Co-authored by Matti Navellou, Global Poverty Project
It's time to modernize advocacy efforts to empower girls and women.
222 million women currently lack access to modern contraception. That's 222 million women who can't plan their fertility, and 222 million women who can't plan their lives.
As notable policymakers, government leaders, civil society representatives and corporate leaders come together this week to discuss the global health and empowerment of girls and women at the 3rd Women Deliver Global Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - now is the time to rethink effective advocacy in this area.
To truly address the unmet need for contraception, we can't keep doing the same things.
At the London Summit on Family Planning in July 2012, US $2.6 billion was pledged to reduce the unmet need for family planning services in developing countries by 120 million women by 2020. This was a monumental moment in the movement to provide contraception services to women worldwide. Yet, without proving there is demand for contraceptive services across the world - the risk is that these pledges won't be honored, leaving the the issue of girls and women's sexual and reproductive health to fall outside the spotlight of public attention.
Currently, the majority of advocacy efforts in this area focus on targeting women and on service delivery - yet we know that it is just as important to include men and that demand creation is key to impacting policy change. We must garner male support and create demand in this area if we are to increase public awareness of, and encourage demand for, contraceptive services and information globally.
So how can we reach and engage men as well as women across developed and developing countries to show support for family planning? We must start by reaching them in the online and offline communities they're already a part of with engaging and shareable content, actions, and events - delivered through a grassroots network of partners, and through the media.
It is evident that technology is changing the way we interact with people all over the world -giving us the opportunity to revolutionize global advocacy efforts and public engagement campaigns. Research by campaigning organizations like the Global Poverty Project show that using new technological tools and gamified actions targeting young people can drive change and concrete policy wins for international development.
We now live in a world where people who live on less than $1 dollar a day in India or Malawi have access to the same technologies as in the US or France. Charities, companies and campaigning organizations are clear that this is an area where we can scale our impact. If we look at the case of M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer service for people without bank accounts, it now has more than 17 million customers across sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly Ipaidabribe.com has crowd-sourced more than 20,000 reports of officials who demanded bribes in India, and has now expanded to Kenya, Indonesia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. If we combine this with the fact that globally, the mobile game Angry Birds has over 30 million daily users and 400 million downloads across over 100 countries - a clear question emerges. How can we use the power of online gaming and digital media for advocacy?
This week, at the Women Deliver summit in Kuala Lumpur, The Global Poverty Project and Women Deliver launched a campaign for family planning combining this idea. The campaign, It Takes Two, uses the power of gamified action and incentives to encourage male and female users from around the world to show their support for family planning.
It Takes Two utilizes The Global Poverty Project's Global Citizen platform, an online platform and mobile application that tracks and rewards activist action through a point-scoring system and harnesses the power of social media to "gamify" family planning.
The simple idea is that by encouraging users of the online platform to design their own condom wrapper and share this on social media, with the opportunity to win customized condoms and free concert tickets in the US, men and women will be encouraged to take political action showing their support, and demonstrating demand for family planning. After engaging users with an online game, the site leads people to take political actions like petitions, emailing political influencers and taking other creative actions for family planning that can have real impact.
Just last year, through this Global Citizen platform, over 700,000 actions were taken by over 70,000 people towards ending extreme poverty with the incentive of free concert tickets, and over 820 million were reached trough social media in just four weeks.
With gamified activism, the user journey begins with incentives, but ends by creating and demonstrating demand for social change - in this case, for increased information and access to family planning.
There is still far too much controversy, myth and misinformation about contraception and not enough public conversation about family planning. Using technological platforms and games as advocacy tools has the power to change that. When young people are inspired, educated and informed, they will not only make responsible decisions around contraception, but will become crucial voices for a movement that can build on the momentum from the London Family Planning Summit.
So, go on, upload a funny design and message to a condom wrapper - and push for 222 million women to gain access the contraception they deserve to plan their lives while you do it. I know you want to.