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World Contraception Day Highlights Inequities

World Contraception Day Highlights Inequities Across Pacific Region

Today the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) celebrates World Contraception Day. This day serves to increase awareness of contraceptive methods and highlight the benefits of family planning.

Check out most lists of inventions that changed the world and you’ll find the contraceptive pill. While there are now many other methods of contraception available, the underlying theory remains the same. When women have capacity to control their fertility, their ability to participate in all aspects of society – education, business and social – is greatly enhanced. And, when women do better, we all do better.

In Aotearoa, a range of contraceptive methods are available, including long-term methods such as intra uterine devices (IUDs) and implants, barrier methods like condoms, hormonal options such as the pill and Depo Provera injection, and permanent methods such as tubal ligation and vasectomy. While most New Zealanders have these options readily available, some find that the cost for certain methods is a barrier which can prevent them from finding the best method to suit their needs. Cost barriers such as these reflect critical health inequities that need attention.

Many people living in Pacific island countries face similar inequities. Contraceptive methods and services can be difficult to access and options may be limited. Social and cultural norms can also inhibit access and use of contraceptives. Recent research on usage and barriers of family planning in South Tarawa, Kiribati highlighted that awareness of contraception was high but knowledge of how it worked was limited, which inhibited contraceptive use.[1]

Leaders such as Norma Yeeting, Executive Director of the Kiribati Family Health Association, are working hard to address these knowledge gaps. She and others are dedicated to improving sexual and reproductive health and rights for the people of Kiribati and finding innovative ways to engage with and educate young people including through dramas and school programmes. Ms Yeeting’s efforts were recently recognised by the President of Kiribati as part of Kiribati’s 39th Independence Day celebrations.

Access to contraceptive services and products offers the opportunity to make pro-active choices about whether and when to start a family. Strategies and efforts such as those in Kiribati should be expanded and shared with other communities to address high rates of teen pregnancy and high levels of unmet need for contraception. This World Contraception Day presents an opportunity to celebrate the contraception available and the collective ambition of Aotearoa and the Pacific to strive for a world where every pregnancy is a planned one.

[1] http://www.familyplanning.org.nz/media/302832/south-tarawa-kiribati-usage-and-barriers.pdf

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