Imagine millions of women who want to limit their family size or space their next birth, but can’t because they lack access to family planning. Imagine that many of these women have no knowledge of family planning at all. Hard to imagine after decades of national and global investments in health? This is the reality for many families around the world, particularly in developing countries, where approximately 222 million women have an unmet need for family planning.
Innovative approaches to reach people with family planning information and services are critical. Under FHI 360’s PROGRESS (Program Research for Strengthening Services) project —a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve family planning services among underserved populations in developing countries — a key strategy is to move beyond the health sector to reach women and men of reproductive age who need family planning but might not otherwise have access to it. As non-health development programs reach a large proportion of the world’s poor, PROGRESS builds on these networks to bring family planning information and services to communities. Family planning has been shown to contribute to the broader development goals of poverty reduction, enhanced education, environmental sustainability and gender equality, and therefore fits well with the goals of non-health development programs. Currently, PROGRESS supports several intervention-based studies on integrating family planning into non-health programs such as agriculture, environment and microfinance.
In India, FHI 360 is collaborating with the Network of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (NEED) and the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) to improve women’s access to family planning through a microfinance program. A new 12-minute video — A Healthy Investment: Linking Family Planning and Microfinance — tells the story of how many women in Sitapur District, Uttar Pradesh, had little-to-no information about family planning and how even women who did know about family planning faced challenges in getting and using contraceptive methods. The video demonstrates how FHI 360 and IRH trained NEED’s village health guides to deliver basic family planning information to community groups receiving microfinance services in 70 villages of Sitapur District. The goal of the video is to highlight the continued need for family planning information and services and showcase how this microfinance organization addressed the need by increasing family planning awareness and becoming a vital link to existing services.
While the evaluation data from this project are not yet available, we do know that leveraging non-health development programs, such as microfinance, shows promise in improving health. As health sector programs continue to improve, we should also look to our non-health development partners to join the effort to reduce unmet need for family planning — to the benefit of both sectors.
Watch the video and download additional project resources here.