By Musa Zimunya
WINDHOEK, JULY 10 – Women and girls need to have their contraceptive choices expanded as those choices have a direct bearing on their lives, and inevitably, every country’s prosperity.
In celebration of World Population Day, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem stressed in a statement, that women have a right to make their own decisions about whether, when and how often to become pregnant.
25 years ago (1994) in Cairo, a landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) heralded a new era in which 179 governments agreed that sexual and reproductive health (SRH) was the foundation for sustainable development.
Then, signatories had envisaged a future where autonomy was granted to every woman and girl, and in which every pregnancy, as a result, was intended.
“We imagined a world where no woman would die giving life because – no matter her location or socioeconomic or legal status – she would have access to quality maternal health care. We imagined a time where everyone would live in safety, free from violence and with respect and dignity, and where no girl would be forced to marry or have her genitals mutilated,” said Kanem.
However, a quarter of a century later, more than 200 million women and girls find themselves on an island as they are unable to delay or prevent pregnancy due to the lack of means.
“It is the poorest women and girls, members of indigenous, rural and marginalised communities, and those living with disabilities, who face the greatest gaps in services,” said the Executive Director.
She added that various stakeholders had thrown their weight behind the Programme of Action, pledging to tear down barriers that have stood between women and girls and their health, rights and power to chart their own futures.
Progress has been made, but more needs to be done to ensure progression that complements the gauntlet laid down 25 years ago that is the Programme of Action.
“Too many continue to be left behind. Too many are still unable to enjoy their rights. It is time to act now, urgently, to ensure that every woman and girl is able to exercise her rights. With greater contraceptive options, they can prosper as equal partners in sustainable development.”
When there is no commitment to action, the end-results are devastating: more women and girls die, unintended pregnancies sky rocket and unsafe abortions increase albeit endangering women’s lives. Not only are pregnant girls shamed out of school, but ultimately, the potential of individuals and societies is squandered.
“There is not time to waste. Our future depends on it,” she added.
UNFPA is working with countries and partners in an attempt to realign and deliver on promises that were charted some 25 years ago.
“Our sights are firmly set on achieving three zeros by 2030: zero unmet need for family planning; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.”
Kanem is of the opinion that high-quality data will be able to help UNFPA and its partners to zero in on where the needs are greatest and thereby “end the invisibility of those furthest behind.”
In November, Denmark, Kenya and the UNFPA will hold a summit in Nairobi, Kenya that will mark the 25 year celebrations of the ICPD. There, the international community have an opportunity to recommit to promises they made in Cairo and re-shape and align their trajectories in accordance with the ICPD Programme of Action for every woman and girl.
“The summit will draw heads of state, thought-leaders, civil society organizations, young people, international financial institutions, private sector representatives and thousands of others who have a stake in the ongoing pursuit of sexual and reproductive health for all. We all have a stake in this,” Kanem reiterated.
She called on stakeholders from all walks of life to hold hands and be brave as the world seeks to provide equal SRHR services for women and girls, as well as key populations.
“On this World Population Day, I call on all of us – on governments, civil society, communities, and people from all sectors and walks of life – to be bold and courageous, to do what is right for women and girls around the world, to make real the possibilities that come with completing the unfinished business of Cairo.
“Usher in a world where promises made are promises kept, and reproductive rights and choices are a reality for all. Women and girls cannot wait. Countries and communities cannot wait. The time to act on promises made and to deliver on family planning is now.” – email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org