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Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell: live webchat, Monday 9 July, 12.30-1.30

(76 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 06-Jul-12 10:49:16

We're pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, will be joining us for a live webchat on Monday 9 July at 12.30.

We're particularly happy that Mr Mitchell will be joining us in the week that the UK hosts the first global summit on family planning, focusing on what can be done to allow as many women as possible across the world to access appropriate contraception. As you may have seen, following Mumsnet poster and blogger MmeLindt's recent trip to Kenya, 222 million women in the developing world who want to access family planning currently can't get it, and every two minutes a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications; 40 per cent of those pregnancies were unintended. The Summit is hoping to give access to contraception to an additional 120 million women by 2020.

Mr Mitchell has been International Development Secretary since May 2010. Before entering Parliament in 1987, he served as a United Nations peacekeeper in Cyprus and worked in investment banking.

Do please join us on Monday; if you can't make it on the day, please post up your questions in advance here.

Magicmoz Fri 06-Jul-12 19:01:21

Not all women get to make the decision about whether they use contraception or even whether they have sex or not. What will DFID be doing at the Summit to make sure that women are able to refuse sex, whether with strangers or their husbands, and that there are laws protecting them from violence? Surely this is vital if all women are to have contraceptive choice?

Limelight Sun 08-Jul-12 01:02:40

There's a link between access to family planning and access to education for girls - in many circumstances, the former enables the later.

Will the summit discuss this issue? What is the UK doing to encourage and support the education of women and girls in developing countries?

QWERTYmonster Sun 08-Jul-12 09:59:06

Hello Mr Mitchell,

Kudos to you and to DFID for hosting this conference. This blog post makes an interesting point about women's health; specifically, that it basically comes down to income - 'a rich woman in a poor country is more likely to have access to contraception than a poor woman in a rich country' (I guess the UK is an exception to this because of the NHS).

Do you acknowledge the importance of poverty and income in this debate?

ScroobiousPip Sun 08-Jul-12 10:27:43

Hi Mr Mitchell,

The DFID website says that 'The most effective way to alleviate poverty is through sustained economic growth'. Yet we know this form of trickle-down economics does not work for many women and children on the lowest rungs of society. As the economic pie gets bigger and men move to paid employment, often the slice which is given to women and children gets smaller. To what extent do DFID's investment decisions have any base in feminist economic theory and, if they don't, do you plan to change this in the future?

MrsMicawber Sun 08-Jul-12 13:28:45

Mr Mitchel,

It is obviously of great importance that women in developing countries have access to family planning. However, there are many religious communities here in Britain where women are forbidden from using ocntraception. What do you think of more outreach to, say, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic women in the UK who may be being prevented by their families from accessing contraceptive care?

LineRunner Sun 08-Jul-12 18:56:51

Andrew, hello, thanks for coming onto MN.

How do we combat human trafficking not only into this country, but between countries with which the UK does business?

JammySplodger Sun 08-Jul-12 21:27:15

Hello Mr Mitchell, the subject of the summit sounds like a great idea, my hope would be that the any programme put in place would be sustainable, including long term reliaibility of advice and contraception and education. Would there be long-term funding considered for this?

Crumblemum Sun 08-Jul-12 22:02:42

I've always been idly in favour of the 0.7% but now hear there's so much money in UK aid agencies they're desperately trying to spend it - just to get rid - without as much emphasis on effectiveness. Is this true?

Himalaya Sun 08-Jul-12 23:47:30

Andrew Mitchell -

I was struck by one of the experts quoted in the DFID Results Framework document: "women are not dying because of conditions we cannot treat...They are dying because their societies have not yet made the decision that they are worth saving. The inconvenient truth that the scandal of maternal deaths is a question of how much the life of a woman is considered to be worth."

It is brilliant that DFID is putting money and leadership into maternal health and family planning.

But are there tensions within your  focus on results/value for money, supporting broader healthcare systems  and enabling women to have real choice and human rights?

... Is there a danger that women's healthcare will be thought of as a "low cost intervention" like delivering bed nets, rather than an issue where long term investments are needed, and attitudes need to change?

mrsbaldwin Mon 09-Jul-12 08:50:04

It's great that DFID is supporting this, especially after a period, pre-Obama, under Bush, where USAID (the American Govt's aid agency) was prevented from doing much work in this area, for political reasons.

I wanted to ask: what is DFID doing to help communities in the developing world move away from female genital cutting? Will work in this area be part of what you are planning for this initiative with the Gates Foundation?

ScroobiousPip Mon 09-Jul-12 08:53:14

If a second question is allowed (pretty please MNHQ!) what specific proportion of the UK's contribution to the $16bn of aid pledged in Tokyo for Afghanistan will go towards safeguarding women's human rights, reducing maternal mortality and education for girls?

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 09-Jul-12 09:21:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

fuzzywigsmum Mon 09-Jul-12 10:42:33

I'd like to echo the comments made by some of the other posters and draw Mr Mitchell's attention to a recent report written by ActionAid which highlights the fact that access to contraception is only part of the reproductive health solution. Women must be empowwered to have control over their bodies and reproductive rights, especially those who routinely face coercion and violence.

So my question to Mr Mitchell is, what measures will you be proposing at the conference to tackle violence against women in order to ensure that women are able to secure their reprodctive rights?

Thank you.

MmeLindor. Mon 09-Jul-12 10:44:51

Hello, and welcome to Mumsnet.

I saw the importance of access to family planning while I was in Kenya - women who were able to take control of their reproductive health were generally healthier and their families were less poverty stricken.

My question is how the distribution of the contraceptives will be guaranteed and how we can ensure that women actually are free to take them. I have heard that often contraceptives are given to women but not used.

In other words, will the distribution be done at clinics via local health care workers who also address other health issues? From what I saw at the CDC funded clinic in Kisumu, this was very effective. Women with HIV were counselled by their peers and also advised by them on matters of FP.

I was impressed by the work that the local volunteers were doing as they were accepted and values members of the community.

Simply distributing contraceptives is not enough. The community must be more accepting of this, which includes getting the community elders involved.

champagnesupernova Mon 09-Jul-12 10:51:08

Hello, I am not here later but I know that MmeLindor has been looking into this sort of thing. What can you tell us about the research that the Gates Foundation is funding into new contraceptives? Any idea what sort of thing this will turn out to be?

LindsayWagner Mon 09-Jul-12 11:02:18

Hello, and thanks very much for coming on.

I seem to recall you gave a speech to Congress last year in which you argued for access to abortions as well as contraception - which seemed a brave move on your part! Abortion has been missed off the agenda of the family planning conference, presumably because there's no way it would fly with US domestic politics. If it was entirely your decision, would access to abortion and full reproductive rights have played a more prominent role? What, if anything, can other countries do to persuade the US government that this is an issue that needs to be tackled - especially in places like the Philippines, where there are something like half a million unsafe abortions every year?

CinnamonStix Mon 09-Jul-12 11:06:53

Hello! I'm very glad to see this emphasis on women's rights coming from the UK government. Other than this, what are your priorities in international development?

nowit Mon 09-Jul-12 11:15:13

Hello Mr Mitchell,

Increasing access to family planning across the world is fantastic but I do question if it is being used to control populations rather than empower women and expand their choices.

What are you doing to ensure that we are saving womens lives and expanding control for women through access to birth control rather than controlling population growth?

MSWRA Mon 09-Jul-12 11:42:51

Dear Secretary of State,
I welcome the high level leadership from the UK Government and the Gates Foundation on this issue. Providing women with family planning services can be transformational for their lives and their communities, not to mention reducing needless maternal deaths.
However, a summit like this is just the start, we must ensure that commitments to increase family planning services actually reach the women that need them, and they don’t become empty promises. Have you put any plans in place to make sure that happens?

upwiththelarks Mon 09-Jul-12 11:49:18

Great that the UK is hosting a global summit on family planning!

I’m glad to see that other posters have pointed out that the issue is more complex than just providing access to family planning clinics.

I’d like to point out that poor parents in the developing world may actually choose to have lots of children: they fear that some may die young, and they need children to help out on their land and look after them in their old age. Of course, it’s a vicious circle: they then stay poor because they have so many mouths to feed…

Personally, I support NGOs that focus on empowering women/ families to become self-sufficient, look after their families financially and make decisions themselves as to how many children they want – charities like Practical Action, Send a Cow etc.

So my question to Andrew Mitchell is: what is DfID doing to empower women (and families generally) so they can afford not to have so many children?

djpb Mon 09-Jul-12 12:01:25

I am concerned that this family planning summit is being steamrolled and no one is stopping to actually think hard about what the consequences might be.
I just read a press release from an organisation that provides evidence (academic peer-reviewed published studies) suggesting a link between homornal contraceptives and increased incidence of certain types of cancer!

According to the WHO, by 2020 African countries will account for 1 million new cases of cancer per year. In 2005 the WHO classified certain hormonal contraceptives as a Group 1 cancer-causing substance.

Now, how is an economically poor country with little infrastructure and no national health service to speak of, going to deal with such a situation? Will Mr. Mitchell answer that? Has that even been thought about?

MmeLindor. Mon 09-Jul-12 12:07:26

that was raised recently, and there was a reply from CDC about it. Will try and find link

MmeLindor. Mon 09-Jul-12 12:14:41

oh, apologies DJ. It was the raised risk of HIV that was recently disproved

I will see if I can find anything about cancer risk.

TheBlackShiksa Mon 09-Jul-12 12:14:54

Completely off topic but what did you think of the house of lords reform? and why? Do you not think an elected second chamber will undermine the Commons?

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