In just a few days I’ll be heading to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with 3 other Girls’ Globe bloggers to cover the third annual International Conference on Family Planning. The conference expects a participatory audience of approximately 4,000 people and is co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population ICFP Join the Convo GGand Reproductive Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia. The 2013 conference theme is “Full Access, Full Choice” and will include panel presentations, a policy-making forum, skill-building sessions, and an exhibit area all focused on family planning and reproductive health.

Ethiopia was selected to host the third annual conference because of its strong commitment to family planning and the progress it has made on access to family planning measures such as modern contraceptives. Since 2000, Ethiopia’s prevalence of modern contraceptive usage has increased by 350 percent, and the average number of births per women has decreased by almost 13 percent. This is important because the ability of Ethiopian women to access contraception helps them plan the timing and size of the families they wish to have. These statistics show progress in terms of family planning in Ethiopia, and the implications of this progress go well beyond reproductive health and decreased birth rates.

The Guttmacher Institute’s report on the benefits of meeting the contraceptive needs of Ethiopian women, outlines the overall significance and far-reaching benefits of increased access to family planning mechanisms in a low-income country. The report emphasizes how almost all United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs) could be met faster and more efficiently simply with better access to family planning. For example, with better contraceptive services and education, child mortality would be reduced (MDG 4) and maternal health would improve (MDG 5), enhancing women’s overall empowerment (MDG 3). Furthermore, with fewer children per household and increased access to care and resources, it will be easier to achieve universal primary education (MDG 2). Decreased population growth will also help ensure environmental sustainability (MDG 7). Finally, with enhanced access to contraceptives, especially condoms, combating HIV/AIDS becomes easier and more affordable as incidences decrease (MDG 6).

This example of how major hindrances to development can be improved simply by increasing education and access to family planning resources, show just how important these measures really are. In Ethiopia since 2000, child mortality has decreased, child health (including weight and growth) has improved, and literacy rates for women have increased 100 percent. These statistics bring to life the Guttmacher Institute’s idea that all areas of development can be improved when we increase education and access to family planning.

A conference such as the upcoming one in Ethiopia is important to enhance public engagement and discussion that will identify focal points for improvement in family planning around the world. As we have seen, the implications of the discussions will provide insight and promote action-based solutions that will be far-reaching in terms of women’s empowerment and development as a whole.

The Girls’ Globe team of bloggers traveling to Ethiopia is beyond excited to partner with FHI 360 to participate in and cover the various panels and events taking place from Nov. 12th-15th. Catch up on all our daily experiences via, and follow us on Twitter @GirlsGlobe and Instagram for live updates and coverage.

We encourage you to join the conversation by tweeting @FPAddis2013 and using hashtags: #ICFP2013 #FamilyPlanning #ICFPLive #FullAccess #FullChoice

Girls’ Globe’s coverage of the conference will be featured in FHI 360’s Daily Deliveries. Click here to sign up to receive an email each day of the conference for highlights and important information

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