Family planning saves lives and helps ensure educational and economic opportunity for women, girls, families, and communities. It is also a deeply challenging and complex subject to communicate about, particularly because in so many communities across the globe, sexuality, education, and family planning remain taboo. Much of the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community is often focused on data and metrics—using the numbers to elevate family planning as a high-impact development intervention with strong returns on investment. Data is essential for successful programming, but stories compel people to take action.
The Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project and FP2020 created Family Planning Voices (#FPVoices) to document and share personal stories from real people around the world who are passionate about family planning. FP Voices, simple in concept and design, is founded upon the principles that storytelling has the power to open hearts, and that change can begin with a question, a story, and a desire to listen.
We often see facts and figures on unmet need for contraception or maternal deaths averted by family planning, but it is easy to forget that each number represents an actual person. The FP Voices campaign aims to spotlight the mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons whose lives are gravely affected by whether they have access to family planning. Through FP Voices, the individuals at the center of family planning programs can tell their own story of why family planning matters. And it matters a great deal.
Inspired by the photo blog Humans of New York, FP Voices is a multimedia storytelling initiative that uses the web, social media, and in-person workshops to communicate the life-changing power of family planning in countries around the world. Each day we publish a direct quote and portrait of a family planning provider, client, implementer, or advocate. We amplify and promote stories using #FPVoices on Twitter and Facebook, and partner with highly networked SRHR organizations like Marie Stopes International, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Women Deliver to share those stories with a vast and diverse audience. Our followers have come to expect and trust that each day FP Voices will profile someone speaking in frank and compassionate terms about the profoundly intimate yet universal importance of family planning.
FP Voices is unique in its ambition, scale, and scope: It integrates stories from clients like Alexandrine Benoit of Haiti (I would like [my children's] lives to be different, especially the way in which I had my first child. I never had the chance to finish school. I want them to finish school.), and amplifies the voices of family planning providers and healthcare workers—who bring much-needed inspiration to everyone working to advance this cause. To date, the FP Voices team has conducted nearly 300 interviews and portraits in Indonesia, Denmark, Uganda, Kenya, New York, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and other locations, and has received 75 additional submissions from partners and collaborators around the world. The FP Voices interactive photo-booth-style installation, created with the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population & Reproductive Health, has traveled to Bali, Copenhagen, and New York City, bringing the initiative to several thousand international participants who stopped by to voice their support, have their photo taken, and share their experience on social media.
Since its launch, FP Voices has published nearly 300 first-person stories and portraits, with participation from people living in 52 countries. Users in Southeast Asia and Africa regularly engage with #FPVoices across platforms—expanding the conversation far beyond the circle of advocates working to advance family planning in North America and Europe. Our brand of storytelling has inspired grassroots offshoots in Indonesia and West Africa, where access to affordable, quality, rights-based family planning is difficult to come by.
FP Voices seeks to bring attention, both within and beyond the family planning community, to issues of access, quality, dignity, respect, and cultural norms that prevent a person from achieving his or her reproductive intentions, and achieving true prosperity. As a digital, social, and in-person platform, FP Voices serves within countries as a tool for advocating for greater resource allocation toward family planning. The personal nature of our stories spur organic amplification—the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth. Beyond that, FP Voices helps the people who are doing this important work to tap into the global community and its wealth of knowledge. It serves to remind those of us working to lift up women and girls everywhere that we are not alone.
FP Voices is the most comprehensive effort to-date to record the collective experiences of the global family planning community. Early results from a rigorous survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs show that FP Voices has been transformative within and beyond the SRHR community: 61% of respondents said FP Voices provided them with family planning information that changed their views, opinions, or beliefs. Seventy-three percent of respondents felt that FP Voices provided them with new information, and the overwhelming majority of respondents —85%— indicated that FP Voices provided them with a new idea or way of thinking regarding family planning. Seventy-four percent of respondents reported that FP Voices prompted them to collaborate with family planning professionals outside of their organizations.
FP Voices has also become a powerful platform for family planning advocacy and awareness worldwide. Its power lies in its simplicity and democratic sensibility, uniting and lending equal weight to the voices of international family planning leaders with those of midwives, parents, and youth. The initiative has been wildly successful online—a single hour-long Tweetchat hosted by FP Voices in October, 2016 garnered more than 5 million impressions from 80 users around the world, and #FPVoices trended on Twitter.
FP Voices has created a community that extends beyond a landing page or a hashtag. It is the drumbeat of a global movement that celebrates family planning as a lived experience and inalienable right for all of us—regardless of gender, race, geography, or economic status.