Press release

Justine Greening and Melinda Gates champion the rights of girls and women

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

DFID, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Save the Children hosted an event to shine a spotlight on gender equality.

Picture: Jessica Lea/DFID
Picture: Jessica Lea/DFID

The significance of family planning in transforming the rights of girls and women worldwide was championed today by International Development Secretary Justine Greening and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - Melinda Gates - at an event in London.

The event hosted by the Department for International Development, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Save the Children, emphasised how a lack of access to family planning limits progress towards gender equality alongside issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM), child and early forced marriage (CEFM) and high rates of mother and newborn mortality.

More than 220 million women and girls in developing countries who do not want to become pregnant lack access to family planning information, services and contraceptives. This results in over 80 million unintended pregnancies annually, which puts girls and women at risk of death or disability and reduces their educational and economic opportunities. When women can space their births by 3 years, under-5 deaths decrease by 25%.

Today’s event built on the London Summit on Family Planning co-hosted by the Prime Minister and Melinda Gates in 2012. Other speakers at the event included Tewodros Melesse, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Catherine Oluwatoyin Ojo, midwife and Save the Children champion.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

Without access to adequate family planning women lose their right to have choice and control over their reproductive plans, risking their life and that of their baby.

It is only when girls and women everywhere are able to make their own decisions about when they have children, how many they have, who they marry and are safe from practices such as FGM that we will have true gender equality.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:

The 2012 London Summit on Family Planning was pivotal in putting women and girls at the heart of the global health agenda. Increasing access to voluntary family planning is critical to improving the health of women, newborns and children.

When mothers have healthy pregnancies, and when children thrive, the positive benefits last a lifetime.

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said:

Every child deserves the best chance of survival. Yet every day 100,000 women give birth without any help - a frightening prospect that all too often ends in tragedy for both mother and baby. It should be an absolute right for every mum to have a trained health worker present during birth. This alone will save thousands of lives.

Tewodros Melesse IPPF Director General, said:

There are more than 220 million women in the developing world who cannot access modern contraception and all the evidence suggests that when women are allowed to decide if, when and how many children to have they reap an economic benefit which ripples out across their community and their country.

IPPF is delivering on its FP2020 commitments – at the international level, as a convener of civil society and at the grassroots where our member associations have grown out of the communities they serve. Our services are increasing significantly and we have achieved real momentum in mobilising political will – as I pledged we would at the London Summit in 2012. In 2013 alone, IPPF provided 59.9 million family planning services – up 14% from the previous year.

Today’s event also coincided with a meeting at the World Health Assembly to agree the Every Newborn Action Plan to tackle newborn mortality. Helping women plan their families is instrumental in reducing maternal and newborn mortality. Each year 1 million newborn babies die on their first day of life.

The UK Government with UNICEF will also be holding an international Girl Summit 2014 in July focusing on eliminating FGM and CEFM in a generation. 1 in 3 girls in the developing world will be married by their eighteenth birthday while more than 125 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM.

Notes to editors

  1. Online press material can be found at http://gatesfoundation.isebox.net/europe/europe-communications

  2. The London Family Planning Summit was co-hosted by the UK Government and the Gates Foundation in July 2012. It brought together governments, civil society and communities and delivered a historic global breakthrough delivering commitments that will give access to voluntary family planning for 120 million women. More information is available at http://www.familyplanning2020.org/

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Published 21 May 2014