“Family planning has to be at the centre of the national development agenda to help achieve the SDGs”: PFI at the International Conference on Family Planning
New Delhi, India/Kigali, Rwanda: The 2nd India Caucus at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) served as a platform to bring together dignitaries and stakeholders to deliberate on India’s strategies for meeting FP2020 commitments and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was hosted jointly by the Population Foundation of India (PFI) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) on 12 November 2018 at Kigali, Rwanda.
PFI’s study entitled ‘Cost of Inaction in Family Planning in India: An Analysis of Health and Economic Implications’ (COI)’ was launched globally at the India Caucus, jointly by Ms. Carol S. Larson, President and CEO, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and Mr. Brian Siems, Acting Director, Family Planning, BMGF. The study, which projects the potential benefits of investments in family planning over 15 years (2016 – 2031) if family planning programmes are optimally implemented, complimented the theme of the ICFP – investment for a lifetime of returns. Congratulating PFI on the COI report, Mr. Siems said that the findings, especially the potential 13 per cent increase in per capita GDP, would be significant to drive local decisions and help the government to strengthen family planning commitments in India.
Key Indian dignitaries at the meeting included Members of Parliament Ms. Vandana Chavan and Dr. Amee Yajnik, and Dr. S.K. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner, Family Planning in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India (GoI), and Mr. B. K. Jain, General Manager, State Innovation Programme for Family Planning Agency (SIFPSA), Uttar Pradesh.
On male participation in family planning Ms. Chavan said, “Why are we failing with regard to vasectomy and making men understand that family planning is their responsibility too? Even though vasectomy is a simpler procedure?”. She also emphasised the need to work with adolescents and youth, and recommended uninterrupted education as the best solution to empower them. In this context, she recommended the need for sectoral collaborations between ministries to ensure the continuum between health, education and livelihood, which will help to address the issues faced by youth in India. She said as MPs they can take a lead in this matter in the Parliament.
Dr. Yajnik, stated, “We need to depart from the normalised raising of questions to really addressing issues in the parliament related to women’s rights and health.” She further added the need to harness the potential of local governments to increase awareness of family planning programmes and policies.
Agreeing with the MPs, Dr. Sikdar said that there is an urgent need to “revive the conversations between parliamentarians and the health ministry”. He also added that more support from private sector is needed and that unfortunately CSR investments have “not been forthcoming” in the area of reproductive health and family planning.
Ms. Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, PFI, congratulated the MoHFW for the timely steps taken for strengthening the family planning programme and expanding the basket of contraceptive choices in the public health system. She lauded the government for renewing its commitment for investing USD 3 billion for family planning by 2020 from its earlier commitment of USD 2 billion for the same period. “While good policies are in place in India, we could greatly gain from implementation of these policies to their full potential,” she said.
Adding a word of caution, she said that while increasing contraceptive use, there must be no compromise on quality of care. “We believe that family planning has to be at the centre of the national development agenda to help achieve the SDGs. By investing in family planning, we are making smart investments for our families to be healthy, productive and prosperous. We will support the government in every way we can to help realise these goals for India,” she added.
In addition to the India Caucus, PFI also participated in various panel discussions, sharing country experiences and commitment to family planning. Furthermore, PFI’s poster on “A Review of Planning, Budgeting & Expenditure for Family Planning in India” was awarded the best poster in its session at ICFP 2018.