THE EARTH TIMES
DECEMBER 25, 1995
A bold new plan from the leadership of International Planned Parenthood
BY ASHALI VARMA
LONDON—As the world’s largest organization promoting family planning and sexual
and reproductive health, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is working on “Vision 2000,” a strategy for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. First drafted in 1992, the bold initiative provided a model for the action program adopted two
years later ·at the UN’s Cairo conference on population and development.
“Vision 2000” focuses on six priorities:
• Meeting the demand for quality services;
· Promoting sexual and reproductive health;
• Eliminating unsafe abortion;
• Taking action to ensure women’s equality and empowerment;
• Educating young people about their sexuality and providing services that meet their special needs;
• Maintaining the highest standards of care at all IPPF facilities.
Successful implementation of this far-reaching program, says IPPF Secretary General Ingar Brueggemann, requires both adequate funding and recognition that reproductive health is not solely a “women’s issue” (see interview, page 25). The key, she adds, is greater cooperation among international agencies, governments and the grass-roots
activists working hard to better women’s lives.
Last November, 300 delegates representing Family Planning Associations (FPAs) in 144 countries met in Manila to strengthen IPPFs mandate. The delegates adopted a Charter on Sexual and Reproductive Rights that spells out the principles that will guide the Federation’s work in the decades ahead. Like the programs endorsed at Cairo and at last year’s UN women’s conference in Beijing, the IPPF’s Charter defines sexual and reproductive rights as “basic human rights,” notes Brueggemann.
The FPA delegates also adopted a strong organizational stand in favor of a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion. IPPF affiliates worldwide agreed to speak out against unsafe abortion, which kills at least a quarter-million women each year, while pressing hard for
President Fidel V. Ramos of the Philippines, who hosted the Manila meeting, told the FP As that family planning is an important part of “the national and international development effort for sustainable progress. The challenge before us now,” he added, “is to make this program even more intensive. We must bring it to homes and the communities–to the parents, the mothers, and above all, to our young people.”
IPPF’s newly elected President, Attiya Inayatullah, is frank about the challenges facing the Federation. “There is a lot still to be done,” she told The Earth Times. “There is a great void between what we want to achieve and what women in the developing countries have.” Inayatullah recalled that in her longstanding work as a volunteer in the family planning movement in her native Pakistan, she was able to reach out to oppressed women who “lived in a coffin of darkness, so overcome with pregnancy fatigue. Our movement has made a big difference,” she said. “Now we to have concentrate on the empowerment of women, on equality and how women can exercise their right to reproductive health.”
Inayatul1ah stresses the importance of starting early, in a sensitive way, to educate the girl child and demystify sexual issues. Citing the “far too many women who know nothing about sexual health,” she observed that “the high incidence of illegal abortions is a sign, a message to us and a challenge for us to do something in the area of prevention.”
The Federation president noted that IPPF is highly decentralized, a structure that enables each FPA to draft plans most appropriate to its local conditions. The strength of the IPPF, she said, lies in its respect for cultural pluralism and social diversity. Another key to the organization’s effectiveness is its ability to mobilize community leaders, thus ensuring a source of ongoing leadership and sustainability of projects.
Inayatullah urges family planning workers to increase their networking with other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in order to maximize achievements in the areas of empowerment, health and education. “It will be much more productive and cost-effective,” she said, “to have a group of people equipped to attend to all the different needs of a village and to work to complement each other.”
IPPF’s annual $85 million budget provides grants to local FPAs and funds regional bureaus, publications and advocacy, international programs and conferences. The Federation works closely with voluntary and inter-governmental organizations
and UN agencies focused on reproductive health, women’s rights, children’s issues and the role of population policies in socioeconomic development.
These include the UN Population Fund, The United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
The Federation receives financial support from a score of governments, as well as private
foundations and individuals. At a recent London meeting, IPPF donors lauded the Vision 2000″ strategy. Mark Laskin, the Federation’s Assistant Secretary General, said that 31 donors from 15 -developed and developing countries attended the session. He stressed the importance of the “historically strong support” from the US and Canada, terming the
latter’s decision to cease all funding to international NGOs a “major shock.” Donor countries should find mechanisms for continued funding, he said, especially given “the commitments they made in Beijing and Cairo and the importance they have placed on NGOs in introducing social change.”