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Youth are Shaping the Future of Family Planning

Guest Column from Dr. Frank Strelow, Head of Global HealthCare Programs, Bayer AG

It is an honor for me to start my role as Head of Global HealthCare Programs at Bayer, and to wish everyone a Happy World Contraception Day! Although the family planning business is not new to me – I have been with Bayer for years now, I am still excited to experience how World Contraception Day (WCD) and the Your Life campaign evolve. With all its partners and supporters, with an engaged youth outreach, with its multifaceted activities in over 70 countries addressing a wide range of different target groups throughout the whole year, this initiative is a true example of successful partnering.

Let’s reinforce new and old partnerships and strong alliances to support young people to shape their future and the future of the world. I will be delighted to see you at the Bayer lunch symposium on November 14: “Doing it Differently: Young Leaders Shaping the Future of Reproductive Health” featuring youth speakers from “120 Under 40”.

120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders”, an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and supported by Bayer is using role models as a form of inspiration.

The program recognizes that the next generation of leaders will make a difference in reproductive health worldwide. It currently includes 80 outstanding young leaders from around the world, who are 40 years of age or younger and have made a significant contribution to family planning in their respective field of expertise. We are already looking forward to our next and final (!) round of nominations for the program starting in spring 2019.

Today on WCD it’s the time to celebrate and to remember – not only every September 26 – that contraception is an important part of reproductive health. We all know that self-determined family planning has many hurdles: from availability, access and affordability to ethics and tradition. Knowing about sexuality, about reproductive health issues and possible choices of contraceptive methods, makes us aware of the important role information and being informed play in successful family planning.

Still, numbers are calling for us to further scale up our efforts to help prevent unplanned pregnancies. Awareness and education most definitely are a key factor: Never before has the world population included so many young people.

Successful sex education evidently requires not only the transfer of knowledge as such, but also an opportunity to ask questions and exchange experience. To address this, the Your Life campaign expanded the use of digital channels and social-media activities to offer young people the chance to meet and exchange information online without needing to reveal their name or face. Young people are encouraged to talk about contraception and sexual health – not in a patronizing way, but as conversations between equals.

We at Bayer have been active in supporting family planning programs for 50 years now by providing a wide range of hormonal contraceptives in about 130 countries. Let me use this opportunity to stress that long-term commitment and sustainability are the pillars of Bayer’s engagement in this field. We are proud to be part of a strong network of partners.

Within this network, we share the view that active youth participation will be recognized as the most successful strategy to address sexual and reproductive health issues. We believe that youth involvement must be at the heart of sexual education.

We hope to help next generations live better and healthier lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. It starts with recognizing the next generation of leaders making a difference in Family Planning and Reproductive Health worldwide.