An Investment in Our Women and Our Future


By Halima Shariff

After the birth of their third child, Semeni and her husband Balisyega were anxious to secure contraceptives in Tanzania.

“I desperately wanted to avoid any accidents from happening because these three children are what I am capable of taking care of,” Balisyega recently told a service provider. After much thought, the couple decided that a contraceptive implant — effective for three years — would best meet their family planning needs, and Semeni was able to receive one at a local clinic.

Two years ago, Semeni and Balisyega may not have had access to a range of modern contraceptive options, including long-acting reversible methods like implants. In fact, the Lake Zone — where they live — and the Western Zone have the lowest contraceptive prevalence rates and highest maternal and child death rates in the country. CPR in the Lake Zone ranges from only 10 to 12 percent, and 38 percent of women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using modern contraceptives.

To increase contraceptive access and use over the years, these zones and others across Tanzania have grappled with a number of challenges including stockouts, limited health worker capacity, inadequate community support, low male involvement, and myths and misconceptions about the safety of modern contraceptives. But recently, and thanks to renewed commitments from the government and dedication from all levels of civil society — including from men, as Semeni and Balisyega’s story shows — we’re on track to improve the situation.

This momentum was set in motion at the historic 2012 Summit on Family Planning in London, where global leaders committed to provide an additional 120 million women in the world’s 69 poorest countries — among them Tanzania — with access to family planning information, services and supplies by 2020.