Five of the Top Nonprofit Organizations Dedicated to Family Planning Around the World
All over the world, there are large gaps in family-planning needs. In so many countries, women and families do not have access to the appropriate health care. The World Health Organization reports that of the 1.9 billion women of reproductive age worldwide, 270 million have an unmet need for contraception and family planning resources. The use of contraception prevents pregnancy-related health risks and reduces the infant mortality rate by spacing out the timing of the births by more than two years.
Helping organizations like the ones we are featuring today is important to continue to grow the amount of resources out there. Women’s health groups are essential and need help from people like you.
WINGS was started after founder Sue Patterson spent years in Guatemala with the Peace Corps and then returned there to live when she retired. She became aware that there weren’t any nonprofit organizations that focused on family planning, so she started one. WINGS operates a clinic and some satellite services that focus on family planning and providing women with the services needed. With the funds raised, WINGS is able to make its services affordable and even free for women under the age of 19. Since its founding, WINGS has screened more than 60,000 women for cervical cancer and prevented more than 1,500 child deaths.
I have been involved with WINGS since 2005, first as a volunteer medical advisor while I was living in Guatemala, then as a board member for seven years, and now as a loyal donor. As a physician with a public health background and interest in international development, I am not aware of any intervention that does more for the health and well-being of women and their children and, ultimately, their communities than the provision of affordable family planning. Of all the women’s health/family planning NGOs that I know of, WINGS does this the best.
Through their grassroots programs like their Volunteer Promoter Network and Youth Peer Education Program, they recruit local non-medical women and youth mostly from the indigenous Mayan villages. Then they provide these passionate local volunteers with training in all the modern methods of contraception and leadership skills so they can engage their neighbors and classmates in meaningful discussions about the role of planning their family for a successful future.
But information and a desire to control one’s family size is not enough. One must have access to these contraceptives at an affordable price, which is a HUGE barrier for the majority of poor, rural Guatemalans. So through a series of fixed and mobile clinics, WINGS’ clinical staff of physicians and nurses provide medical exams. Then, after a full discussion of all BC methods, they provide the client with the birth control option of the patient’s choosing at NO COST to the Guatemalan families! So if you want to make a life-changing difference in a lot of women’s lives, I recommend that you consider making a recurring donation to WINGS.
This organization works to give all people the right to decide whether and when to have children and lead the life they choose. They work in 18 different countries on everything from contraception, HIV/AIDS, maternal and newborn health care, and safe abortion care. They also put a huge focus on health services for 14- to 20-year-old, making it friendly and easy to access to encourage continued visits. They use peer educators to help bring awareness on HIV, teen pregnancy, gender sensitive behaviors, and more.
When I was traveling in Africa as a guest of the African Women’s Development Fund, I had the honor of also visiting a Pathfinder project in Nairobi, Kenya. I saw firsthand how many women (and the men and children in their lives) were being helped. Seeing women with various stages of HIV/AIDS really expanded my understanding of what “maternal health” encompasses.
This nonprofit developed and operates a sustainably designed health hub in Nicaragua. They focus on preventive care for their patients, including nutrition and health education. They provide prenatal checkups and help children and pregnant women receive crucial vaccinations. By helping women understand more about their pregnancy and how to lead a healthy life, they are setting up the patient’s families for a healthy future as well.
I have been working with Clinica Verde since 2007 and with another nonprofit in Nicaragua for the past seven years. I found the mission of Clinica Verde, to reduce the maternal and infant mortality rates within the country, such a compelling and worthy vision that there was very little doubt that I was going to get involved. All the people who are part of this organization, both on the board of directors and those tasked with implementation, are such a compassionate and caring group that it is energizing just to be part of this great cause.
New York City, NY
The mission of International Planned Parenthood is to improve the quality of life of people by campaigning for sexual and reproductive health and rights. All young people should be free to enjoy their sexual lives free from ill health, unwanted pregnancy, violence, and discrimination. They have provided millions throughout the Americans and the Caribbean services such as consultations and contraception. On top of that, they have advocated and helped protect policies and legislation in support of their mission.
I am a retired OB/GYN. For more than 30 years I had a private practice that served women with insurance and Medicaid. I worked for Planned Parenthood in several different roles, as a volunteer while a student, as a board member when I was a doctor, and as a medical director near the end of my career. There are many women who do not have access to health care because they are not on Medicaid and they do not have insurance. There are also younger women who do not have access because of fear and ignorance. Planned Parenthood is the only organization that reaches out to all women, rich and poor, young and old, educated and illiterate. All are served.
New York City, NY
This nonprofit works in 14 different developing countries toward their vision of a gender-equal world where all people achieve their sexual and reproductive health and rights. In one year alone, they were able to provide contraceptive counseling and service delivery work in 7,885 different health facilities, which saved more than $200 million in direct health care costs. They continue to introduce long-acting contraceptive methods to communities that haven’t had access to them.
I first heard about EngenderHealth from my sister, who has shared a great deal with me about the inspirational work they do. EngenderHealth is an incredible nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health for women all across the world. They work to ensure that more people have access to reproductive health services that we often take for granted in our own lives. Among the many issues and EngenderHealth programs I’ve learned about, there are a couple that are particularly moving for me.
Before learning about EngenderHealth, I didn’t know that fistula was still such a huge cause for suffering for women in developing countries. It’s heart-wrenching to think that a problem that is preventable can still affect so many women, simply because they don’t have the means to get proper health care. But EngenderHealth leads the biggest U.S.-funded project to address this problem. They’re committed to training more fistula surgeons, treating women who have lost all hope, and most importantly, educating women so they can avoid getting fistula in the first place. The documented success stories from women who recovered from fistula show the dramatic impact that EngenderHealth is having on people’s lives.
Stopping the spread of HIV is obviously another critical global issue that is important to me. Ignorance and lack of knowledge are key drivers in the spread of HIV and inevitably lead to fear and stigmatization. I think EngenderHealth is doing great work by focusing on reducing stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV while also becoming a leader in expanding access to treatment, especially in African countries that are hardest hit by the virus.
Millions of people worldwide benefit from these family planning services that have saved lives and educated so many. These organizations need donations and volunteers to continue to operate, so please think about giving to one of them today.