A Return to Ethiopia: From Peace Corps Volunteer to SBCC Professional

Erin Portillo was recently featured on the Family Planning Voices blog.

Erin Portillo

Having lived in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps Community Health Development Volunteer from 2011 to 2013, bat’am des bilognal (I am very happy) to return to “Ityopia” once again in just a few days for the SBCC Summit.

As the event approaches, I find myself pouring again and again over the schedule, trying to decide which sessions to attend, which to hear about from colleagues and even how to ensure the session(s) I co-facilitate satisfy our audiences’ interests and needs. In reading all the presentation titles, I am reminded of how wonderfully complex the field of family planning (FP) is.

Photo credit: Rod Waddington, flickr

Photo credit: Rod Waddington, flickr

Family planning permits and encourages women and couples to anticipate and achieve the number of children they want, on a schedule that is safe and right for them. But throughout this definition, there are countless underlying details to consider.

The term “women” for example, includes married and unmarried; literate and non-literate; adolescents and older mothers; those expecting a first child and those with many already; those affected by or living with HIV or not; women from all different socio-economic backgrounds and of all different ages – even young women still considered “girls” by their communities due to not yet having had a child or other rites of passage. Within the term “couples” too, we must consider all different natures of union, be they polygamous, common-law, formalized by law, arranged by others or forced, or something else altogether. There are gender dynamics and socio-cultural norms at play in FP, as well as access and service-use factors, religion, FP method availability and discontinuation – the list is seemingly endless, but appreciating the relevant complexities can be the difference between implementing an impactful SBCC FP program or missing the mark.

The SBCC Summit program includes sessions on many of these topics, from research and SBCC theories, to provider-client and couple communication and gender dynamics, to program implementation. I am personally looking forward to the “Focus on Youth” (Feb 8), ), “Mainstreaming Global Theories of Health Communication” (Feb 9), “Across the Spectrum of Family Planning” (Feb 9), the “Provider Connection” and “Strengthening SRH SBCC Programs for Urban Adolescents” (Feb 10) sessions. I’ll actually be co-facilitating this last session on SRH SBCC for urban adolescents, and will also co-present a poster on sparking conversation about long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs) for youth on Feb 9. Please stop by to say hello! I look forward to seeing you there.

Addis Abeba enigenagnalen! (We will meet in Addis Ababa!)

Click here for a complete list of family planning-focused sessions, and be sure to follow Summit updates via #SBCCSummit on Twitter and Facebook.

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