What We Do

Family Planning

Strategy Overview

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Family planning is a key part of the foundation's broader commitment to empowering women and improving family health.

our goal:

to bring access to high-quality contraceptive information, services, and supplies to an additional 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020 without coercion or discrimination, with the longer-term goal of universal access to voluntary family planning.

The Challenge

At A Glance

Access to family planning information and contraceptives can change lives. Every woman and girl deserves the chance to determine her own future. Read women’s stories here.

More than 220 million women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant lack access to contraceptives and voluntary family planning information and services.

Rates of contraceptive use in some of the poorest countries have stalled, with less than 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and barely one-third of women in South Asia using modern contraceptives.

Increasing access to contraceptives and family planning information and services will result in fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth, fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer abortions, and fewer infant deaths.

We work to increase funding and improve policies for family planning, expand the demand for and use of contraceptives, develop innovative contraceptive technologies, and build evidence to improve service delivery.

Our Family Planning program is led by Kellie Sloan, director, and is part of the foundation’s Global Development Division.

Voluntary family planning is one of the great public health advances of the past century. Enabling women to make informed decisions about whether and when to have children reduces unintended pregnancies as well as maternal and newborn deaths. It also increases educational and economic opportunities for women and leads to healthier families and communities. Family planning is a smart, sensible, and vital component of global health and development.

However, more than 220 million women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant lack access to contraceptives and voluntary family planning information and services. Less than 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and barely one-third of women in South Asia use modern contraceptives. In 2012, an estimated 80 million women in developing countries had an unintended pregnancy; of those women, at least one in four resorted to an unsafe abortion.

Significant challenges stand in the way of making contraceptives more widely available and accessible, including insufficient donor and developing country funding, lack of appropriate products that meet users’ needs, weak distribution systems, lack of reliable monitoring and data collection mechanisms, and cultural and knowledge barriers.

The Opportunity

Voluntary family planning is one of the most cost-effective investments a country can make in its future. Every dollar spent on family planning can save governments up to 6 dollars that can be spent on improving health, housing, water, sanitation, and other public services.

A mother and son at a health center in Dakar, Senegal.

In 2012, the landmark London Summit on Family Planning mobilized governments, international agencies, civil society organizations, foundations, and the private sector to commit to dramatically expanding access to voluntary family planning. The resulting global partnership, called Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), has created global momentum on the issue of access to contraceptives and has spurred collaboration, innovation, and greater accountability in family planning efforts.

Our Strategy

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Planning program is working to bring access to high-quality contraceptive information, services, and supplies to an additional 120 million women and girls in the poorest countries by 2020 without coercion or discrimination, with the longer-term goal of universal access to voluntary family planning.

With our partners, we support national governments that have committed to the goals of FP2020 and are leading the development and implementation of their own country-specific plans.

Foundation support includes assessing family planning needs, particularly among the poorest and most vulnerable populations; identifying access barriers and funding gaps; developing and testing interventions; sharing evidence-based practices; promoting accountability through real-time performance monitoring and data collection; and fostering coordination among governments, partners, and donors.

We also work to increase funding and improve policies for family planning, create public-private partnerships to expand contraceptive access and options, develop innovative and affordable contraceptive technologies, and support further research to close knowledge gaps.

We are particularly committed to exploring how our family planning efforts can meet the needs of young women and girls.

Areas of Focus

Accelerate Country Action

We work with countries that are committed to expanding access to high-quality, voluntary family planning to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. Our deepest engagements are in India and Nigeria. We also work with public and private partners and make selected investments in Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

In francophone West Africa, we are core members of the Ouagadougou Partnership for Family Planning, and support Senegal and Niger to implement supply and demand approaches that can inform practice across countries in that region.

Strengthen Policy and Advocacy

We work to keep family planning on the global agenda and to hold donors and developing countries accountable for their commitments to support family planning. Our work in this area includes grantmaking, direct advocacy, communications counsel and support, and engagement with leaders.

Monitor Performance and Promote Accountability

To monitor changes in contraceptive use and help all FP2020 countries track annual progress toward their goals and improve program performance, we are investing in rapid surveys that will provide data on family planning use in 6- and 12-month intervals, supplementing country-wide health surveys that provide data only every 3 to 5 years.

A mother and newborn in Uttar Pradesh, India

We are also leading the effort to harmonize the way various organizations track family planning resources. The new data systems will use standard metrics and provide reliable data at the national and sub-national levels. Better data and monitoring are crucial to holding donors, governments, programs, and providers accountable.

Closing Knowledge Gaps

Better service delivery is critical to expanding access to and use of contraceptives, particularly in the poorest countries with the weakest health service infrastructure. We build evidence about what works to address supply and demand barriers on a large scale and in multiple countries, promote collaboration between the public and private sectors on delivery solutions, and synthesize and communicate research findings to donors, countries, and partners.

Invest in New Contraceptive Methods

Some women do not access or use contraceptives for a variety of reasons, even when they want to avoid pregnancy. They may have misconceptions about their risk of becoming pregnant, or be deterred by the cost, inconvenience, or concerns about side effects. In some cases, opposition from family members or a limited range of available methods can be a key factor in non use. 

Less than 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa and barely one-third of women in South Asia use modern contraceptives.

Continued innovation in contraceptive technology is needed to address these barriers and meet the demands of women in different circumstances and at different stages of their lives. We support the discovery, development, and distribution of new technologies that address reasons for non-use, with a focus on improving acceptance and continued use among priority user groups: women who have achieved their desired family size, women who are not using an existing methods due to side effects, and young women.  These long-term investments will address contraceptive needs far beyond 2020 and will also include collaboration with the foundation’s HIV program to develop new technologies that prevent both pregnancy and HIV acquisition.



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