Population Indicators: Who Is Left Behind?

Picture of two people - one sitting on a rock, and other standing next to them. The the person sitting is a banner with images of menstrual and contraceptive products. Next to the person standing is a leaflet stall with many leaflets. Text written on the stall - "Sexual and Reproductive Justice Now"
Illustration for RESURJ by Sonaksha Iyengar

This is an exerpt from RESURJ’s Blog, “Population Indicators: Who Is Left Behind”. To read the full post on RESURJ Blogs page, please visit the original link here.

In a data collection setting in Cairo, I asked a nurse if any woman could walk into a healthcare unit to get contraceptives, she nodded affirmatively. A perplexed pause, then I asked her about the requirements; she explained that the husband’s ID is required to open a family file at the local healthcare unit. Then it made sense, the healthcare system does not see unmarried women as contraceptive users. All the awareness messaging uplifting access barriers to contraceptives mean to target married women. Population increase has been a buzzing term in Egypt over the past years; after a decade of being discussed as an opportunity (Sayed, 2011), it has now become development’s biggest challenge, or at least this is how it is presented. Earlier this year, we witnessed public conversations on population increase, accompanied by regressive national policy articulations conveying a message to decrease the number of children per family and increase modern contraceptive uptake. The only cohesive messaging across current awareness raising campaigns rationalizes family planning as nationally convenient, what seems best for the greater good. The question then arises: How can we achieve the greater good if we systematically overlook women?

Structural barriers are not only about service availability and accessibility. They are not exclusively about the number of contraceptive options offered to women at any point of sale; they could also be the lens we look through. A barrier could be established prior to data collection, long before the provider-client interaction; it could be what we define and use as evidence along with the baselines we engineer as professionals and policymakers.

How can we achieve the greater good if we systematically overlook women?

Now is the right moment to make up for decades of policy and programming blind spots. Instead of leaning towards removing social protection for families that do not adhere to an ideal number of children, policymakers and delegated government bodies should include women in decision making, as they are the main targets of these national strategies. This entails including all women and men, regardless of their marital status, in the sampling criteria of national surveys, through developing newer population based indicators based on the reality that sexual intercourse takes place outside of marriage as well. In order to uphold the constitutional right to health, national policy design and program implementation should address the needs of individuals who are not currently using services by ensuring services are available, accessible, and acceptable to all. Limiting awareness raising campaigns and service availability to married women and occasionally married men does not ensure availability and accessibility of knowledge, quality of service nor informed reproductive decision making.

BY NANA ABUELSOUD

To read the full post on RESURJ Blogs page, please visit the original link here.

The article was originally published on Alternative Policy Solutions.

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