Family Planning

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.

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

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.
  • 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.
  • Increased access to contraceptives and family planning information and services results 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 STRATEGY

Our strategy

The Family Planning team works 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 the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) global partnership, including by supporting them as they develop and implement their country-specific plans.

Our 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.

A community health worker counsels a couple on their family planning options during a home visit in a village, in Uttar Pradesh, India.
A community health worker counsels a couple on their family planning options during a home visit in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India.
AREAS OF FOCUS

Areas of focus

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 we support Senegal and Niger in implementing supply and demand approaches that can inform practices across the region.

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.

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 on contraceptive use in six- and 12-month intervals, to supplement countrywide health surveys that provide data only every three to five years.

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 subnational levels. Better data and monitoring are crucial to holding donors, governments, programs, and providers accountable.

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 on 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 research findings and communicate them to donors, countries, and partners.

Some women do not obtain 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 nonuse.

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 life. We support the discovery, development, and distribution of new technologies that address reasons for nonuse, with a focus on improving acceptance and continued use among priority groups: women who have achieved their desired family size, women who are not using an existing method 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 infection.

WHY FOCUS ON FAMILY PLANNING?

Why focus on family planning?

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.

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 nurse speaks with Ann Starrs, the foundation's director of Family Planning and foundation staff at a primary health center in Lagos, Nigeria.
A nurse speaks with Ann Starrs, director of the foundation's Family Planning team and foundation staff at a primary health center in Lagos, Nigeria.

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, FP2020, has created global momentum on the issue of access to contraceptives and has spurred collaboration, innovation, and greater accountability in family planning efforts.

STRATEGY LEADERSHIP

Strategy leadership