Until recently, people in North Luangwa, Zambia, struggled to recover from illegal poaching, increased droughts and flooding in their wildlife reserve.
Eighty percent of people on the reserve live on less than $1.25 day, and women’s ability to access contraception was severely limited. Unable to control if or when they had children, women couldn’t hold leadership roles in community-led efforts to stop poaching and conserve valuable resources.
In response to this crisis, we stepped in to help women take control of their own health and lives, which in turn contributes to efforts to improve the health of their environment. Our program in Zambia partners with the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), a wildlife conservation agency, to increase community education and support for resource management and contraception in North Luangwa.
We know that communities fare better after environmental catastrophes when women have leadership roles, including those in preparedness and reconstruction. So, we added reproductive health education to FZS’s already-existing programs and worked with traditional leaders to establish outreach sites to provide contraception to women who want it.
In the first two months of work in the region, we reached more than 1,500 clients. When we first began, people had negative misconceptions about contraception — but with dedicated counseling and community outreach, many people in the community, including men, are now supportive.
Our work has empowered women to become involved in anti-poaching efforts and lead the charge to protect their natural resources.
Our work in North Luangwa shows that meeting women’s need for contraception can support the ecosystems communities depend on. That’s why we joined the Thriving Together Campaign, the first global effort dedicated to removing barriers to women’s reproductive choice as a key component to improve the health of individuals, families, communities and the planet.
As Thriving Together supporter Dr. Jane Goodall said:
“Women everywhere must be able to choose whether to have children, how many children and the spacing between them.”
When women can control their health and lives, they can better contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future for us all.