What if I told you that we could fix the problems of developing nations with one solution? Yes, one solution can decrease mortality rates of infants and mothers, reduce poverty and crime, fix climate change, decrease the spreading of HIV, lessen the dependency of foreign aid, and flourish communities.
Over 200 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing and can’t because of limited access to contraception, cultural or religious opposition, gender-based barriers, and poor quality of available services. Because of these obstacles, over 22 million unsafe abortions are performed annually, resulting in nearly 47,000 deaths.
Last week, I met Saundra Pelletier, CEO of an amazing organization called WomanCare Global. Their goal is to improve the lives of women, their families, and communities by providing access to contraceptives and reproductive health products. Their model is simple: sell low-cost quality products in some countries and then redirect the profits to provide free access to those areas most in need.
Pelletier left the corporate world to serve women. “Planned Parenthood saved my life,” she said, “When I was a young girl, my mother said to me ‘I don’t want to know if you are having sex or not, but your going on birth-control, because if you are, then you can’t get pregnant. If you get pregnant, you will never leave this town.’ So many girls from my small town in the northeastern most tip of the U.S., got pregnant young. It’s just unbelievable.” Her dream is that girls all over the world are able to reach their full potential by providing them with the same access she had to family planning.
The United Nations has officially declared that access to contraception is a human right. Studies have shown that investing in family planning helps reduce poverty, improve health, promote gender equality, and enable adolescents to finish their schooling. The results are higher incomes, better health for her and her children and greater decision-making power, both in the household and in the community. Family planning also reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, resulting in fewer infected babies and orphans.
Access to affordable contraceptives is not just a problem for developing nations. In the U.S. there are about 3.2 million unintended pregnancies a year, and 52% of those are because the women could not afford birth control. To understand the importance of birth control, consider that every dollar that the United States government spends on family planning reduces Medicaid expenditures by $3.74. Despite that math, Planned Parenthood is under attack.
Family planning in developing countries would reduce the costs for maternal and newborn health care by $11.3 billion annually. Those are real dollars that could be spent elsewhere developing infrastructures and economies, making people in these impoverished regions truly self-sustaining.
WomenCare Global is not only about providing contraceptives, but their portfolio includes feminine hygiene products and maternal health needs. In developed countries, we take for granted something so simple as access to tampons and pads. Saundra told me stories of young girls in Sub-Sahara Africa who will have sex with older men, for money, in order to buy sanitary products. Think of that next time you are picking up that box of Tampax Pearls.
For more information on WomanCare Global and Saundra Pelletier visit WomanCareGlobal.org
Danielle DeAbreu is a former model and student at William Paterson University studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Political Science.
Follow me on Twitter @DaniDeAbreu13