World Contraception Day | #HerHero calls for women to prioritize family planning, healthcare despite pandemic

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields, which has long been committed to the field of women’s healthcare, has launched the #HerHero campaign to support women in taking action to prioritize their health and take charge of their lives, even during the pandemic.

To commemorate 60 years since the invention of oral contraceptive and World Contraception Day, healthcare professionals, policymakers, women influencers, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Asia-Pacific, including Ping-Rong Chen.

The representative of the Garden of Hope Foundation Taiwan, joined the #HerHero Virtual Forum on Women’s Health, Empowerment & Progress yesterday, rallied to call for wider public support to join in the pledge and give voice to women’s health needs and empowerment.

Despite the progress made in empowering women’s lives over the last 60 years, barriers still exist today, made worse by the current pandemic.

Many women worldwide are losing access to health and family planning services due to COVID-19 restrictions and are putting off face-to-face medical consultations for seeking professional advice due to fear of contracting the virus.

The UN projects that more than 47 million women could lose access to contraception, leading to 7 million unplanned pregnancies in the coming months. These have lifelong health and socioeconomic impacts on women and their families.

According to the online poll results, 31% of voters said they’ve encountered difficulties being able to access women’s contraception since the pandemic.

“As the world responds to the COVID-19 crisis, women’s reproductive health and rights must be carefully safeguarded. We must continue to collaborate, innovate, and work to ensure women have access to modern contraception and resources that enable them to make informed decisions about their futures,” said Ashish Bajracharya, deputy director, country Strategy & Regional Representative, South and East Asia, Population Council.

Amid the pandemic, telemedicine is fast-becoming a safe and convenient option for seeking medical consultation on health and family planning matters, especially for individuals with COVID-19 safety concerns. The strong uptake of telemedicine in the Asia-Pacific in the recent months is here to stay, with consumers expecting to make greater use of digital health services in the next five years.

Women’s health and family planning topics are not openly discussed in Asia, and women can find it hard to make informed decisions.

“In Taiwan, we find that young generations look for contraceptive concepts online, rather than seek professional consultations. They even ask for the opinions on Dcard Forum when they encounter unintended pregnancies.

Incorrect contraceptive information and method are even worse than knowing nothing,” said Ping-Rong Chen, specialist of Social Work & Counseling Dept., the Garden of Hope Foundation.

Established in 1988, The Garden of Hope Foundation is a non-government, non-profit group to help disadvantaged girls and young women, especially underage girls with an unintended pregnancy or caught in the sex industry, and survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence or human trafficking. Many of them have been subjected to more than one form of abuse.

The foundation’s services include shelters and service centers island-wide providing everything from counseling and temporary housing, to employment training, social work and legal aid. It also provides job training, housing aid and emotional support to help women to develop a new life after leaving the shelter.

“Our commitment to women’s health drives us to empower women to make informed decisions about their health and family planning, with our innovative contraceptive portfolio and digital health initiatives targeted at improving contraception education,” said Catherine Donovan, head of Medical Affairs, Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division Asia-Pacific.

Bayer’s development in the field of women’s health care includes not only products for relieving menopausal women’s symptoms and gynecological diseases, but also short-term and long-term contraceptive methods to improve women’s bodies and contraceptive autonomy. For Bayer, social responsibility is an integral part of its sustainable development strategy. Bayer has always positioned itself as a member of society.

“We are privileged to invite the Garden of Hope Foundation to join this virtual forum and share their experience with people in the Asia Pacific. Across the Asia-Pacific, Bayer has been collaborating with governments and organizations to introduce initiatives that promote greater contraception awareness and education,” said Fiona Huang, head of Communications, Bayer Taiwan.

With the goal of achieving its “Health for all, Hunger for none” vision, Bayer will continue to invest in multi-stakeholder aid programs, with the ultimate goal of providing 100 million women in low- and middle-income countries with access to modern contraception methods by 2030.