As the Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Family Planning Affiliation (CFPA), an umbrella body for a number of family planning associations in the English-, French- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, I serve as a Technical Advisor to the twelve member organisations of the CFPA as well as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Country Advisor to Antigua, Aruba, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. In these roles, I have been a key civil society advocate for initiatives aimed at addressing the high levels of adolescent pregnancy in the Caribbean and in shaping programming which enhance and expand sexual and reproductive health service delivery as well as increase the demand for and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services.
My passion for family planning was sparked in 1999 when I recognized a host of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges confronting adolescents in Guyana. While adolescents were bombarded on a daily basis by numerous sexualized messages (particularly via the media), adolescents experienced difficulties in accessing SRH information, education and services. This negatively affected the SRH outcomes of adolescents. I became a UNFPA Caribbean Goodwill Ambassador and remain an advocate today.
While Governments in the Caribbean are party to numerous agreements with relevance to sexual and reproductive health and rights, it has been a challenge to have Governments fully live up to the commitments which they have made. For instance, I have noted that while family planning services are delivered via primary healthcare facilities, such services do not adequately address the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized. I have had to craft initiatives to further engage policy makers.
The biggest challenge to the Caribbean is that of dwindling financial resources to invest in sexual and reproductive health; with Governments citing budgetary constraints and the donor community showing a preference to invest in Africa where there is a perceived greater need. This has forced me to increasingly explore ways of addressing the sustainability of service delivery, inclusive of ongoing examination of the remodeling of the operations of a number of our family planning associations.
It is my hope that over the next five years the following two priorities will be accomplished: (1) Uptake of family planning services will be increased as a result of the introduction of new behavioural change communication strategies; and (2) New models of operations, inclusive of enabled services models and associated clinic models, will be fully operationalized to expand service delivery as well as increase local income generation which supports the sustainability of service delivery.