12 July 2012

Milinda Gates Supports Contraceptive Campaign

Summit on Family Planning
Participants in the 11 July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning were all excited after hearing a buzz that Melinda Gates, the philanthropist and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pledged to unveil funding a sum in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a campaign to improve access to contraception in the developing world.

The exact amount is expected to be announced during the gathering of world leaders and aid organizations. However, in an interview with Reuters, Melinda Gates said the commitment would be "on a par" with the Foundation's other big programs, like that against malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.

Reuters reported that in January this year, the Foundation pledged a US$ 750 million for that fight on top of US$ 650 million contributed since the fund was set up 10 years ago.

The aim of the London Summit on Family Planning is to raise US$ 4 billion to expand access to contraception for 120 million women in the developing world by 2020.

Despite possible influx of funding for contraception, money is not the only barrier for access. Governments of developing countries have given less priority to the management of population growth. It was further rendered controversial for decades by coercive programs like forced sterilization in India in the 1970s and China's one-child policy.

It still provokes controversy, not least in the Philippines where Reproductive Health policies faced continued criticism from Catholic groups and their ‘close-minded’ followers which tend to see contraception and abortion as part of the same issue.

To all the critics of modern method of family planning, Gates and her supporters have this to say: The summit is not about abortion but empowering women and girls to determine their future. To stress this point, they have launched a website showcasing tales of how contraceptives have changed peoples’ lives.

"Because we didn't have contraception or family planning on the agenda we weren't putting new money into it," says Gates. "We weren't saying this is a priority. So this is our moment in time to say this is a priority and we need to fund it."

Fortunately, majority supports the objectives of the Summit and their applause simply overwhelmed the objections of the fanatical few. In fact, more than 250 religious leaders and executives of faith-based nongovernmental organizations have given their endorsement, calling the Summit “a welcome and positive response” to addressing family well-being challenges. Several members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe hold similar sentiments.