inform community members of the health and gender related benefits of family planning as well as the important role it plays in planning for a sustainable future. Community members learn about the benefits of being able to make informed choices about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy to ensure good nutrition and a healthy future for their family, while also learning about the importance of sustainable water and natural resource use and alternative and sustainable livelihoods, especially in the face of climate change. Family planning is presented as not only fundamental for women and girls’ health and empowerment but also as an important component of women and men’s future planning, which includes the future of the surrounding environment and the livelihoods that depend on it.
“A Re Itireleng” or let’s do it ourselves- as the community members have named the project- provides an integrated response to this community’s complex development challenges and is an example of a Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Programme. PHE aims to simultaneously improve access to primary health care services, particularly family planning and reproductive health, while also helping communities conserve the critical ecosystems and natural resources upon which they depend. This approach is particularly appropriate for remote, marginalised areas such as Groot Marico, with many barriers to accessing family planning, while also being an area of critical environmental importance which is increasingly threatened by climate change.
As leaders and policy makers prepare to meet in Bonn, Germany for COP 23 we urge them to include family planning in climate response strategies- one of the unsung but highly impactful, human rights based responses to climate change.
[i] Population Action International, New IPCC Report Recognizes Family Planning Among Social Dimensions Of Climate Change Adaptation. Available here: http://pai.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/IPCCMediaKit1.pdf
Population & Sustainability Network member, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), has this week commenced community based training on family planning and other issues in the rural community of Tshilwavhusiku, in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The community dialogues have been prepared by TVEP and Population & Sustainability Network coordinator, the Margaret Pyke Trust.
The community named their project “Nndwakhulu” which, in the local TshiVenda language, means “the big fight!” Nndwakhulu has been designed to respond to the multitude of human rights abuses that are widespread in the area and endured by the community. By raising awareness among community members of their rights, providing them with the tools to better exercise them, and simultaneously working with the public authorities to ensure they deliver the services they are mandated to provide, TVEP and the Margaret Pyke Trust aim to generate long term sustainable change.
Last week, the first 100 community members attended the inaugural community dialogues on family planning as part of “Future Planning”. Family planning is presented as not only fundamental for women and girls’ health and empowerment but also as an important component of women and men’s future planning. In fact, access to quality and voluntary, rights-based family planning formation and services is essential to health, livelihoods and fulfilment of human rights. It is in this field that the work of the Margaret Pyke Trust has focussed. TVEP focal areas are other sexual and reproductive health issues which are faced by the community, including child abuse, HIV/AIDS, gender based violence, minority rights and sexual assault. Over the course of the two year project, a total of 1,200 community members will benefit from five days’ training on these project themes.
The training is facilitated by Community Activists who have been trained by TVEP and who are using the training materials jointly developed by the Margaret Pyke Trust and TVEP. A family planning nurse has been recruited for Nndwakhulu, and a sexual and reproductive health consultant, one of the Margaret Pyke Volunteers, has also volunteered her time to provide technical inputs.
The future planning one day community dialogue covers the various forms of contraception, from male and female condoms, to long acting reversible contraceptive methods such as Intra-Uterine Devices and implants. Participatory group exercises are used to clarify commonly held myths around contraception, encourage men’s positive participation in family planning, and highlight the non-health as well as the health benefits of contraception. The use of contraception is part of planning a healthy future.
Given the high levels of human rights abuses, including abuses of sexual and reproductive rights, it is critical that members of this marginalised, rural community are being empowered to exercise their rights, something which is not going unnoticed in the region. TVEP Programme Director, Fiona Nicholson, said, “We have been overwhelmed by the positive response, not only from this community, but also from the many neighbouring communities that have heard about what we are doing in Tshilwavhusiku. They are urging us to work in their communities as well, so we know that what we are doing is already having an impact”.
Carina Hirsch, Advocacy & Projects Manager of the Margaret Pyke Trust, concluded “We are very excited that the planning stage of Nndwakhulu has now turned into the implementation stage, and people in the real world are benefiting. Collaborating with the TVEP team has been a great opportunity. The Trust has learned so much about Tshilwavhusiku and its challenges and the work of TVEP, and we at the Trust have been delighted to be able to bring our family planning expertise to an organisation which had not previously considered contraception as part of their focus. We are delighted to think about the prospect of the huge potential for impact Nndwakhulu has at the project site itself, and beyond.”
Nndwakhulu is made possible because of the generous funding of the European Union’s Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.
For two days in September 2017, Population, Health and Environment (PHE) project implementers, policy makers, and donors gathered in Entebbe Uganda, at the Population, Health & Environment Symposium, hosted by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and supported by the K4Health project and PACE. Eight of the 21 members of the Population & Sustainability Network were represented at the Symposium, including Network coordinator, the Margaret Pyke Trust, whose Chief Executive spoke about the Trust’s PHE advocacy.
As the guest of PACE (Policy, Advocacy, and Communication Enhanced for Population and Reproductive Health), our Chief Executive, David Johnson attended and presented at the Population, Health & Environment Symposium on a platform shared with representatives of the Population Reference Bureau and East African experts on PHE. East Africa is perhaps the region of the world with the greatest understanding of PHE, and greatest number of PHE projects.
The symposium theme was “Enhancing Resiliency and Economic Development through Strengthened PHE Programming”. Topics covered ranged from mainstreaming and scaling up PHE approaches to link with Sustainable Development Goals, to PHE policy advocacy and communication, as well as PHE research, learning and knowledge management.
David Johnson said, “It was a great privilege to be invited to speak at the Symposium, and to speak about the PHE advocacy work of the Margaret Pyke Trust, focusing on what we call ‘new audiences’. We passionately believe that there is great interest in the conservation sector to implement PHE, but that requires us breaking out of our comfort zone and actively promoting PHE to those who do not already know about it.” David presented on the Trust’s current advocacy activities promoting PHE programmes to conservation project implementers, policy makers and funders, which lack any current PHE programmes, and the Trust’s strategy on this point looking to the future.
As PACE kindly sponsored David’s attendance, it also afforded David an opportunity to visit South West Uganda to spend some time at current PHE project sites and potential PHE project sites, which links in directly to the Trust’s plans to expand in the field.
As part of the global Family Planning Summit held in London on 11th July, our coordinating member, the Margaret Pyke Trust, hosted a major event in London, highlighting why reproductive health and rights are not only critical for the health and empowerment of women and girls, but also how family planning can strengthen conservation efforts.
Family planning is one of the most transformative and cost effective tools in global development. When women and girls have access to family planning, they are able to choose if and when to have children, remain in school longer, improve their health, contribute more fully to the economy, and fulfil their potential.
However, 214 million women and girls in developing countries do not have access to family planning. Looking to change this reality are the policymakers, donors and advocates who have came together this week at the London Family Planning Summit, to discuss how to boost investments in rights-based, voluntary family planning programmes. The aim of the Population & Sustainability Network event, was to help shape that summit.
Rural communities often rely on healthy ecosystems for their own health and livelihoods. When ecosystem health is threatened, so too is human health. In developing countries, barriers to family planning services are, almost invariably, greatest in rural areas. The areas of most conservation significance, where communities rely most directly on ecosystem health for their livelihoods (and which are being most directly impacted by climate change) are therefore often the same. These were the issues considered in our event, “A win-win for human and environmental health: How conservation programmes can be strengthened by meeting family planning needs.”
“Human and environmental health are inextricably linked and holistic solutions are needed to address these development challenges”, affirms David Johnson, Chief Executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust. Carina Hirsch, Advocacy and Projects Manager, added, “Family planning has been proven to be a “win-win” for human and environmental health, and that is why we held this event, to seek to encourage the conservation and climate change sectors to understand that supporting reproductive health and rights is not only the right thing to do, but it will also strengthen conservation programmes”.
Our event brought together leaders in the field of integrating reproductive health and rights actions, within conservation and climate change projects. Experts presented integrated solutions to these complex development challenges, including the Population, Health and Environment or “PHE” approach. PHE is an integrated, community-based approach to development, acknowledging and addressing the complex connections between people, their health, and their environment. Addressing these challenges in an integrated manner kick-starts positive chain reactions leading to greater development outcomes in all sectors concerned.
David concluded, “Integration remains a much used phrase but still little used in practice. Our event shed light on the importance and effectiveness of such approaches, as human and environmental health depend on it.”
We are delighted to welcome Pathfinder International into our Network. Pathfinder’s work is driven by the conviction that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide whether and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to lead the lives they choose.
With headquarters in Massachusetts, in the United States, Pathfinder is dedicated to ensuring that millions of women, men, and young people can choose their own paths forward. Since 1957, it has partnered with local governments and communities to remove barriers to critical sexual and reproductive health services. Pathfinder works in partnership with governments and local communities in 19 countries around the world to expand access to contraception, promote healthy pregnancies, save women’s lives, and stop the spread of new HIV infections.
Lois Quam, Pathfinder’s Chief Executive Officer said, “Pathfinder International is honoured to be joining the Population & Sustainability Network, a prestigious group of international conservation and reproductive health organisations, with whom we seek to build an even stronger coalition to help us achieve our mission of bringing sexual and reproductive health and rights to communities worldwide. Our success hinges on being able to reach across aisles to find common values and shared strategies, like integrated Population, Health and Environment programming, that bring us closer to achieving truly sustainable development. Pathfinder is partnering with the Population & Sustainability Network to expand the reach of Population, Health & Environment (PHE) projects, from a new project launched in South Africa targeting communities vulnerable to climate change, to global level advocacy that promises to help scale up policy successes we have supported in East Africa.”
David Johnson, Chief Executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust, with the Population & Sustainability Network added, “We are excited to be working with Pathfinder. Not only does it share our vision of a world where everyone can decide freely whether, when and how many children they want, regardless of who or where they are, but it also shares our integrated approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, as an integral element of sustainable development. We are delighted that Pathfinder has joined the Network, bringing with it a wealth of experience in the implementation of integrated PHE projects in East Africa.”
Earlier this year, we approached Pathfinder to be a part of our first PHE project, in Groot Marico, South Africa, working with fellow Network member the Endangered Wildlife Trust, where Pathfinder will be undertaking critical work to improve family planning service provision and delivering integrated community training. We look forward to continuing to work together on projects and working more closely on advocacy, to empower more people to exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights across the globe.