In partnership with The Challenge Initiative (TCI), we are proud to share stories that illustrate the positive impact that family planning has on women and low-income communities around the world. Published monthly, these stories aim to capture the perspectives of women and their communities that benefit from TCI’s efforts and the dedicated individuals working to empower women with access to family planning.
Meet Shahnaz. She lives in the Lavkushnagar slum in Uttar Pradesh, India, with her husband and children, relying on an insufficient and inconsistent salary from their tailoring service. Shahnaz had her first child at the age of 13. Like many women among the world’s urban poor, she had limited knowledge of and access to family planning services. By the age of 28, she had three children, four miscarriages, two stillborn twins, increasing hospital bills and debts, and declining mental and physical health. Family planning wasn’t discussed with her husband or in-laws. Shahnaz’s journey to family planning was one that she faced alone, and it wasn’t until the consequences of this lack of access became too much to bear that she found the courage to seek help.
If women are suffering from the physical and mental toll of pregnancies by the time they ask for family planning services, they’ve been reached too late. The onus shouldn’t be on suffering women to seek out these services. This is why The Challenge Initiative (TCI) in India has adopted a new approach to rapidly and sustainably scale up access to family planning services among low-income urban populations by especially targeting first time parents.
The new approach focusing on community planning has been implemented in five cities and expanded to an additional 10 cities in Uttar Pradesh, India. In many communities like Shanaz’s, contraceptives and family planning are highly taboo topics. Increased access to family planning cannot happen without a baseline community understanding of its benefits which help to counter ingrained cultural stigmas. TCI’s holistic approach to educating communities on family planning helps foster a more supportive environment. When this occurs, women like Shanaz are more likely to seek out contraception and family planning services earlier knowing their communities won’t judge them, and perhaps even support them in doing so.
This approach has tangible effects for women in urban poor communities. Take the story of Anita, a first time parent in Sahranpur, India. With the guidance and support of a TCI-trained frontline health worker*, Anita learned about the benefits of family planning and was even able to sway her initially disapproving husband. Anita explains,
For both Anita and Shahnaz, family planning ensures not only their own health and safety but helps them to better care for their children and families.
Anita and Shahnaz’s stories illustrate the importance of timely family planning education for women and men alike. For every successful story like Anita’s, there are millions of stories like Shahnaz’s where women and communities are suffering due to lack of timely education and access. Efforts like TCI’s - to increase access to family planning education and services - not only improve the quality of women’s lives, but sets the foundation for a healthier, more prosperous society.