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World Population Day 2012


As part of its awareness and advocacy efforts on population issues, Jansankhya Shtirata Kosh (JSK) organised a series of advocacy events on the occasion of World Population Day, July 11, 2012. The events were organised to capitalise upon the global efforts at the Family Planning Summit in London. These included three key events: a walkathon and National Conference for Population Action led by JSK, and in the evening a small focused group discussion with the Members of Parliament to garner their engagement for family planning (FP), organised by JSK in collaboration with Citizens’ Alliance.

1.  Walkathon to Raise Awareness

The day began with a Walkathon, which was flagged off by Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commis-sion and Shri. Naveen Jindal, Member of Parliament (Convener Citizens’ Alliance for Reproductive Health and Rights). Also present at the event were Shri. Desiraju, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Fam-ily Welfare and Shri. Manoj Jhalani, Executive Director, JSK. The event saw close to 2000 people from all walks of life gather at India Gate early in the morning to participate in the Walkathon. Participants included, representatives from various governmental and non-governmental organisations and institutions, school chil-dren, senior citizens’ groups, and adolescents.
A palpable eagerness was seen as all joined in to endorse their support for the cause of population and healthy mothers and children. The Walkathon built momentum and raised awareness around issues like low female literacy, early age at marriage and early child bearing among a host of other challenges faced by the country. Carrying placards with slogans supporting the cause of a healthy and sustainable population, all participants joined in to collectively advocate for the cause. Speaking to the congregation, Dr Syeda Hameed pointed to the importance of recognising the rights of the girl child and its role in population stabilisation. Shri Naveen Jindal also endorsed the cause of addressing population issues.

2.   National Conference for Population Action

The Walkathon was followed by a day-long national conference, aimed at repositioning FP, especially in high priority states, and increase participation from other stakeholders including ministries, policy makers, private sector service providers, and the media to increase visibility around population stabilisation and also generate more awareness on FP. Hosted by JSK, the conference was inaugurated by Dr (Ms.) Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission. It also saw the participation of Shri. Naveen Jindal, Member of Parliament, Dr Francois Daniel Decaillet, World Health Organization, Country Office India, Ms Frederika Meijer, Representative, UNFPA India and Shri Manoj Jhalani, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Executive Director, JSK. The conference was attended by representatives from different Ministries of the Government of India, development partners, civil society representatives, and implementers from the field. The focus was to build upon the existing momentum around population at the national level and take it to the high-focus states by bringing in their participation for cross-learning and experience sharing.
Dr Syeda Hameed, stressed the need to build consensus around population stabilisation to meet the development goals of the country. To discuss priorities and new agenda for population issues, key experts discussed the internal factors and external influences that have shaped India’s Population Policy and programmes so far. Other key strategies discussed were to understand the contribution of FP in helping India achieve its national and global commitments and goals, and making reproductive choices at the centre of population development and increase access to services by engaging the private sector meaningfully. The conference also included an exhibition for organisations to showcase their work. The key highlights from the conference included a discussion on inclusion of population issues in the mandate of other ministries and getting the media excited on population issues. There was consensus among senior bureaucrats from the Ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment, Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Human Resource Development, and Urban Development that population is a cross-cutting issue and should be a part of policies across all sectors. The session engaging the media highlighted that India was the first country to have a FP campaign, despite having a single radio and television channel. But in the present context, there is lack of attention on FP despite hundreds of private television and radio channels, and newspapers. Panelists called for a change in ‘vocabulary’, asked for user-friendly technology and suggested grabbing the investigative pulse of the media to bring back media attention on FP.
Shri Manoj Jhalani, Executive Director, JSK, concluded the conference by summarising the key highlights i.e. bringing in renewed focus on FP, expanding the coverage by building partnerships with the private sector and finding solutions to address the operational barriers to their engagement, and streamlining the contraceptive supply to ensure that commodities are available to all who need them. He also stated that a key strategic shift by JSK will be to promote spacing and behaviour change communication (BCC) for informed choices.

3.  Partnering with Citizens’ Alliance to Foster Political Commitment and Engagement

JSK collaborated with Citizens’ Alliance to participate in a high-level policy discussion and dialogue to build political commitment of legislators on reproductive and child health (RCH) and FP. Eight Members of Parliament (MP) from high-focus states, Shri Manoj Jhalani (JSK) and a group of civil society representatives participated in the dialogue. The discussions were moderated by Prof. N.K. Sethi, NIHFW and former Advisor Health, Planning Commission. The discussions included a technical presentation: ‘Family Planning Access for All’, presented by Dr. Arvind Pandey, Director, National Institute of Medical Statistics, which appraised the parliamentarians on the status of RCH in their states, the effect of social issues on population and the need to reposition FP to reduce infant and maternal mortality.
The discussions highlighted various issues and the parliamentarians pledged their commitment to a number of policy action areas. These include monitoring the FP programmes to ensure availability and quality of services during the District Vigilance Monitoring Committee meetings, chaired by the MP; facilitating discussions between health providers to understand challenges and provide resolutions in their respective constituencies; motivating fellow colleagues and building political consensus and discourse in the parliament; ensuring that FP programmes in their states and constituencies receive appropriate focus and funding; motivating the public on the economic, socio-emotional and health benefits of delaying age of marriage, delaying the first child (after a woman is 20 years), spacing between children (at least three years) and having smaller families. Popular media celebrity, Ms. Pooja Bedi, joined the discussions and highlighted the need to use the power of celebrities to raise awareness among people and committed her support for future events.
The dialogue was the first of its kind to bring politicians at the centre of the discourse. It was encouraging to hear parliamentarians talk about the challenges they faced and their willingness to be associated with the Citizens’ Alliance. As next steps, Citizens’ Alliance will collaborate with JSK to identify priority districts and take forward the policy actions committed by the Members of Parliament. JSK was technically supported by USAID|Health Policy Project (HPP) to organise the events.

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