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BMGF Award to IUSSP for Project on Urban Family Planning


The IUSSP was recently awarded a  grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support a 4-year project to produce policy-relevant evidence on the effects of family planning and fertility change on urban welfare. The grant will provide fellowships to roughly 17 early-to-mid career researchers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to conduct research. The project includes mentoring and training activities as well as funds for policy outreach at local, national and international levels. The ultimate aim of the project is to raise awareness of the contributions of family planning to sustainable cities among urban planners and policy makers and to put family planning on the urban policy agenda where it has been largely absent.



The project will support early-career researchers (PhDs awarded within the last 10 years) based at institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to conduct high-quality, policy-relevant research in a limited timeframe. Most fellowships will last for two years, with a few lasting one or three years.  The programme aims both to build the policy-relevant evidence base on family planning and fertility outcomes in urban areas of these regions, and to provide skill-building opportunities to early-career researchers to work on issues of urban family planning.  The call for applications will go out and be posted on the IUSSP website early July.


Research should attempt to answer the following broad sets of questions:


  • How does family planning contribute to making cities and urban settlements more inclusive and sustainable (SDG-11)? Answering this question will require strong evidence on fertility change (in terms of completed family size, timing of births, age at marriage, population growth) and its consequences for health, schooling, employment, poverty reduction and the urban environment.

  • What does it take to ensure all urban residents have access to quality family planning services and are empowered to have the number of children they want, and when they want them? How can urban inequities in family planning be reduced and what are the benefits of doing so? Where are needs the greatest (migrants; poor; adolescents; in particular communities or localities)?


Given the short duration of the fellowships, it is expected that most proposals will use available data from the Demographic & Health Surveys, MICS (UNICEF), PMA 2020, MLE surveys, labour force and economic surveys, censuses, and HDSS systems. Projects may also engage in primary data collection in the form of small surveys or qualitative work, for instance on service provider or government officials' attitudes, women’s strategies regarding contraceptive use, or the allocation of resources to family planning in local government budgets.  


Policy outreach, mentoring and training

The project does not seek to support research for research’s sake alone, but rather to produce evidence on specific topics concerning urban family planning with the intention of influencing not just academics but also government policy makers and programme officers, “think tanks,” NGOs and other actors involved in the urban development agenda.  All projects must demonstrate a commitment to engage with relevant stakeholders in country and regional contexts to strengthen an enabling environment for urban policy discourse, development and implementation.  Early engagement of the intended target audience is crucial and, in assessing fellowship applications, attention will be paid to how the research proposals are designed to reach out to the urban policy world.  Fellows should engage as early as possible at local and national levels with potential audiences who could use their research results, to ensure that the problem definition in the proposal is tailored to specific gaps that need to be filled. 


The programme will work closely with a select set of leading sub-Saharan African and South Asian institutions active in demographic and urban studies spheres. Through early career fellow-mentor pairing and annual fellow workshops, the programme will build the capacity of the early-career scholars to conduct policy-relevant research and to effectively communicate their results to appropriate audiences. Additional funds will be made available to promote communication of findings to policy audiences at local, national and international levels. Fellows will be strongly encouraged to present their research in important national and international conferences, with financial support from the project.


Other Activities

In addition to the fellowships that form the core of project, the project will support the participation of top-level specialists at important international meetings (United Nations, UN-Habitat, etc.) to draw the attention of urban policy makers to the potential value of investments in family planning services to urban development. The IUSSP will organize an invited panel session on urban family planning at the upcoming Fifth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP), which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, 13-15 November 2018. The panel is designed to be interactive, and will highlight the importance of the rapidly growing urban areas of the developing world – sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in particular.


IUSSP Scientific Panel

The project will be overseen by the recently created IUSSP Scientific Panel on Family Planning, Fertility and Urban Development. The Panel is co-chaired by John Cleland (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and Trudy Harpham (London South Bank University) and includes both urban poverty and health specialists and family planning experts.  Panel members include:  Donatien Beguy (UN Habitat), Subramaniam Chandrasekhar (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research), Alex Ezeh (formerly director of African Population and Health Research Center), George Guiella (Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population, Université de Ouagadougou), Mark Montgomery (Population Council), Susan Parnell (African Center for Cities, University of Cape Town), Ian Salas (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), Zeba Sathar (Population Council-Pakistan), and Ilene Speizer (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).  Council members Shireen Jejeebhoy and Clementine Rossier are IUSSP Council Liaisons for the panel, and Tom LeGrand, the IUSSP President, is the Principal Investigator for the grant. Judith F. Helzner was recently recruited to serve as coordinator of the project.


The Panel held its first planning meeting 14-16 June in Paris to plan upcoming activities, identify key institutional partners in the two regions and finalize the Call for Fellows which will be announced early July with the first round of applications, which will be due by 3 September. A second Call for Fellows will occur in 2019.


If interested in applying for a fellowship, watch your In-Box for the Call announcement early July or visit the IUSSP website.