Despite Sweden's old-fashioned reputation as “the land of sin”, it's clear that the country does not have a problem with birth control.
Parents offer their children condoms, birth control is free in certain regions and affordable in all, and despite having more sex partners than ever before, many Swedes are waiting longer to have children.
Meanwhile, some 39,000 girls under 18 are married every day and often become pregnant soon after, leaving school and abandoning their personal dreams.
“There are 225 million women in developing countries who have an unmet need for family planning, and the impact is tremendous,” says Sara Pellegrom, Senior Associate of the Youth Program at Women Deliver, an advocacy organization for girls' and women's health, rights, and well-being.
Women Deliver is just one of many organizations that raises awareness each year on September 26th with World Contraception Day (WCD), which aims “to help each new generation of adults make informed decisions until every pregnancy is a planned one.”
Their new digital storytelling platform, authored by six youth advocates from diverse regions of the world, highlights the realities that young people in their communities face when it comes to access to contraception.
This year, one Swedish startup has joined the WCD battle with a unique call to action: “Share your Life-Changing Day.”
“With a shelf full of options, women in our modern society have the chance to decide whether or not they wish to get pregnant,” says Elina Berglund, Co-Founder and CTO of Swedish startup and app NaturalCycles.
“However, millions of young women in the developing world face barriers to fully realizing their own reproductive rights. We want to change this.”
In preparation for World Contraception Day, the company has released a unique test that allows users to discover the happy day that changed their parent's lives – the day they found out they were pregnant.
The NaturalCycles app uses scientific data to find a woman's fertile and non-fertile days with 99.9 percent accuracy, and shows that this ‘Life Changing Day' is on average 15 days after conception, around the time a woman's next period is due.
“That special moment also represents choice,” Berglund says. “So we are asking that participants share that moment to give that option to others.”
With every share alongside the hashtag #LifeChangingOptions, NaturalCycles will donate 1 krona to the Swedish foundation Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman), giving girls in the developing world the opportunity to also take control of their lives and futures.
Pellegrom says that while such social media campaigns are only part of the solution, they're an important part.
“Technology plays a huge role in our lives and enables information to be spread far and wide,” she says.
“We can share information like never before. This can play a huge role in the lives of young people, who are innovators, inventors, the first-adapters, the first-movers, the leaders, and the change-makers.”
Pellegrom notes that when given the option, families in the developing world can delay having children, allowing women to continue their education and waiting until resources are more readily available for adequate food and health care.
“Using contraceptives can allow girls and women to plan their lives and demand the education, training, and work that will benefit society,” she says. “Contraception makes it possible for girls and women to show the world all of what they can do.”
Also critically important, she says, is access to comprehensive sexual education – another issue with which NaturalCycles works extensively, even in Sweden.
A survey conducted by the company asked 1,000 Swedish men and women questions about contraception and found that 32 percent use no contraception at all.
“That shows that even as a developed country, we still have a lot of work to do,” Berglund remarks.
“Information about sex can help young people gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to protect themselves when they do become sexually active,” she says. “Protecting and empowering girls and women is not just the right thing to do, but the sound thing to do.”
NaturalCycles has found that women and men are often unhappy with their chosen method of birth control, which can lead to incorrect use or using no contraception at all, despite the number of options available to them.
To address this issue, the company aims to educate users about their own bodies.
So far it's working: over 65 percent of NaturalCycles' 10,000 users say a key benefit has been the educational element of the app.
“It's important that young adults understand their options from the start so they feel armed to make decisions for themselves instead of following the social norm,” Berglund says.
The NaturalCycles' #LifeChangingOptions campaign will also feature real-life stories on a blog to uncover the challenges that young people in the developing world face when trying to access their sexual and reproductive rights.
“Enabling girls and women to decide for themselves when and if to have children is critical to spur development,”says Pellegrom.
“Together, we can – and we must – create a future where all girls and women, no matter where they are born, can lead healthy, productive and happy lives.”
This article was produced by The Local in partnership with NaturalCycles.