An estimated 225 million women worldwide want access to contraception, but can’t get it.
It’s an injustice that persistently begs the question: WTFP –- Where’s the family planning?
EngenderHealth, a nonprofit that promotes maternal health and HIV/AIDS prevention, coined the acronym to draw attention to the family planning needs of underserved women, and to the dire health consequences they face when they’re denied contraception.
These women often can’t get a hold of contraception due to limited availability and cultural stigmas, among other issues, according to WHO.
Oftentimes, women in Africa are too fearful to even ask to use condoms in marriage because the mere suggestion could imply that they have AIDS or they suspect their partner does, Melinda Gates, an ardent family planning advocate, noted in a 2013 interview.
In addition to putting a financial strain on families and reducing women’s education opportunities, not having contraception also puts women and girls at risk for major health issues.
Complications due to pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19, according to UNICEF. And adolescents are at a higher risk of having preterm or low birth-weight babies, according to WHO. These figures remain of particular concern since 14.2 million girls under 18 are forced to wed every year.
Contraception could be key to curbing the risks older women face while pregnant. Some evidence suggests that women who have more than four children are at increased risk of maternal mortality.
According to EngenderHealth, contraception can prevent up to one third of all maternal deaths and illnesses.
EngenderHealth is working to reduce those fatalities and illnesses by partnering with governments and local groups to expand contraception options and improve reproductive and HIV and AIDS services among low-income women. Last year alone, the organization reached more than 5 million people.
To help raise awareness and funds for the issue, EngenderHealth is encouraging supporters to share information about the WTFP campaign on social media, which translates into donation dollars.
“Because of family planning, we have been able to take care of our two children and send them both to school,” Mariam Omari, a mom getting support from EngenderHealth, said. “Now I’m ready to have a third child.”