THE National Family Planning Board (NFPB), through the Government of Jamaica, has made a variety of contraceptive methods available to the public at an affordable cost, but according to NFPB's executive director Lovette Byfield, not enough women are making use of them.
“Having a child is usually a happy time, but unfortunately, too many children in Jamaica are born into families that did not plan for them. We have been working assiduously over the years to provide family planning services to women of reproductive age from all walks of life, yet still, many of our women are not taking advantage due to issues such as low negotiation skills, unwillingness of the partner, and low contraceptive knowledge plagued by various myths” said Byfield.
Since the days of Panther and Pearl in the 1970s and 80s, the NFPB has been able to extensively expand the number and types of contraceptive methods available to Jamaicans at an affordable cost.
“Women no longer have to depend on men to wear condoms to prevent unplanned pregnancies – they now have a choice between the pill, the Depo Provera injection, the implant, the intra-uterine device (IUD), vaginal rings and even sterilization, otherwise known as tying off,” said Byfield.
According to the Reproductive Health Survey conducted in 2008, just under 50 per cent of the live births in Jamaica were unintended.
“There are still too many women around the world who are not able to access family planning services or decide whether to have children or not. Jamaica is fortunate enough to not have this issue. In observance of World Population Day on July 11, we emphasise the theme that 'Family Planning is a Human Right'. All women, over the age of consent can access family planning services in Jamaica. Jamaican women have the right to decide if they have children, how many they have and when they will have children. If in union both parties can make the decision together. No woman should be forced to have children, and in that case, there are ways to prevent it.
“The NFPB, through the GoJ, has made contraceptive methods affordable, and sometimes free. We are urging our women to access these services. They can get information through our outreach programmes in communities, workplaces and other settings and make use of the resources made available to them to reduce the level of unplanned pregnancies,” said Byfield.
World Population Day is commemorated every year on July 11. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was first declared global a human right. The conference's outcome document, the Teheran Proclamation, stated that, “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.” This simply means that women and girls have the right to avoid the danger of having too many pregnancies too close together. Men and women have the right to determine their future and to decide if, when and how often to have children.