From global commitments to local action: Revitalizing Indonesia's family planning program

A father carries his child on his back in Indonesia. The world’s fourth most populous nation, 4.5 million new babies are born in the country each year. Photo by: A.Mirza / ILO / CC BY-NC-ND

It is a simple truth: access to quality family planning saves lives, bolsters economies and improves health outcomes for individuals and communities.

And to build a healthy and sustainable world for future generations, we must address the unmet need for family planning resources and services that leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.

As a global community we have made a number of important commitments to do so. In 2012, we created Family Planning 2020, an international partnership working to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. Just this September at the United Nation’s General Assembly, the global development community also ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030.

But without dedicated and focused local action, we risk falling short of our global goals and failing millions of people around the world.

We know this very well in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation.

“Our shared future depends on commitments at the global level, and the local action required to turn these into reality.”

— Dr. Surya Chandra Surapaty, head of Indonesia’s National Population and Family Planning Board

A decade ago, Indonesia boasted one of the world’s most successful family planning programs. Yet, in recent years, due to decentralization and other challenges, our family planning program stalled at the local level. The repercussions are measurable: currently our annual population growth stands at 1.38 percent, well short of our national target of 1.1 percent. This means that 4.5 million new babies are now born in the country annually — that’s nearly the population of Singapore.

We are dedicated to revitalizing our family planning program, and we have recently taken several steps to this end.

Last year, the Indonesian government entered into a partnership with Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health that will provide invaluable technical and financial assistance to our family planning efforts over the next four years. We have also quadrupled our budget allocation for family planning, from $65.9 million in 2006 to $263.7 million in 2014.

These investments will allow us to make progress on our growing areas of focus: getting family planning services to those in hard-to-reach areas, including by working closely with midwives; providing free reproductive health services under Indonesia’s new universal health care system; and maximizing the benefits of the demographic dividend.  

Commitments from the highest levels of government are critical. But what will make the biggest difference is a policy of local action throughout our 17,000 islands. Now, more than ever, we must improve our nation’s family planning education and outreach efforts on-the-ground — especially in remote and underdeveloped areas.

Family planning: A local action ‘success story’

Lilik Istikomah, a 32-year-old teacher who resides in Kediri, East Java, is an example of what local action looks like in practice. As a Kader Desa, Lilik is responsible for motivating young couples in her village to take part in the local family planning program. In addition to this role, she is also an example of a family planning success story. A mother to two children spaced six years apart, she has used these essential services to ensure that her children are growing up healthy and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Her story can be an important model for others to follow.

At the heart of our approach in these regions is the Kader Desa program, which empowers local volunteers to provide family planning materials and services to those who need them the most. As trusted members of their communities, Kader Desas (or volunteer family planning counsellors) are the front line of engagement for people seeking reproductive health care and contraception in some of the most at-risk and impoverished areas of the nation.

Local action can be transformative in countries like Indonesia, and it can also help drive progress toward global commitments. As part of our support to global family planning efforts, Indonesia is proud to co-host the 2016 International Conference on Family Planning starting next week in Nusa Dua. This conference will bring together thousands of researchers, practitioners, policymakers and advocates from around the world to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes and identify next steps toward achieving the FP2020 goals and SDGs.

It is an important moment for the international community to take stock and chart out a collective path forward. It is also an unparalleled opportunity for Indonesia to learn family planning lessons from around the world — and perhaps to offer a few lessons of our own.

In an ever-growing world, our shared future depends on commitments at the global level, and the local action required to turn these into reality. If we truly wish to ensure universal access to contraception and reproductive health care services in our lifetime, then we must begin by effecting change in our own communities.

To read additional content on global health, go to Focus On: Global Health in partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

About the author

  • Oped suryachandrasurapaty ed

    Surya Chandra Surapaty

    Surya Chandra Surapaty is currently the chairperson of the National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), Indonesia. He started his career as a lecturer at his Alma Mater, Sriwijaya University, then served as a Vice Head of Center for Population Studies, Head of Center for Population Studies and Chief of Biology Medic Division, and served on the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sriwijaya.