Last month, several members of Population Connection’s staff had the opportunity to travel to Kigali, Rwanda to attend the Fifth International Conference on Family Planning. Along with attending some fascinating sessions, my colleagues and I crewed Population Connection’s (very popular!) booth, where we handed out materials and got the chance to talk to people from all over the world about our work.
Population Connection occupies a slightly unusual space within the advocacy world. We’re U.S.-based, but working primarily (though not exclusively) on international issues. We’re part environmental group, part reproductive rights organization. And even though we’re advocating for expanded family planning funding and sound policy (loudly and always), we’re not a service provider.
This is an intentional choice—not having our own family planning programs in the field means that when we advocate, it’s not a matter of self-interest. And it means we’ve been free to develop creative partnerships with all sorts of fantastic organizations doing great work all around the world—organizations with a far broader scope of work than we’d be able to cover on our own. Recently, we’ve been working closely with:
IPAS and IPPF
Family Health Options Kenya
We’ve been fortunate enough to develop a strong partnership with Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), the largest family planning provider in Kenya, to share the devastating effect the Global Gag Rule continues to have on their programs. Last year, we brought Amos Simpano, FHOK’s director of clinical services, and Melvine Ouyo, a reproductive health nurse with the organization, to the U.S. to share their stories. They spoke to student activists at our annual Capitol Hill Days conference and visited Hill offices to meet with legislators. Additionally, they did events in ten states, helping to raise awareness of the terrible effects of the Global Gag Rule and push for its repeal.
Conservation Through Public Health
Our environmental focus means we also partner with truly innovative organizations running on-the-ground programs that are a natural extension of our organization’s mission.
In the December 2016 issue of Population Connection magazine, we profiled Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), an innovative PHE (Population, Health, and Environment) program founded by Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a Ugandan veterinarian. Dr. Gladys, as she’s known, was concerned that the interaction between humans and gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was leading to cross-species disease transmission and further imperiling the area’s already critically-endangered mountain gorilla populations. CTPH was created with the aim of improving the health and well-being of gorillas by providing access to sanitation, family planning, and medical care to the people living nearby.
Spoiler alert: it’s working! It turns out that helping people also helps the environment.
After the end of the Kigali conference, I was fortunate enough to get to take a few days and head over into Uganda to check in on the CTPH program. Even better, I got to hike up into the mountains for a gorilla-tracking adventure. (Stay tuned for more about my recent visit to CTPH in the next issue of our magazine.)
Of course, none of this work would be possible without our members, who support our work, so that we, in turn, can support others.