The Female Condom: Empowering Women by Increasing Choice and Agency in their Sexual and Reproductive Health

Co-authored by Frederiek Chatfield, Executive Director Global Public Sector, Female Health Company, and Dr Daniella Munene, Head of Consulting, Africa Health Business

According to UNAIDS, sexual transmission accounts for over 90% of all new HIV infections worldwide; and evidence shows that women continue to bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic. Globally, young women are twice as likely to acquire HIV as their male counterparts; and many young women across the African continent, particularly those living in rural areas, also lack adequate health services.
Empowering women with information and tools they can use to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health including contraceptive use and sexual relations is pivotal to gender equality and achievement of sustainable development goal (SDG) 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Women’s empowerment includes the expansion and freedom of choice and options to shape one’s life involving the inter-related processes of change and agency. To protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections including HIV, women must be empowered to protect themselves during sexual activity, to be proactive about her own sexual health and safety and to negotiate the options for safer sex.

The FC2 Female (internal) Condom was designed to provide the choice and agency that is so necessary to shift power to the female partner in sexual activity. The FC2 was created by The Female Health Company (FHC) to empower women at all stages of development and throughout their life course. It was launched in the 1980s and was the first ever female (internal) condom to be approved by the World Health Organization.

FC2 is different from the male (external) condom in that it is designed to be worn inside the body. This helps to give women and receptive partners a chance to be proactive about their sexual health, as they can insert it themselves, and they can negotiate its use with their partner.
For women in their reproductive years, condoms such as the FC2 are the only family planning methods that also help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Even when a woman is already using a method of birth control to avoid pregnancy, it is important to also use condoms like the FC2 every time they engage in sexual activity to help protect against STIs; and because the FC2 is designed to be worn by the female (or receptive) partner, this can help to overcome the lack of ability reported by many young women across the African region to negotiate condom use with their male (insertive) partners.
FHC works to raise awareness and access to the FC2 Female Condom through public-private partnerships, to help women to have a choice of prevention methods thereby having safer sex that is pleasurable to both partners.
Successful partnerships between private companies like FHC and the public sector can accelerate achieving public health goals and make a tremendous difference for women. FHC works directly with Ministries of Health, non-governmental organizations, and community-based organizations to increase awareness and access to the FC2 Female (Internal) Condom. They offer trainings which are not only focused on the FC2 and its use but aimed at more broadly addressing and working to eradicate the stigma often associated with women’s bodies and reproductive systems. Our comprehensive technical support includes training and activities like demand generation/marketing, investment in programming activities and consultancy on increasing access and optimizing distribution.
Recently, FHC had a successful public-private partnership in Tanzania in which condom programming was designed and implement by GIZ (donor government), FHC (private sector), and Pathfinder (local international governmental organization). The variety of expertise and resources provided by the three parties, resulted in a very effective program, addressing myths and misconceptions about the FC2 Female Condom. The results demonstrated that, after implementation, 96% of health care providers assessed believed that FC2 was a safe method of contraception and protects against sexually transmitted infections. The same study showed that repeat use of the female condom increased from 8.9% to 31.4% from January 2019 to January 2020.

For more information on the FC2 Female (Internal) Condom, please visit