By Byron Mutingwende
The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) is advocating for rights-based approach to family planning (FP) that treats individuals as full human beings in their own right and as active agents not as passive beneficiaries.
Dr Munyaradzi Murwira, the ZNFPC Executive Director at a media sensitisation workshop currently running in Mutare, revealed this.
The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary since the Proclamation of Tehran of 1968; where Family Planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a Human Right.
The proclamation states that, “Couples have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”
Family Planning is therefore not about limiting couples but allowing couples the choice on when to have children, the number and how to space them.
“The right to sexual and reproductive health is not only an integral part of the general right to health but fundamentally linked to the enjoyment of many other human rights.
“The ambitious FP2020 goal of providing family planning services to 120 million more women and girls that emerged from the Family Planning Summit in London in 2012 has refocused attention on the need to ensure that family planning programs respect, protect and fulfill individual’s human rights and that programs are implemented using a rights based approach. The current challenge is how to operationalize human rights in existing family planning programs and the design of new projects,” Dr. Murwira said.
Since the Proclamation of Teheran in 1968, numerous treaties, conventions and agreements relevant to Reproductive Health and Rights have reaffirmed these human rights. Notably, the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.
These rights have been grouped into three categories of reproductive rights: reproductive self-determination; access to sexual and reproductive health services, commodities, information and education; and those related to equality and nondiscrimination.
There are a number of benefits of family planning to health. It reduces maternal mortality and morbidity, infant and child mortality, and abortion. It also enables women and couples to decide the number, spacing and timing of births.
In addition it improves women’s opportunities, family wellbeing and mitigates adverse effects of population dynamics on natural resources including food and water while promoting economic growth and state stability.
“FP enables individuals and couples to make informed choices and decisions about their sexual reproductive health. It empowers women to decide on their life by having more time to pursue their education, employment opportunities and to participate in other economic activities leading to better quality of life for themselves, their families and the nation and leads to poverty reduction.
“FP leads to cost savings in developmental areas such as health, education, and other social services. It is also important for economic development, poverty reduction and improved quality of life,” Dr Murwira said.
FP allows individuals to space pregnancies or delay pregnancies thereby reducing the risk of sexual reproductive health (SRH) related complications. Spacing child birth by at least 2 years allows the mother and the child to have better health outcomes. It enables women who wish to limit the size of their families to do so.
FP prevents unintended pregnancies; reduces the occurrence of unsafe abortions due to unwanted pregnancies; reduces transmission of HIV/AIDS and is one of the pillars of Safe Motherhood interventions.
It was revealed that modern contraceptives were introduced in Zimbabwe in 1953 through volunteers. The Family Planning Association of Rhodesia (FPAR) was then established in 1965.
After independence in 1980, the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) took over FPAR and in 1984 transformed it into the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), a parastatal under the Ministry of Child and Health Care.
The establishment of ZNFPC was a sign of government’s commitment in investing in FP and related Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The Government of Zimbabwe had realised that a robust national FP programme was one of the most prominent interventions to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality and for socio-economic development
Zimbabwe’s population is relatively young, with those below 24 years constituting over 62% of the population. The focus of the ASRH programme is improved SRH of youths10-24 years.
According to 2015 ZDHS, 22% of young women aged 15–19 years have already begun childbearing while 17% of youth are already mothers, and additional 5% are pregnant with 1st baby.
The unmet need for FP is high (Rural -14.5%; Urban -11.7%). Young motherhood is more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Young women account for up to 25% of all .maternal deaths in Zimbabwe. Most of the new HIV/AIDS infection occur in this age group. Investing in young people is key in achieving the demographic dividend.
Despite Zimbabwe having one of the highest Contraceptive Prevalence Rates (CPR) at 67% (ZDHS 2015) on the continent, there is still need to further reduce unmet need especially among young women.
Some of the challenges include the limited funding for FP and ASRH programmes; low uptake of long acting reversible contraceptives resulting in method mix highly tilted towards short term methods; as well as the inadequate storage space for FP commodities.
There are calls for strengthening integrated programming for of FP, SRH and HIV that will result in cost effectiveness and better access to comprehensive servicesneed for. There is also the engagement of private sector and civil society organizations for improved access to quality FP services.
“It is our hope that the budget allocations from treasury will be in line with our FP 2020 commitments for improved Rights Based FP programming. Positioning of family planning at the centre of national development is critical for empowerment of women and for national prosperity,” Dr Murwira added.