Commentary: Breaking the Invisible Barriers to Birth Control

Article Date

10 July 2012

Article Author

By ICRW Communications Staff

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

TrustLaw Women, a Thomson Reuters Foundation service, features the commentary “Breaking the Invisible Barriers to Birth Control,” by ICRW’s Jennifer McCleary-Sills in advance of the July 11 London Summit on Family Planning. Spearheaded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British government, the summit’s goals include expanding the availability of family planning services, information and supplies to enable 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptives by 2020.

In anticipation of the London gathering, ICRW and several other global organizations urged Melinda Gates and British Prime Minister David Cameron to make women’s human rights and autonomy central to any commitments made at the summit. Meanwhile, McCleary-Sills argues in her commentary that the international community will likely fail to deliver on commitments to improve women’s access to contraceptive methods if it does not address the often invisible barriers that block their ability to get birth control. The commentary draws from findings in ICRW’s latest report, “Women’s Demand for Reproductive Control,” which McCleary-Sills co-authored.

For the report, ICRW collaborated with a variety of organizations to identify approaches that address women’s barriers to birth control. Here is a highlight of a few of these approaches:

* Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs (CCP) helped develop a radio mini-series targeted to men in Uganda that aimed to spur conversation about societal norms that promote having large families and a preference for sons. In Egypt, CCP led an effort enabled families to better protect and maintain their health. This included using a multi-pronged communication strategy to inform newlyweds about family planning and other health issues. 

* The Central American Health Institute (ICAS) used a voucher program to tackle limited information and use of family planning methods among adolescents in Nicaragua.

* The Lady Health Worker program in Pakistan used a mobile outreach strategy to address barriers women faced to getting birth control, including restricted mobility and limited communication with health care providers.

Related content: ICRW Commits to Build Evidence on Women’s Access to Family Planning Services