Global Health Strategies organised a media roundtable discussion, ‘Media: A Key Stakeholder in Raising the Discourse on Family Planning’ on 21 February 2018 in Kolkata  in presence of Dr. Basab Mukherjee, Member, The Bengal Obstetric & Gynaecological Society, and International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and Regional Coordinator South/South East Asia, Prevention of Unsafe Abortion, Mr. Supratip Mazumdar, Branch Manager, Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Kolkata and users of contraceptives from the community who shared their experiences of using contraception.

The media roundtable discussion provided an overview of the family planning landscape in West Bengal, highlighting successes, challenges, including the need for greater male involvement and raising awareness at the community level. The discussion also highlighted that the media is an important and often primary source of health information for the public, shaping and influencing opinions and perceptions. It therefore is imperative that evidence-based reporting on family planning is encouraged by increasing reportage on stories around the issue, government schemes and highlighting success and challenges in the family planning program.

 Ensuring every woman is able to access quality family planning services, is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities. Many women in India do not have this freedom due to limited decision-making power in the household, while others lack the information or means to make informed choices. Family planning is not only a key strategy to mitigate threats to the reproductive health of women but also a basic right that women should have available to them. At the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, India committed to providing contraceptive services to an additional 4.8 crore users and sustain the coverage of 10 crore current contraceptive users, as part of the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) goals. The goal for West Bengal is to provide family planning services to 20 lakh additional women and to sustain the coverage of 92 lakh women currently using contraceptives.

Dr. Basab Mukherjee, Member, The Bengal Obstetric & Gynaecological Society and FIGO Regional Coordinator South/South East Asia, Prevention of Unsafe Abortion mentioned, “There is lack of information on contraceptives that fuels myths and misconceptions among service providers and the general public. There is a great need to raise awareness and dispel misperceptions about various contraceptive methods, promote the uptake of spacing methods, and disseminate correct information for better access to family planning services. Media plays a major role in influencing public opinions and perceptions and thus it is essential that media focuses on evidence-based reporting.”

Mr. Supratip Mazumdar, Branch Manager, Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), Kolkata highlighted that, “Women and men are equally responsible for family planning, yet the burden falls disproportionately on women. Female sterilisation still remains the preferred method of contraception across West Bengal (29%) while male sterilisation is extremely low (0.1%). Family planning should be a joint decision made by both partners in a family. It prevents unplanned pregnancies and reduces unsafe abortions, and results in smaller families that are better able to care for themselves and contribute to their communities and the state. We need to encourage men to participate in family planning not just in West Bengal but across India. I request the media’s support in elevating the dialogue on male participation in family planning in the state.”

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