Voices of Family Planning

A simple image and a few words can tell a powerful story.

To highlight the stories that the world of family planning has to share, Knowledge for Health (K4Health) and FP202o created Family Planning Voices (#FPVoices).

On May 2, FPVoices highlighted Temple Cooley, one of PSI’s experts in family planning and the Deputy Director of the Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options Project. Read her story below to see how access to contraception for the women of Mali has made a lasting change.

Temple Cooley, Deputy Director, EECO (Expanding Effective Contraceptive Options) Project, PSI

Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

temple cooley2

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with our Mali team, which I always find exciting since I had been a Peace Corps volunteer there. We were trying to figure out how to expand access to LARCs [long-acting reversible contraceptives], because LARC access was non-existent or severely restricted in many contexts. We decided to try combining family planning services, including LARCs, with immunization services.  We got Ministry of Health permission to have our midwife offer family planning counseling and services to women who were waiting to have their children immunized. We tested it out initially in a small way, and then it looked like there was something there, so we grew it bit by bit.

Sometime later, we were out visiting the clinics, and one of the midwives came over, and she was very excited about the reception. She said, “You know, because we are doing this at an immunization clinic, at first, we mostly were seeing women with children. But now women are coming who don’t have children. They have heard about the services from their friends.” These were women who were both married and unmarried and some were quite young. They were worried that they were going to be stigmatized because they wanted contraception and didn’t yet have children or they were not married. The midwives were excited that these women were coming in, and they had recognized the women’s concerns and need for privacy. At this particular site, they had opened up something like a second door with additional privacy for the younger women….

We had young women coming in who were sexually active and had been turned away from family planning services elsewhere. They were really interested in having something that would last, something that didn’t require them to keep going back to the provider where there was a risk that their auntie or neighbor would see them. So they wanted an implant, or they wanted an IUD. I just remember that day, going into that little side door, and there being this group of teenage girls there—they were getting group counseling, sort of separate from the older women—and thinking how great it was that these midwives were able to provide them with the product and information that they wanted. I’m still in touch with my host family from my Peace Corps days in Mali, and the women—now that they’ve known me for a decade plus and know what area I work in—they’re always sharing their personal stories, and I know access continues to be a struggle, even for women of some means in Mali.

Photographer: David Alexander

Interviewer: Elizabeth Futrell

Banner photo: © Population Services International / Banner Photo by: Jake Lyell