Reproductive Healthcare in SenegalThe country of Senegal has made major strides over the past 10 years for access and care in women’s reproductive and maternal health. Here are some initiatives and four recent centers that have opened to provide women with reproductive healthcare in Senegal in both rural and urban settings.

Reproductive Healthcare Barriers for Senegalese Women

Senegal’s healthcare system is not free to the public. If one does not have the funds to pay for their needed care, they are refused treatment. With more than 50% of Senegal’s population in poverty, only 32.5% of births are performed with a healthcare professional, making the maternal death rate one in 61 women.

Senegalese women are averaged to have at least four children, which is often a result of early forced marriage and the patriarchal family structure. Young women are limited from attaining an education, inhibiting their ability to gain knowledge and power over their reproductive and maternal health.

Over 77% of Senegalese women who desire sexual contraception such as birth control, do not have access to that resource. This has led to unplanned pregnancies for women 20 years old and younger. Additionally, most young women do not receive sexual education in school or at home. This results in less than a third of women in Senegal having a comprehensive understanding of HIV/AIDs or how to protect themselves from such diseases. Government initiation and non-profit organizations are improving these statistics. More women in Senegal are receiving resources and education for their reproductive healthcare.

The Maputo Protocol

Before the 2000s, there was no access to national government or international organizations’ reproductive health for Senegalese women. In 2005 Senegal signed the agreement of the African Charter of Human Rights and Rights of Women, known as the Maputo Protocol, declaring Senegalese women’s reproductive health to be a “universal human right” that must be protected. Following the Maputo Protocol, the Senegalese healthcare system began providing contraception as well as pregnancy and STI testing for women over the age of 15.

4 Centers and Initiatives for Women’s Reproductive Healthcare in Senegal

  1. Keur Djiguene Yi Center: The Keur Djuguene Yi Center is the first public OBGYN clinic in Dakar, Senegal that provides complete reproductive and maternal care to women who cannot afford or have access to government-provided healthcare options. Opening its doors in 2017 with the help of Dr. Faye, the lead gynecologist on-site, more women than ever before in Senegal now have access to pre and post-natal exams, “education on contraception, HIV prevention, family planning and infant immunization,” free of cost. Dr. Faye has been consciously expanding on the center, adding another full-time gynecologist in 2019. She hopes to expand the center to operate at full capacity with an entire team of OBGYN professionals to help four times the number of patients the Keur Djiguene Yi Center services currently.

  1. VOICES mHealth Program: The World Health Organization partnered with the Voices project, created an initiative for reproductive and maternal awareness in Senegal. The VOICEmHealth Program uses voice messages to spread the word about openings of women’s healthcare centers as well as education on maternal care and child-feeding practices. The project works with Bajenu Gox, known as “community godmothers,” to extend the amount of knowledge and power for young women through home visits and information on their healthcare during and after their pregnancy to reach women who do not have access to a cellular device. Voices mHealth program is a highly effective project in its ability to have immediate, trusted contact with Senegalese women living in both rural and urban communities.

  1. Le Korsa: Le Korsa is a nonprofit organization that empowers communities and healthcare centers in Senegal to improve their provided healthcare with grants and educational resources. One of the organization’s most impactful recent projects was in 2017 when Le Korsa began the renovation of the Tambacounda Hospital’s Maternity and Pediatric Units. The project is expected to finish in 2021, providing more enhanced and comfortable care to the 47,000 annual visitors.

  1. Bajenu Gox Project — Action Et Developpement: The Action Et Developpement organization in Senegal has made major strides in having increased community inclusion and education on women’s healthcare with a global lense. Partnering with the Bajenu Gox of the Kaolack, Fatick, Saint Louis, Louga and Dakar regions in 2015, the Bajenu Gox project has brought new, needed knowledge to rural and urban Senegal. The Bajenu Gox in these locations are now trained on how to talk about the prevention of  STI’s and HIV/AIDs in their local communities. They are bringing a new wave of education to young women and forever changing the empowerment of women in Senegal through awareness of their rights.

With the remarkable breakthroughs in women’s reproductive healthcare in Senegal, women now have access to centers and initiatives. The foundation for a new perspective, action and approach towards the autonomy of a women’s health and reproductive system in Senegal is now able to grow and flourish.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi

Photo: Flickr

A set of Chinese sex education textbooks for primary school students from grades two to eight aims to ameliorate the flaws within China’s current sexual education system.

Created by the Beijing Normal University after many tests and parent surveys, these Chinese sex education textbooks focus on both the physical and emotional aspects of sex and relationships. Accompanying the text are graphic illustrations of sexual imagery, including male and female genitalia, penetration and menstruation.

The Chinese sex education books cover a lot of the issues about the logistics of sex. These issues include different sexual acts, sexual protection and risks like sexually-transmitted diseases.

Along with those facts, the Chinese sex education textbooks also discuss the more social aspects of sexuality, one of these aspects being consent. According to the Huffington Post, the books highlight different ways in which children can decline consent, especially against predators, emphasizing how predators can be male or female.

When it comes to consensual relationships, however, one of the most controversial aspects of the series, according to Quartz, is its take on homosexual relationships. The textbooks support both homosexuality and those who choose not to be in a relationship, explaining how both are natural and should be respected. The former is frowned upon because there is a huge taboo against homosexual relationships in China.

Overall, however, the Chinese sex education textbooks teach children to take responsibility for their own bodies and sexual health. The creators of the books also hope that the series encourages healthy, thoughtful sexual behavior.

These Chinese sex education textbooks illustrate how China is improving with regards to sexual education. According to the Huffington Post, knowledge about sex is seriously lacking, leading to a lack of knowledge about things such as menstruation or contraception beyond abortion.

Many Chinese parents, however, have condemned the books. According to Quartz, the parents believe that the series is too graphic and mature for elementary school children. They also argue that the young students may imitate what they see.

Proponents of the series, however, express that it is the parents’ own lack of sexual education that makes them uncomfortable. They also highlight, as explained in Quartz, how the series helps young children understand, and may even protect them from molestation.

In spite of the pushback, this series of Chinese sex education textbooks will help remedy the lack of sexual education that China has experienced.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Contraception Reduces Poverty
Overpopulation is a growing concern for both developed and developing countries alike. The rate at which the global population is increasing is alarming. While it took thousands of years to reach the world’s first billion people in 1804, it only took 123 years to add another billion and only 12 for the most recent billion. It is imperative to curb population growth now to prevent the spread of global poverty due to overpopulation. This solution should be as efficient as it is effective. Contraception reduces poverty, and it also ensures a more resourceful future that better meets the needs of the world’s population.

Here are three facts about the relationship between contraception and poverty reduction:

  1. If women who currently lack the means to sexual health information, as well as proper contraception, were allowed access to these reproductive tools, an estimated 35 million abortions and 76,000 maternal deaths would be prevented each year. Given that abortions far exceed the price of standard birth control, these women could instead spend this money to provide for their families and improve their quality of life. Saving women from premature death from unwanted pregnancy due to a lack of reproductive education and resources is not only beneficial in regard to humanitarian measures, but it also strengthens the economic security of the household.
  2. More people being integrated into the workforce, followed by a decrease in the number of dependents, provides a boost to economies worldwide. Populations dense with working-age individuals often live in more developed countries given the surplus of people contributing to the respective economy. Contraception reduces poverty in this sector because adults who either choose not to have children or delay the rate at which they have children have more time and resources to earn better-living potentials when compared to those who must use their income to provide for their families.
  3. While education and international aid offer clear benefits in the fight against poverty, the growth of an excessive population counters these measures. Given the current population’s exponential growth, the economies and civil services of developing countries already lack the capacity or resources to provide for the influx of people to come. The ways in which global poverty is combatted today may no longer be effective in the future if contraception is not accessible.

Family planning means more than just preventing unwanted pregnancies. According to the former executive director of the UN Population Fund, the late Babtunde Osotimehin, “It is a most significant investment to promote human capital development, combat poverty and harness a demographic dividend, thus contributing to equitable and sustainable economic development.” Funding family programming can ensure that contraception reduces poverty, and it will remain effective for generations to come. Additionally, it will help the planet utilize its limited resources more effectively.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Education around the world is imperative, but especially in developing countries where education can improve communities and the lives of people who are a part of them.

In 2015, 91 percent of children across the developing world were enrolled in primary school. Although there are more children in school now than ever before, there are still millions of children around the world that are not enrolled in school.

The best ways improve enrollment rates for children in poverty is to focus on the issues that cause children to drop out of school, which includes social, economic and health issues.

According to Dr. Cantor, a psychologist who specializes in childhood trauma, students in schools can do well if the issues they face are dealt with head on.

In addition to fundraising campaigns that provide for school buildings, supplies and uniforms it is also important to target the underlying issues above. Here are some innovative ways to help keep children in poverty enrolled:

  1. School-based deworming programs. According to the Huffington Post, an 80-cent deworming pill reduces students’ absence by 25 percent. These pills keep students healthy while also increasing their attendance in school.
  2. Malaria prevention. Another innovative way to keep children in poverty enrolled is through malaria prevention. Malaria infection has a direct impact on students’ attendance. A study found that a student who suffers from five or more malaria attacks scores 15 percent lower on school-based tests.
  3. Emergency and disaster response. When a natural disaster occurs it is usually difficult or unsafe for students to travel to school, especially if the infrastructure of the school is damaged or does not have running water. Finding effective ways to respond to disasters will increase the likelihood that students attend school during these instances.
  4. Contraception and family planning services. Each year 15 million teenage girls become mothers. Pregnancy is the reason young girls drop out of school in 50 percent of cases. Providing contraception is an effective way to keep young girls from getting pregnant and staying in school.

These innovative ways to keep children in poverty in school focus on issues children may face outside of school, but they can make a huge difference in students’ attendance and ability to stay in school.


Jordan Connell

Sources: Huffington Post, A Life You Can Save, The New York Times
Photo: Flickr


Only governments can ensure that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is achieved within their nations. While it is widely regarded to be making strides with reproductive health services, it is important to take note of the following changes to ensure so that new era of services can emerge:

1. Domestic Financing
The Universal Health Coverage goal allows everyone access to health services regardless of financial hardship. Pursuing this goal often leads to dramatic health financing reforms, but the key is to give rise to national insurance initiatives that allow health budgets to be spent on strategic purchasing of health services, rather than on keeping the doors open at public facilities alone.

2. Cost-effective Service Package
Few services are as cost-effective for both health and economic development as contraception. Thus, contraception must be prioritized for universal access. It would be imperative to place importance on measurable health outcomes, or possibly the Sustainable Development Goals.

3. Making UHC Work in the Low-Level Private Sector
Lower-level private facilities, which are often a lifeline to communities, should not be forgotten in public financing reforms. This will prevent a wider spread of coverage to communities that need the types of services that accompany the lower-level private facilities.

4. Advocating Financing by Doing
In countries that have not taken strides with the UHC, organizations can still contribute to progress through proof-of-concept financial projects like large-scale voucher programs to remove financial barriers. All types of health providers (faith-based, for-profit or public) need to be quality-assured for the services they offer.

5. Disrupting the Status Quo
Youth, women, tech-savvy entrepreneurs, health workers, civil society and the private sector will all be the influencers to drive change within family panning over the next 15 years. It is important to welcome new voices to the debates and meetings of importance. Frankness will be key to change, by dropping euphemisms and vague terms there will less trickery and more discussion of the topics that need to be discussed. Even the term “family planning” was created to avoid the associated taboo of the world’s abortion and contraception.

Investment in the health, education and rights of young people, and the alignment of related policies, is critical as it enables productivity and economic growth and the better spread and knowledge of reproductive health services is key to that.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: AllAfrica, Impatient Optimists, World Bank


For all the immense scientific progress made over the past decade, methods of contraception, particularly for women in the developing world, has stagnated. It is estimated that in 2013, only $65 million was used for contraception research and development for middle and low income women in developing countries, compared to $580 million used for tuberculosis and $549 million for malaria. Clearly, R&D in these areas is of primary importance, but improvements in birth control technology will make it more affordable and accessible for women in developing countries.

This technology is in huge demand—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation estimated that there are 200 million women in developing countries who want family planning services but have none available to them. Access to birth control would prevent an estimated 72 million unintended pregnancies and 70,000 maternal deaths annually. It would also put the power in the hands of women to decide when to start families and how big they will be. Preventing unintended pregnancy will help women who cannot financially support more children, or those who have insecure food resources.

One reason that contraceptive technology has gone largely underdeveloped in the past is that there is very little communication amongst those in the field: private corporations, university labs and investors. Beyond financial restraints that may prevent a company from advancing a new solution down the pharmaceutical pipeline, some corporations may lack certain innovations that allow them to develop a drug all the way to completion. Even further, a lack of communication within the medical community limits knowledge on the market for this kind of medicine, discouraging investors from funding technological endeavors.

Unification among private corporations, academia, donors and nongovernmental organizations is essential to leveraging funds, technology and information that will help progress access to birth control for women in developing nations. Family Health International 360 has recently partnered with private companies, university laboratories, and international medical research centers to expand development on two types of technology: the long-term injection and biodegradable implant. In doing so, FHI 360 has also linked up with research centers that had not previously applied their work to contraceptive development and also connected nonprofit funding organizations with private companies.

Another advancement spurred by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the Contraceptive Technology Innovation Exchange, a website that houses information on over 170 in-development or recently developed contraceptive technologies. Founders hope this kind of information will lead to increased funding for medical innovation and partnerships between groups. This will improve the accessibility of contraceptive technologies and expand the market for them internationally. Such a database will spur the growth of the industry for contraceptives.

Progress at home, whether through medical research, food technology and investment, spurs growth all over the world. When corporations, organizations and academic groups work together for a common cause, they can improve innovations that will benefit people all over the world.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: Impatient Optimists, Contraceptive Technology Innovation Exchange
Photo: Pacific Standard Magazine


Latin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube

reproductive rights
Iranian officials are taking steps to restrict access to birth control options in Iran, in hopes of increasing fertility rates and population growth.

Last week, Iranian lawmakers ratified a bill which would ban birth control surgeries and criminalize any act to reduce fertility. According to the bill, every individual who performs a vasectomy or tubectomy or engages in sterilization could face up to five years of imprisonment. This new bill indicates a dramatic shift from progressive population policies previously implemented in Iran.

In the late 1980s, Iran launched a national family planning project, as the country was faced with one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. The baby boom was a result of Iranian authorities’ demand for more soldiers in the 1979 Revolution.

By introducing birth control policies, Iran succeeded in reducing the uncontrolled population growth from its peak of 3.2 percent in the 1980s to a current low of 1.22 percent. The policies have also allowed Iranian women to make significant strides, as women now comprise 60 percent of college students, and socioeconomic trends show that most women choose to develop careers rather than starting families.

However, Iranian officials have recently begun to worry about the low birthrates and the projection of the country’s population in the coming decades. In 2012, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a 14-point decree that promoted population growth to 150 million or more. He established a goal of increasing the population by 76 million, claiming in his decree that attaining this goal would “strengthen national identity.”

In response, Mahmoud Almadinejad’s conservative government eliminated the population and birth control budgets of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. The government even legally agreed to pay Iranian families for every new child produced. This is quite a significant turnaround from the “Fewer Kids, Better Life” motto widely promoted in the 1980s.

Furthermore, a new set of policies were established by the Expediency Council to advance Khamenei’s goal. These policy reforms include encouraging youth to marry at a younger age, financially supporting young couples, providing mothers with special resources, ensuring the health and proper nutrition of the people and reducing population pressures.

The objective of these conventions is not only to increase population, but also to balance the country’s challenging demographic profile, which foresees an older population, in the future.

The new population regulations will particularly target Iranian women, threatening the legal rights they have obtained in the past few decades. Female Iranian activists regard the new policy reforms as a method to curtail women’s economic, political and financial roles, and restrain them to their houses.

For women in the rural working class, the elimination of reproductive services, including free contraception and health care, will leave them with more children to support and no education or share of job markets. According to the Statistical Centre of Iran, women only make up 12.4 percent of Iran’s work force and, with these new policies, this figure will only drop.

These recently employed policies, in addition to the pending bill that involves punishments and restrictions, denotes a complete reversal of women’s reproductive rights in Iran.

– Abby Bauer

Sources: Global Post, Al Monitor, Huffington Post
Photo: National Geographic

population action international
Population Action International is a nonprofit organization that “advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.” Its goal is to stem rapid population growth which will help lift families out of poverty and prevent damage to the environment caused in high population density areas.

The organization divides its work into a few different areas including advocacy and research. Each area strives to increase access to contraception around the world.

In terms of advocacy, Population Action International works both in the United States and abroad to create political support behind contraception programs.

For example, in the U.S., the organization works directly with Congress to promote reproductive health programs. Population Action International has made significant progress doing so over the last few years, including helping to significantly increasing funding for family planning. PAI is currently “working hard to protect these gains in the face of spending cuts and attacks on women’s health programs.”

On the global level, the organization supports countries by providing grants to fund family planning advocacy programs, often in developing countries. Because access to contraception is not a high priority in certain countries, these Population Action International grants are often the only source of funding for in-country advocacy programs.

One of Population Action International’s key research areas is identifying “links between demographics for governments and global institutions to combat poverty, ensure growing nations develop sustainably, and create a more stable world.”

When countries have uncontrolled population growth with little to no access to contraception, poverty is often a result, which can lead to conflict. PAI’s research in this field has identified relationships between large population growth and a number of factors including food security, health, climate change, violent conflict and economic progress.

Because of the results of this research, the organization believes that providing high population, low socioeconomic communities with contraception will enable them to thrive again.

In addition, Population Action International focuses its research on the effects large population growth areas have on climate change. Larger populations put increased pressures on the environment, whether that means using more resources or occupying more land. Supporting family planning, therefore, also supports environmental protection, the organization argues.

According to Population Action International, they exist “because providing women the family planning they want can save hundreds of thousands of lives.” The organization is a leader in the field of contraception, providing women around the world with access to reproductive health services in the hopes that it will help stem population growth and, among other things, alleviate poverty.

– Emily Jablonski

Sources: Charity Navigator, Population Action International, Vimeo

Few things in our lives are controlled, understood and maintained on our own. When we go to the grocery store, people may see the bread on the shelves but ignore how flour, sugar, water and yeast reacted to put it there in the first place. So too can be said of the cars we drive, buses we ride and bikes we steer, all of which may and typically are maintained by a specialized group that leaves the rest of us ignorant.

As individuals we rely on others to inform us how our lives should be shaped and run. We are told that this is fine, that these specialists exist to make our lives more convenient and that we do not need to understand how everything works. The time saved allows us to focus on our own pursuits.

For women, our bodies have been similarly fashioned. Menstrual cycles have turned into a veritable organic production line in which outside sources inform us when we are ovulating, when we are pregnant, which method of contraceptive is best, and for hormone-regulating options, when we should be taking it each month.

This disassociation from our bodies may change due to the resurgence of the fertility awareness method (FAM) of contraception.

In comparison to the calendar method in which women guess their ovulation schedule based on previous menstrual cycles, FAM users relies on bodily indicators to determine when they’re ovulating. By tracking spikes and falls in body temperatures while at rest, or basal body temperature, noting increases in cervical mucus and the position of the cervix, women may rely on their own bodies to either become pregnant, or avoid it.

Although WebMD reports that 25 out of 100 women have unintended pregnancies while using FAM, it still provides a viable alternative to hormone birth control, which provides its own disadvantages: possible bone loss, blood clots and increased risk to Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

According to Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, 76 million women in developing countries experience unintended pregnancies annually while 19 million women resort to unsafe abortions.

As for those with access to contraception, there still remains the stigma and cost associated with purchasing them. With proper education, FAM could help women around the world control their lives more effectively, simply by understanding their bodies better.

– Emily Bajet

Sources: WebMD 1, WebMD 2, Mayo Clinic
Photo: Flickr