By Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Jan. 25, 2016 | Devex
This week a hugely important conference on family planning is taking place in Indonesia, a conference that nearly never happened. In November, a volcano erupted in Lombok, closing the airport in Bali and postponing the original event. The family planning community rallied together to organize a new conference in just two months, reflecting a shared sense of urgency about meeting our family planning promise to women and girls.
It may not seem like it to those of us for whom deciding if and when to have children — or how many to have — involves little more than a trip to the doctor or the pharmacy. But for many women and girls there is, in the words of a young woman I met recently in Niger, no other option but to hope and pray.
You get a glimpse of just how much is at stake when you look through the eyes of two young women in Bihar, India. Sushma Devi and Manju Devi don’t only share a last name. They are also both married, mothers, in their late 20s, from poor families and rural communities. They live about 20 miles from each other — but their lives are worlds apart.