“I want to bring every good thing to one child before I have another.” – Mother from Korogocho; a slum outside Nairobi, Kenya

VENTURES AFRICA- Perhaps the mother from Korogocho had a childhood like Angavu’s. Angavu, who’s Swahili name means ‘bright, shining’ is the first child in a family of 9 children. At 16, she has been exposed to immense suffering as she’s watched her family struggle under severe poverty. She burns with anger as she watched her mother birth child after child with no hope for feeding them beyond breast milk.

Being somewhat close to the city, Angavu watches young women her age all the time. They go to school, talk about things she can’t understand and more than that, they talk about what they want to do in the future: a fashion designer, a doctor, a banker. For Angavu, it’s difficult to see past the 8 mouths that depend on her daily for whatever she can bring home. The thought of school is a distant memory; her dreams of starting her own sweet shop seem unreachable. Instead, she has a feeling that like her mother, life will be a struggle to feed one mouth after another and her own daughters may face the same fate. Unlike her name, the future is not so bright.

Isis Nyong’o, Stella Okoli, Mavis Amankwah, Claudine Moore; many amazing women have been featured on Ventures Woman for their achievements in business and entrepreneurship. They have each had to overcome various obstacles to arrive where they are today, these women indeed had, in one way or another ‘every good thing’ brought to them as young women. In fact, the majority of Ventures Women have been educated at the top schools both in their countries and abroad and many have received world-class mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and businessmen.

Unfortunately for many African young women however, opportunities for education and such achievement are cut off early on. The London Family Planning Summit held on July 11, 2012 sought to address the challenge of access to contraceptives for women worldwide. If you fail to see the connection between business and contraceptives, consider that nearly 800 women die daily in pregnancy, a good proportion of them unplanned or unwanted; up to 25 percent of girls drop out of school due to unintended pregnancies, the average family size in Africa is >5 children, and the chances of the woman dying during pregnancy or childbirth is as high as 1 in 13 in some countries; chances of death increase with higher numbers of births.

Many women who live through difficult childbirths suffer long-term health consequences while trying to care for their children; many don’t pursue further educational opportunities and are ill equipped to support themselves and their families economically. The ability of any one of these women to become the next supermodel, Iman is severely limited. While contraceptives are by no means a panacea to solve the many problems facing African women, their value is undeniable. By supporting “the right of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have”, we support them in choosing education, personal development and opportunities for entrepreneurship.

The Family Planning Summit brought together both private and public sector heavyweights in women’s health such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ministers of Health and corporate organisations such as Pfizer. By bringing governments, for-profit and philanthropic organisations, the Summit encouraged new levels of commitment to providing family planning in countries with the lowest access. Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal expressed their renewed commitment to improving living conditions for women through family planning. Public-Private partnerships and commitments were also discussed with companies such as pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and manufacturer of the female condom, Female Health Company committing to better working relationships with country governments, all geared towards providing an additional 120 million women with family planning options.

This target has numerous economic benefits for African countries in terms of saving health systems money and increasing economic growth through female entrepreneurship. The summit highlighted the added benefit of preventing unintended pregnancies that usually end in abortion, a highly controversial matter.

The matters under discussion at the summit were clearly important to the public as many listeners tweeted comments and questions using the hash tags #FPSummit and #nocontroversy. Some participants in the Twitter conversation noted that several of the Summit panels were either male-dominated or completely male despite the fact that issues being discussed were predominantly female-centred. It shows that women still have a long way to go in holding global leadership positions. Since this cannot happen without education, the outcomes of the Summit are important for all.

In the meantime, men have a significant role to play in elevating women’s standing in society. Claudine Moore, a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs lists several men as critical to her success because of the excellent training and mentoring they gave her; men’s role in women’s success cannot be understated.

The mother in Korogocho near Nairobi, Kenya, knows the importance of family planning. It allows her to work and equip herself to be able to give one child every opportunity in life before having the next. She knows that her success and that of her children depends on her being able to plan her time, resources and family. The outcome of this Family Planning Summit matters as much to African women as it does to her.

Image via in2eastafrica.com


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