Full Access Full Choice: Blog from the International Conference on Family Planning by Makda Mikre Tessema - AGALI Ethiopia Fellow


International Conference on Family Planning held Nov 12-15 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

BLOG post by Ms. Makda Mikre Tessema (pictured above) – AGALI Fellow, YWCA Ethiopia


The International Family Planning Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia included more than 4000 people from all over the world bringing together a robust number of family planning educators, researchers, practitioners and most importantly the highest number of young people in an international conference. The number of presentations, round table discussions and auxiliary events were impressive in their own right.  The conference included more than 140 sessions over three conference days in 2011, with almost 350 individual oral presentations, 45 panel presentations, nearly 200 posters, roundtable events, several interactive experience sharing and skill-building sessions.


The theme Full Access Full Choice echoed through the conference programs in all presentation and sessions.  The theme seemed very appropriate for this conference because there were considerable successes to be celebrated in each country. During the opening, the high caliber speakers gave the theme “full access full choice” the spot light and honed the very important issues by giving people simple but mindboggling facts and figures that are easy to understand:


  • Nearly 300,000 women die every year from problems caused by childbirth.
  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation estimates that approximately 1 in 4 women could be saved if they had global access to contraception. 
  • About 3.2 million infants die every year from preventative illnesses. If proper family planning measures are used, an estimated 1 in 5 infants could be saved.
  • Family planning efforts without the involvement of youth is futile. Youth are important part of the FP effort. The coming decades will see a record number of young people entering prime reproductive ages, requiring the means to prevent unplanned pregnancy and to achieve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. 


Participation at the FP + Social good Panel Discussion

Before the official opening of the ICFP conference, I had the great honor to represent Let Girls Lead’s Adolescent Girls Advocacy & Leadership Initiative’s (AGALI) Fellowship program, the YWCA of Ethiopia, and served as a youth representative in a pre-conference event coordinated by UN Foundation, FHI 360 and the David and Lucile Packard foundation called Family Planning + Social Good. The concept of the event was targeted at ICFP to utilize the +Social Good engagement platform, modeled after the annual Social Good Summit in New York.  In the broadest sense, +Social Good is designed to unite a global community of innovators around a shared vision to leverage technology and innovation to make the world a better place.


The experience of being on the panel was very exhilarating. As a youth representative I felt like I had been given the opportunity to be a part of a panel with very distinguished and accomplished individuals. I felt like I had been given a voice, a platform to speak about the youth and for the youth. The confidence that comes with speaking about my work with youth to the panelist and participants was empowering.

In my part of the discussion I focused mainly on the experience of the YWCA had regarding its involvement in family planning outreach/campaigns with youth-focused priorities and programs. I was able to speak about the YWCA’s presence around the world spearheading young people’s engagement and programming since its inception. Also, I highlighted the YWCA-Ethiopia’s involvement in youth and SRH programs and how it has been integrating youth engagement and also youth with disabilities in all its activities. As a youth representative, I had an opportunity to pose questions to the representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a representative from BAYER about youth engagement and family planning on what’s working and what’s in store for the future. The discussion was a productive, free flowing conversation that put young women, young people on the map.

The conference brought the importance of family planning to the forefront, it provided mechanisms for professionals to learn from each other, site visits provided practical success stories and gave a place for young people to shine, to show their potential and ensure their place on the negotiating table is reserved. Future family planning conferences should continue to engage young people, should highlight the issue of youth living with disabilities. During the conference there was very little said about disability and its connection with family planning and young people. Moreover, future conferences should focus on highlighting integrated approaches that focus on family planning with other developmental programs for greater success on family planning initiatives in the world.  

About Let Girls Lead

Let Girls Lead empowers girls and their allies to lead social change through advocacy, education, economic empowerment, storytelling, and strategic partnerships, contributing to improved health, education, and livelihoods for more than 3 million girls globally.

Let Girls Lead's impacts include the passage of national laws, programs, and funding that protect girls from violence, increase their access to education, health services and economic opportunities, and empower young women to develop their own solutions to the obstacles they face.

For more information, please visit  www.letgirlslead.org or contact

Communications Coordinator Lorena Gomez-Barris at: lgomezbarris@phi.org


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