Last year, I celebrated a decade working almost exclusively on FP. When I started, resources were finite and the ‘80s/’90s hype had dwindled because of the “new kid on the block” – HIV/AIDS. But, advocacy to reposition FP was ramping up globally, regionally, and even at country level. My contributions mirror these exciting times, including updating guidelines/curriculum, that had for so long, caught dust and forgotten; identifying ways — through advocacy, research & capacity building — to leverage the gigantic HIV/AIDS platform & resources to provide FP services; leveraging the power of mobile technologies for health promotion, & decision support tool; assisting countries to define their path and understand their resource needs to meet their goals, and execute.
I never intended to pursue a career in FP. A job at FHI360 introduced me to FP. As a career woman, it was an empowering moment when I realized I was in control of my destiny, just because I can decide when and how many kids to have. I realized how lucky I was to have the knowledge and access to many methods to select from. The link I made with my career ambitions, and the realization that FP gives you wings to fly, inspired me to become a FP champion and spread the word to others like me.
It was in 2008, after a series of piecemeal projects in Tanzania, we were on a road to nowhere. Without a joint vision and a clear path to reach point B, we were blindly throwing darts with hopes to hit our target. I was frustrated, but I also saw an opportunity. Building on this stakeholder zeal, I had the opportunity to lead a technical team that developed the first Costed Implementation Plan. The CIP changed stakeholders’ approach to FP programming – in a more focused & accountable manner.
Demystifying prevalent and deep-rooted myths and misconceptions. My observations are that we invest more on “build and they will come” approaches, and pay lip service to approaches that impart accurate knowledge and change social norms. I think we need to a better job, and more of, understanding user needs and barriers. Instead of promoting methods, we need to promote a lifestyle. We also need to do a better job of answering “what’s in it for me?”
Through innovation and a bias towards action and results, I would like to contribute towards helping countries, organizations, and donors achieve more efficiency and effectiveness in FP programming. I also want to contribute towards bringing the voice of the end user more in the forefront of the FP programming equation, and devise ways to create value for them.