The past few days at the International Conference on Family Planning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have been fantastic in highlighting an array of voices, perspectives, commitments, and calls to action from a number of organizations, foundations, private sector representatives, and individuals. Large, international conferences such as this one are important to bring people together, create new partnerships, and facilitate discussion on issues that are relevant to the rights and well-being of women and girls.
Especially important within these large conference settings, is ensuring the voices of women at the grassroots level are included in panels, sessions, and discussions. It is imperative that these voices are elevated and incorporated into action plans and goals, especially regarding something as integral to the progress of women as reproductive health and family planning. At this conference in Addis Ababa, the most insightful and inspiring ideas I have heard, came from local women and men who have dedicated their lives to working throughout Ethiopia’s rural areas to provide access and enhance choice for women in planning their family sizes and maintaining their sexual and reproductive health.
This is all well and good, but I’m still concerned. I’m concerned that similar to any other big event, where we get excited, participate and move on, we will do just that; move on. I’m concerned that as we head back home and return to a post-conference routine, the strong, powerful voices we heard while here will slowly fade. Family planning is one of the best options we have to improve the lives of women and children, and it is imperative the voices of those women and children are not forgotten in the action taken to provide access and choice.
What we at Girls’ Globe believe is missing in this process of enhancing and just as importantly, maintaining women’s voices in the development of family planning policy and programs, is connectivity. A solution would be an easily accessible network that connects grassroots women’s-based organizations with each other, with resources, and provides a platform for them to voice needs, lessons, and calls to action.
Luckily, we’re in the process of creating a free, online Database to serve as a platform that will do just that. We strongly believe women are capable, powerful agents of their own change, who, when provided proper resources, work well together to share ideas and create lasting impacts. With the expanding reach of technology and Internet access, an online platform that serves the work of women’s organizations has the ability to promote networking and momentum beyond conference settings, and enhance the productivity and reach of women working at the grassroots level. The need for a resource such as the Database is beyond comprehension, particularly in the realm of reproductive health and family planning, which are areas of development still riddled with social, political, and economic barriers.
If you are an individual working for an organization big or small, doing work to promote the rights of women and girls, please sign up to join the Girls’ Globe network. Although the Database has yet to be launched, joining the network now ensures you access and connectivity.