Bruce Weaver: IPPF launches films about contraception

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global organisation formed in 1952 with the aim of promoting sexual and reproductive health around the world, especially in developing countries. It operates in over 170 countries. Yesterday, it launched six short films depicting six young women in various countries across the globe. The aim of these films is to provide information and reassurance to people in similar situations to those shown in the films. Each film covers a different scenario (e.g. forced marriage) and shows how the IPPF can provide help and support.

Being a teenager myself I encounter many videos of this nature in school on a range of issues and they tend to follow a formula that is effective in informing the viewer but ends up feeling very dry. Luckily, these films are interesting to watch as well as serving their purpose. This is always important if the films are going to have an impact.

The launch took place in the Courthouse Hotel, Soho, and included on its panel the director-general of the IPPF, Dr Gill Greer, and the under-secretary of state for international development, Stephen O’Brien. While there, Mr O’Brien described his department’s commitment to saving the lives of 50,000 girls and young women who would otherwise die in pregnancy or childbirth by 2015. This goal is similar to the one set out in the Millennium Declaration to promote gender equality, which DIFD is also committed to.  These are big commitments, considering currently only 2 cents in every dollar spent on international aid around the world is targeted at adolescent girls. Indeed, even when advice and support is available in developing countries there are social issues that prevent girls seeking appropriate help. Indeed, the IPPF senior adviser on adolescents and young people summarises the reasons for young women not seeking help as “fear, shame, and cost.” The films do an excellent job of showing issues such as living with HIV and teen pregnancy in as positive a light as possible and put an emphasis on the confidentiality of the advice given.

At the press launch we were shown two of the six films. The first film told the story of Nomvelo, an 18 year old girl living in Swaziland who was born with HIV. The second film followed Valeria in Argentina, a 15 year girl who is pregnant and looking to terminate the pregnancy in a country where abortion is heavily controlled.

Having watched two of the films it is clear that the films follow the same formula but in different situations and locations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if anything the films and the campaign as a whole should benefit from these similarities and they allow the filmmakers to concentrate on substance rather than style while still engaging the audience.

The reception of these films appears to have been very positive. Hopefully they will succeed in removing a lot of the stigma surrounding issues of teen pregnancy in the countries they were filmed in and raise awareness about teenage pregnancy, HIV, and exploitation.

Bruce Weaver is a GCSE student from Newcastle upon Tyne doing work experience at the BMJ.