For World Contraception Adoption, It Takes a Village
For a woman, contraception means autonomy over her body and better control of her future. It supports the empowerment and wellbeing of women and facilitates the health and economic security of communities. That is, as long as communities are engaged in the process.
Although access is essential, without guidance, support, and informed choice, we cannot ensure effective family planning uptake. This was clear to us this week as we observed the work of family planning providers and listened to the stories of women in India, a country with the largest number of women with an unmet need for modern contraception.
Community influence plays a significant role in women’s adoption (or lack thereof) of contraceptive methods. Social and cultural dynamics within the community strongly influence perceptions of contraceptives and reproductive health services. Women and couples we spoke with in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh expressed concerns over potential judgment and disapproval of contraceptive use from their families and the larger community.
Conversely, community ties can also generate breakthroughs in family planning adoption. Kusum, a 32-year old mother of two, visited an urban PSI clinic in Kanpur Nagar earlier this week for an IUCD insertion, supported by two neighbors who were also there for the service. The trio were briefed on all the available contraceptive methods by Rajani, a trusted community health interpersonal communicator (IPC), who counseled the friends in their homes and referred them to the clinic for the procedure.
India’s National Rural Health Mission also aims to harness the power of community influence as a force for good by selecting and training female Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHAs. Sarojini, an ASHA who lives and works in Bhadawal village, counsels residents on a range of health topics and contraceptive methods. She provides trainings to adolescents at the local school, where 22-year old Vijay first learned about family planning methods. His wife of four months, Reena, had never heard about contraceptives before getting married but was open to meeting with Sarojini at Vijay’s request. In a counseling session with their ASHA, the couple decided to use condoms to delay parenthood so they can spend more time together as newlyweds.
This World Contraception Day, we acknowledge the power of community bonds. Globally, we see women facing barriers to family planning within their circles—whether explicit condemnation, perceived judgment, or the simple fear of what their neighbors might think. But we also see progress, led by local champions within communities fighting against taboos and controversies to help women have the families and lives they desire. Together, service providers, counselors, and advocates in the community can help to create an environment where a woman can make her own informed decisions about contraceptives—without stigma or judgment.