MY EXPERIENCES AND BEST PRACTICES AT THE 4th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FAMILY PLANNING (ICFP 2016) IN BALI, INDONESIA, 24-28th JANUARY, 2016

A video contest was launched in May 2015 to get talented young people across the world to submit videos on family planning and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) ahead of selection to attend ICFP 2015 in November 2015. I won the video contest; my video was selected as one of the top rated videos. Please find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuKVYggLslU.

ICFP was to take place from November 8-12, 2015 but was postponed indefinitely for a reason blamed on an untimely eruption in the Lombok Island near Bali. Ash and dust were obstructions to the smooth landing of air crafts. The conference was thus perturbed.

Notwithstanding, ashes and dust did not stop ICFP. In January 2016, ICFP took place from the 24-28th January, 2016 and was called ICFP 2016. Held under the theme, ‘Global Commitments, Local Actions,’ it was co-hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health—Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the National Population and Family Planning Board of Indonesia (BkkbN). I maintained my position as youth speaker and moderator (with backing from Women Deliver) and moderator of the session titled, ‘Ensuring Access to Quality Family Planning Services for Youth.’

Myriads delegates arrived Bali—a glamorous Indonesian Island on the South Eastern part of the Indian Ocean on 23rd January, 2016. The opening of the Youth Pre-conference took place on January 4, 2016 at the Tanjung Benoa Hall. Youth delegates from various parts of the world met in a plenary organized by the International Youth Alliance on Family Planning (IYAFP). It involved a briefing about the conference, youth participation, objectives and networking opportunities available to youth delegates. There was a breakout session immediately after the plenary during which topics spanning across youth leadership within and without the conference as concerns family planning and SRHR were discussed. The Women Deliver (WD) team among which I was one (as a Women Deliver Young Leader from Cameroon) was awesomely represented. The young leaders present were active and dynamic in pre-conference work. Also featuring were the dynamic WD staff comprising Tamara Windau-Melmer, Sara Pellegrom and Cecilia Zvocec.

On the 25th January, clad in ‘atogho’ from the Grassfield region of Cameroon, I shared my ten years leadership experiences during a breakout session at the Tanjung Benoa Hall. I was morally aided by Women Deliver. I announced my leadership philosophy during the talk: ‘Good leaders employ others while great leaders deploy themselves and others.’ The remarks from the audience based on my leadership story clearly highlighted features such as purposefulness and ability to engage others.

Immediately after this event, we joined other conference attendants (about 4,000 in number) at the Nusa Dua Convention Centre where the opening ceremony took place. This ceremony was presided over in person by H.E. Papa JokowiWidodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia. Jokowi Widodo called on nations to invest in family planning. It should be noted that Indonesia has a well-organized and effective family planning program. He hit the bell five times, setting the stage for ICFP 2016 to begin. Also in attendance at this occasion were renowned family planning stakeholders like the Director General of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin and the Director of the Gates Institute who doubled as the Chair of the ICFP International Steering Committee, Dr. Jose ‘Oying’ Rimon. I noticed that my conspicuous ‘atogho’ set me aside as the conference’s model. Many took photos with me and others appreciated the attire. regalia

The 26th and 27th were dedicated to conference sessions featuring research works, best practices of projects undertaken by experts and stakeholders in family planning and SRH. The concurrent sessions held amidst rich auxiliary events and exhibitions by some organisations.

On January 27, 2016, I joined four other Women Deliver young leaders as the only male on the panel in a morning press conference moderated by the CEO of Women Deliver, Katja Iversen. She used her fine skills in communication to probe into our engagements in SRH. I intervened on behalf of Cameroon and its youth. Please find one of my press interventions conducted by Stella Paul after the life press conference here: http://womennewsnetwork.net/2016/02/01/men-for-womens-rights-young-srhr-leaders-show-the-way/.

Immediately after the press conference, I co-moderated the session titled, ‘Ensuring Access to Quality Family Planning Services for Youth.’ My session featured five panelists: Mr. Eric Munroe of Marie Stopes International; Mr. Numfor Alenwi of Cameroon Agenda for Sustainable Development (CASD); Dr. Michael Murowa, a Thyolo District Medical Officer in Malawi who sat in for Mrs. Victoria Lonje and Professor Jiafang Zhou of the Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunicates. Liza Pratiwi was unavoidably absent. I co-moderated with Mrs. Judith Frye Helzner of PATH.

The closing ceremony of ICFP 2016 took place on January 28, 2016 at the Nusa Dua Convention Center. During a lunch event to mark the successful end of the conference, award winners were congratulated for their philanthropy and work in accelerating family planning in their communities. Kenya and Ethiopia were honored for putting in place sturdy and stellar family planning policies and mechanisms. The Chair of BkkbN, Dr. Surya Chandra Surapaty enjoined all participants to undertake local actions to implement the global commitments that were arrived at.

Personally, I can say with all conviction that the conference was a huge success. I took off time to monitor the organisation and I was indeed impressed by the automatic unfold of things at ICFP 2016. The Gates Foundation and the BkkbN were outstanding in setting the ground works for the smooth flow of the conference. I equally appreciated the warm hospitality and kindness of the Balinese people. Their patience and smiles throughout the conference was appealing. All is well that ends well.

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By Desmond Atanga

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