Planned Parenthood has been in the news a lot recently as a result of the budget crisis in Washington. While Democrats and Republicans squabble over how many resources Planned Parenthood clinics devote to abortions, a point not mentioned nearly enough is how much Planned Parenthood does to alleviate suffering internationally. The International Planned Parenthood Federation, to which Planned Parenthood is a subsidiary organization, supports women's health initiatives throughout the world.
A recent report by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy highlights the work of the International Planned Parenthood Federation as an organization that works tirelessly to address the needs of women in the international community, particularly through the SPRINT initiative. The SPRINT initiative is a rights-based initiative that aims to uphold the right to life and security of persons as well as the right to the highest attainable standard of heath- including sexual and reproductive health -- for all people affected by conflict and natural disaster.
The SPRINT initiative identified a serious gap in response to women's health and reproductive issues during humanitarian crisis. Most often the humanitarian aid delivered to people in conflict zones or to areas affected by natural disasters is intended to address issues of food and shelter. While such assistance is needed to address basic human needs, oft neglected are equally basic needs such as maternal care. Childbirth is one of the most basic functions of life, yet maternal care is consistently one of the last services provided to women in crisis zones.
As the report makes clear, such organizations are absolutely fundamental to strengthening the well-being of women throughout the world and in making strides towards achieving the goals established at the 1995 Beijing Conference. Though much progress has been made in the last fifteen years, due in part to the wonderful work of organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as the current fights in our own US Congress make clear, too many people are still undereducated on women's rights and health issues. In the spirit of Margaret Mead, who famously said, "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…," the report identifies five ways the average citizen can get get involved to work to improve the lives of women everywhere:
- Utilize social media
- Create straightforward, informative, and creative awareness campaigns
- Facilitate direct contact with women in need
- Make fundraising efforts flexible and relateable to the average citizen
- Raise funds and spread awareness through the sale of tangible goods