Heather and Kevin traveled to Kigali, Rwanda for the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in November. This is the 5th ICFP, a biennial event which brings together the family planning community to “share best practices, celebrate successes, and chart a course forward.” It is a convening of thousands practitioners, political leaders, scientists, researchers, policymakers, advocates, and youth to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes, and identify next steps toward realizing a world where access to quality, choice-optimized contraception is a reality.
MCI was invited to present its work during a poster session, we joined FHI 360 for a Facebook Live discussion, and we supported two travel grantees for the conference:
MCI’s participation at ICFP was well-timed and well-received. There were many opportunities to communicate the growth and formalization of the organization over the past year and many attendees were very receptive to considering the need for expanding male contraceptive options. Indeed, many of the individuals we spoke to were eager to share data and collaborate with MCI in some capacity.
Two themes of interest to MCI were strongly represented across the conference: engaging youth and male involvement in family planning. The former was prominently displayed through the boisterous and inspiring youth delegation, and supplemented for MCI through conversations with several youth-focused organizations who are mission-aligned and eager to collaborate. The latter was highlighted through several break-out sessions, particularly a side event focused on an introduction to a tool called “Advancing Male Engagement in Family Planning and Reproductive Health: An Advocacy Tool”, which featured a diverse group of attendees who are a sympathetic audience for supporting the advancement of male contraceptive methods.
Several impromptu discussions at various booths also resulted in opportunities for collaboration and continued discussions with like-minded organizations. These conversations included explorations around innovative approaches to discussing contraception (e.g. pleasure approach), male and youth engagement, tech- and youth-led advocacy, and more. These served to really reinforce the need for taking a holistic approach to advancing research and development into new male products and services.
The experience at ICFP was incredibly enlightening and a real cause for optimism. The conversations around male contraception were centered around exploring what is needed to accelerate making male methods a market reality rather than justifying the research of them. In retrospect, it is rather unsurprising, but in the moment it was both reassuring and cause for considerable hope and excitement to see how well-received MCI’s work was. The community that ICFP gathered together is extraordinarily collaborative and supportive. Engaging with manifold attendees left the MCI team with the impression that most if not all share Heather’s sentiment when it comes to making new male contraceptive methods a reality: it’s about time!