Dr. Atif Ikram Butt
Position: Executive Director
Organization: Center for Communication Programs Pakistan
Atif Ikram Butt is the Executive Director of Center for Communication Programs Pakistan. He has conceptualized innovative social and behavioral change communication programming in Pakistan for promotion of reproductive health and family planning. This includes launching a citizen journalism initiative (the first in the region), creating a curriculum on entertainment-education in a leading fine arts institution of Pakistan, and cultivating a national network of influential religious leaders actively engaged in promoting reproductive health rights all across Pakistan. Previously, he worked as a communication specialist with UNICEF Pakistan and also served with the International Labor Organization.
“Dr. Atif Ikram Butt has brought a number of innovations in the using media, both traditional and new, for addressing family planning issues in Pakistan.“
– Fayyaz Khan, Chief of Party at Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Egypt
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
I have been able to bring innovations into social and behaviour change communication programming in Pakistan for promotion of reproductive health in general and family planning in specific. This includes a number of self-sustaining initiatives that I have conceptualised and been able to institutionalise. This includes launch of a ‘citizen journalism’ initiative, first in the region, with one of the biggest media groups of Pakistan in which people at the grassroots level will themselves generate news contents, also inducting a curriculum on entertainment-education in a leading fine arts institution of Pakistan as well as cultivating a national network of some of the most influential religious leaders actively engaged in promoting reproductive health rights all across Pakistan.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
There is high incidence of abortion in Pakistan, estimated to be 50 per 1,000 women or 2.25 million abortions in a year. Majority of women seeking abortions had been using a method of birth control at the time of the unwanted pregnancy, implying that contraceptive methods had been incorrectly or inconsistently used. Majority of couples seeking an abortion have 4 or more children or already achieved their desired family size. Many couples are not primed to avail FP services at the the right time.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?
There is strong sone preference in Pakistan. Among women with 3 children, 60 per cent of those with 3 sons want to have no more children, as compared with only 21 per cent of those with 3 daughters. This coupled with a high ‘ideal family size’ for both women and men at four children makes family planning efforts extremely daunting. I have been part of the team that produced the very first commercial blockbuster feature film “Bol” [Speak up!] on the issue of son preference.
What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?
I believe Pakistan’s biggest challenge is overcoming unmet need for family planning. Currently, one in every four married women of reproductive age have unmet need for family planning. This translates into more than six million women who would like to use family planning if it was available to them. In terms of knowledge, all women know at least one modern method and about three quarters know a traditional method. Increasing access to family planning services is a key to overcoming unmet need.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I’m cultivating a national network of prominent religious leaders to support the cause of FP. Alongside, I’m engaging print and television journalists through capacity strengthening, especially on rights-based reporting, on highlighting RH issues. In addition, I’m working towards creating a critical mass of film/TV scriptwriters equipped with the art and strategy of entertainment-education. My aim is to combine these forces into a national movement to demand for improved family planning service.