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Think big, start small and act now on family planning

Stevie Emilia

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Thu, October 3, 2019  /  09:01 am
Think big, start small and act now on family planning

Love everywhere: The conference aimed to shift the perception of family planning beyond a demographic approach that emphasizes decreasing fertility rates to also encompassing women’s health and family wellbeing. (Courtesy of Rutgers WPF Indonesia/-)

An international family planning conference has seen experts in the field offer potential strategies for the government’s plan to rebrand the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) and return it to its past glory.

The family planning program was Indonesia's pride and joy from late 1970s until 2001, when it was disrupted following the implementation of decentralization, which saw it lose much of its central government backing.

The first International Conference on Indonesia Family Planning and Reproductive Health, which was held in Yogyakarta and concluded on Wednesday, aimed to give the BKKBN a new lease of life.

The event brought together over 800 participants – from scholars to health and development experts, policymakers, UN agencies, donors, civil society groups and youth and student leaders – to harness fresh ideas and innovations.

The conference’s chair, Siswanto Agus Wilopo, who is a professor at Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) Center for Reproductive Health, said the event’s main goal was to change the perception of family planning to see it as being about more than population growth.

“It’s good to control population growth but family planning and sexual and reproductive health also play a crucial role in producing better human capital,” he said. “And this conference hopes to prepare Indonesia to return to the international stage [in family planning].”

In the context of human resources development, Meiwita Budhiharsana, the conference’s scientific committee head, said there was a need to expand the role of family planning from a demographic approach that emphasizes decreasing fertility rates to also encompassing women’s health and family wellbeing.

She said the nation-wide indicators needed to encompass practical measures, such as the impact of contraceptives on averting maternal deaths and the number of health professionals trained in providing minimum initial services.

“It is necessary to adjust the policies and strategies for implementing effective family planning and to develop reproductive health programs that meet the needs of all women and men, including young people,” said the professor of public health at the University of Indonesia.

“Conventional outreach needs to be changed to include digital communication, which is more effective and efficient.”

Other recommendations included the need for the government to remove various regulations and policies that hinder the provision of information about sexual and reproductive health (SRH), including on pregnancy, contraception, HIV prevention and access to SRH services, to adolescents.

“We learned from the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) and Youth Voices Research 2018-2019 that family planning programs must pay greater attention to early adolescents [10-14 years] because they are already facing significant health and wellbeing concerns,” Meiwita said.

In the spotlight: Over 800 participants attend the first International Conference on Indonesia Family Planning and Reproductive Health in Yogyakarta. In the spotlight: Over 800 participants attend the first International Conference on Indonesia Family Planning and Reproductive Health in Yogyakarta. (Courtesy of Rutgers WPF Indonesia/-)

Better knowledge and access to information and reproductive health services, she said, were necessary for adolescents to increase their capacity and capability to protect themselves from experiences of violence at school and at home, as well as sexual violence perpetrated by their peers and adults around them.

“One in six young adolescents has experienced physical victimization, boys are more likely to bully, to be bullied and to witness bullying. The government must update various regulations and policies for overcoming and preventing this kind of behavior,” Meiwita said. 

To help meet unmet family planning needs, Meiwita also said the BKKBN also needed to increase investments in contraceptives and programs that enhanced reproductive rights in the country.

“New measures of the number of unsafe abortions averted and unintended pregnancies averted should be included as program success indicators,” Meiwita said.

The family planning program should also help operationalize Health Ministerial Regulation No.3/2016 regarding the development of safe abortion management services in the face of a serious threat posed by the online sale of “off-label" abortion drugs for which the drug sellers do not provide the necessary information demanded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) regarding dosage, gestation age and method of administration. 

“A lack of complete information on how to use [the drugs] can turn a safe drug into an unsafe one for the women in need,” Meiwita said.

“All of the above should be accommodated in the BKKBN’s rebranding efforts and in the context of human resources development in Indonesia.”

On the closing day, youth representatives attending the three-day conference and two-day pre-event called for full collaboration between the government and the country’s youth on programs related to sexual and reproductive health.

“Since the programs are intended for us, we certainly hope we will be involved in the process, from the planning phase until the monitoring and evaluation,” youth representative Ni Luh Resmiadi told the media.

“We’re often told we’ve been involved but the reality is our voice is just being used to fill the room,” said the Balinese woman, who has been a volunteer for five years.

“We don’t want to hear the government say ‘we’ve already involved young people’, we want to hear young people themselves say ‘we’re already involved’.”

 

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