Wanted Children

Alice Oppen OAM and Maria Deveson-Crabbe, CEO of Marie Stopes International Australia, discuss the importance of children “being wanted”.

21 October 2010

Alice Oppen OAM

Chairman, Women’s Plans Foundation

“Since my parents were born, the human population has quadrupled.  And before my children were born the Pill became available.  So my mother’s belief that every child should be a wanted child was able to evolve for me into the conviction that all women must be able to manage fertility so we can become part of the world’s decision-making process.  In some developing countries, there is still a cultural assumption that a woman’s identity is all about childbearing and serving.  We see that where health and education reach into areas of poverty, women can space births, survival rates improve, health costs go down, and sustainability becomes possible.

Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women and girls; women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the world’s property.  Nearly half of the conceptions worldwide are unplanned and about a quarter are unwanted.  We are seeing population pressures on world water, food, climate and migration fears.

An organisation backed by Sir David Attenborough in the UK has worked out that for every pound spent on contraception, a similar reduction in emissions would cost two times as much for tree panting, four times as much for wind power and eight times as much for solar energy.”

Maria Deveson-CrabbeDeveson-Crabbe

CEO, Marie Stopes International Australia

“2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the contraceptive pill which revolutionised life for millions of women in Australia and other developed nations, giving them the opportunity to choose when and how many children to have. At Marie Stopes we aim to extend this revolution to the 215 million women in developing countries who want to space and limit the number of children they have but who still do not have access to, or information about contraceptives.

Tonight I would like to tell you a little about our program in Papua New Guinea which was the recipient of the most recent generous donation from Women’s Plans Foundation.  Prior to an outreach visit, a Marie Stopes team consisting of a nurse and field educator holds an advocacy meeting with community and church leaders. This is an important process as it is these leaders who are strong gate-keepers in the community; they are credible people; and they are listened to. Following this advocacy meeting is an awareness campaign to let everyone know that the Marie Stopes team is coming, when and where.  More often than not, community and church leaders participate by organising the meetings, announcing them during church and fellowships and even house-to-house visits.

For the first visit, Marie Stopes PNG brings a full complement of staff – usually 2 nurses, 1 outreach assistant and 1 field educator.  To ensure confidentiality and privacy, the team would normally work in an existing health centre, a home or a community or church hall.  In the absence of such, the team brings a 3 room walk-in tent.  In many instances power and water are challenges. A full size generator and water in containers are brought in.  Each village is visited every 3 months. In each outreach clinic the team sees an average of 30 clients in Port Moresby and 8 clients in the provinces.  The majority of women chose three-monthly injections as their preferred methods of contraception but IUDs and other longer term contraceptive methods are growing in popularity.

Outreach is crucial to being able to impact upon so many women’s lives.  The women who can now access family planning services that we provide on our outreach trips are so grateful to be able to space their children and decrease the risks of bearing a number of children so close together.  I am here tonight to forward their gratitude on their behalf, and that of the Marie Stopes Team in PNG.”

Guests at the Annual WPF Cocktail Party and Auction on October 21st appreciated hearing about the work being accomplished as a result of our enjoying a lovely evening fundraising.  It was very good of Maria Deveson-Crabbe to come and add this level of enjoyment and meaning.