Reaching Women in need of family planning through efficient services

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Usman Ghayas

In recent years, despite government’s attention to family planning, there has been limited success. Women of reproductive age, especially the ones living in rural areas, are largely unaware of the health benefits of family planning and knowledge of family planning methods. As a result, contraceptive usage among all population segments, including women residing in urban areas and women having secondary education or higher, has stagnated or declined. Moreover, there are high rates of both contraceptive discontinuation and incidence of unintended pregnancies.
Factor this in with the estimation that Pakistan will become the 5th most populous country in the world by 2050 – approximately 342 million inhabitants. Given the nation’s already scarce resources, it’s certainly an alarming situation we find ourselves in. Around the world, family planning programs have helped women and couples gain control over whether and when to have children – resulting in tremendous benefits for individuals, families, and the larger society.
Evenmost Islamic countries, such as Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Turkey have recognized the negative impact of rapid population growth and have taken concrete measures to meet the challenges. In Pakistan, Illiteracy, poverty, religious barriers, poor access, traditional beliefs, misconceptions, lack of trained providers and poor coordination of health programs are some of the key factors hindering further provision of family planning products and services.
To provide family planning program the impetus that it needs, for the past 25 years, Greenstar Social Marketing, through its network of Sabz Sitara Clinics, has worked tirelessly to eradicate age-old misunderstandings associated with contraceptive products and ensured that women of reproductive age are properly counseled to understand the benefits of modern family planning methods, thereby making informed choices about their future. Apart from addressing myths and misconceptions, these clinicsalso encourage women and couples to discuss freely their concerns about family planning with healthcare providers nationwide.
The service providers at these clinics are given comprehensive trainings on contraceptive technology by medically qualified and trained doctors. Quality service provision by these providers is monitored by the NGO’s technically trained staff, using internationally acclaimed monitoring tools, to provide on-the-site mentoring and recommendations for improving the quality of services provided. Moreover, with a distribution network of over 6154 franchised clinics (SabzSitara)&62989 retail outlets, Greenstar is responsible for provision of approximately 53% of all contraceptives, distributed by the private sector, in Pakistan.
By working along these lines, Greenstar with other NGOs and stakeholders is fully supportive of Pakistan’s commitment to FP2020 . All concerned parties aimto achieve the milestones set out for reproductive health and raise the national contraceptive prevalence rate to 55% by the year 2020 (currently, it stands at 33.9%).
The key to this, as witnessed through Greenstar’s efforts, is ensuring women across the country realize that they have the right to decide freely when and how many children they want to have. According to statistics, during the past decade the NGO’s initiatives have prevented 11,680 maternal deaths, 135488 child deaths, and a staggering 8 million+ unintended pregnancies.
The Sabz Sitara Clinics have a proud history of playing an important role in improving the sexual and reproductive health of Pakistanis by increasing access to full and accurate information, quality services and a wide range of family planning products.
With this commitment to eradicating myths and misconceptions associated with modern family planning methods and empowering women by providing access to information and services, these clinics will continue to play a significant role in improving the nation’s adoption of safe and reliable family planning methods.