Meeting Feminine Health Needs in Sub-Saharan Africa

Presentation with FemConnect

To mark this year’s World Contraception Day, we hosted Asonele Kotu, Founder of FemConnect, a digital platform making access to a variety of reproductive health services more convenient for women in South Africa. During her presentation, she discussed the importance of creating easier access to family planning through the use of digital platforms to overcome challenges faced by developing countries. In this conversation, we took a look at traditional ways of accessing family planning, challenges thereof, and technology as a solution to addressing these challenges to ensure quality, equality, and rights-based patient-centric services for all those in need of contraceptives.

Presentation Date: September 29th, 2022

Asonele Kotu, Founder and Executive Director of FemConnect

An experienced public relations and marketing professional, Asonele Kotu has worked with local and international companies, fundraisers, the energy sector, and a SAAS software development company. She is the founder of FemConnect, an award-winning fem-tech startup that creates digital solutions for period poverty support and access to comprehensive SRHR telehealth services. Just last year, Asonele was the recipient of the 2021 Meaningful Business 100 award, recognized as a leader for her work and for helping achieve the UN Global Goals.

Asonele served as the Youth Lead Ambassador for South Africa in 2020 and Youth Lead Ambassador advisor to the 2021 ambassadors. She is an alumnus of the Academy of Women’s Entrepreneurs and a Mandela Washington Fellow. Awarded the Youth Trailblazer award by the International Conference for Family Planning 2022. She is passionate about empowering women and adolescent youth by improving accessibility and healthcare equality, leaving no one behind.


Responses from Asonele Kotu, Founder and Executive Director of FemConnect

Are there also language barriers between doctor and patient?

Yes, sometimes there are especially with non English speaking patients. In local clinics you usually find nurses and doctors who are able to speak the local languages.

Is female cutting still a problem?

In other parts of West and East Africa female cutting is still a problem but in South Africa it does not happen.

What educational resources are there for boys and young men who want a better understanding of sexual and reproductive health services?

Unfortunately there is very limited to none, more work needs to be done in this area.

Have you considered doing camps where the kids can get away from the school environment where people trained with kids and life skills could conduct the sessions?

This is a great idea! No we haven’t considered this yet but now it’s definitely something we will be incorporating.

What are some of the on-the-ground organizations you’ve partnered with to help improve access?
What emergency contraceptive pills are available in East Africa and South Africa?

We have the “morning after” pill (PlanB, there’s also PrEP medication for rape victims to take as preventative pill against HIV)


Responses from Marian Starkey, VP for Communications

Would it be possible to supply free contraceptives to those African nations that can’t afford to do so?

Yes, but only with a significantly larger investment in international family planning. Funding has been stagnant at $607.5 million for several years, which is less than our fair share for the total current cost ($7.1 billion) to provide contraceptive services to the 705 million existing users—our fair share is $978.4 million, based on the percentage we committed to at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.

The cost to serve all 923 million people who currently use contraception and who have an unmet need for contraception is $12.6 billion, with the U.S. share equaling $1.736 billion—over a billion dollars more than we are currently investing.

Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, Guttmacher Institute 2020

How is it that the number of women that want contraception has gone up from several years ago? Is it due to the increase in population during this period?

It has gone up, then down, then up again over the past decade, due to a combination of population growth of people in their reproductive years, to fluctuating levels of satisfied demand for contraceptive services, and to attitudes at the time when people respond to countrywide surveys. Unmet need is measured by survey respondents’ answers to 15 questions on the Demographic and Health Surveys, so it’s a reflection of attitudes at a given time, which probably also leads to it being a fluid number.