“In order for women and girls to exercise their right to choose when to have a child, we must empower them with the information and services they need to take control of their bodies and their future.”
This was the thought shared by Marie Stopes PNG (MSPNG) Marketing and Advocacy Coordinator Cathy Tukne during the annual Hevea Cup and Wellness Expo held from 5-7 March at the National Football Stadium.
Tukne’s support for family planning stems from her own personal experience as a teen mom, one which she shared to educate and encourage girls and women to access family planning services.
According to Tukne, social stigma and lack of knowledge are two common barriers that continue to hinder women from accessing family planning and sexual and reproductive health services.
“Family planning is crucial to women’s empowerment. When a woman has access to contraception, she has greater control over her life. Too often we see young girls dropping out of school because of unplanned pregnancies. Family planning ensures these girls reach their full potential and have children when they are ready,” said Tukne.
During the three-day expo, Marie Stopes provided free counselling services to youths on family planning, contraceptive methods and STI prevention. A mobile clinic staffed by Marie Stopes clinicians was also on hand to provide family planning services to interested individuals.
Speaking in support of the event, Tukne said, “Women’s empowerment is one of Marie Stopes guiding principles and that is why we support initiatives such as the Hevea Cup and Expo, which helps women and girls overcome social and cultural barriers to reach their full potential.”
Marie Stopes has been working in PNG since 2016 and is now the country’s leading provider of family planning and sexual and reproductive healthcare. The non-government organisation provides its services through urban clinics, outreach teams which travel to remote districts and villages, and embedded family planning nurses in major national and regional hospitals.
“Through the PNG-Australia partnership, we were able to provide over 240,000 men and women with sexual reproductive health and family planning services in 2019. We will continue to break down barriers and empower young girls and women to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights,” said Tukne.