Rights-based family planning is central to sustainable development – Universities

Bjorn Andersson

Bangkok ●
Fri, November 11, 2022


Unwanted pregnancies. Lack of access to contraceptives. Rapidly changing demographic trends.

These are just some of the challenges the global family planning community will be discussing over the coming week when they meet in Pattaya, Thailand for the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP). The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has long been a key organizing member of ICFP, the world’s largest gathering on family planning. The conference brings together policymakers, scientists, and activists from around the world to share experiences, devise new ideas, examine existing strategies, and forge new partnerships to end unmet need for family planning services.

Access to sexual and reproductive health, including access to contraceptive information and services, is fundamental for everyone, everywhere to exercise choice, bodily autonomy and agency. Despite significant improvements in the quality and availability of family planning services over the past decades, an estimated 140 million women in the Asia and Pacific region are still not using a modern method of contraception, although they wish to avoid or delay pregnancy.

Inadequate funding for sexual and reproductive health services, limited access to contraceptive methods and reliable information, restrictive practices and beliefs that prevent women from making choices about their bodies and reproductive health, and humanitarian crises ongoing caused by climate change and conflict all contribute to the problem.

The problem is particularly acute for young people and adolescents in Asia and the Pacific. Among girls aged 15 to 24 in the region, one in three does not see their demand for modern contraceptives met. Less than 25% of sexually active, unmarried adolescents use a modern method of contraception. This puts young women and girls at high risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and robs them of the most basic ability to plan their lives.

Unwanted pregnancies could have lasting negative effects. Young women and girls may drop out of school or reluctantly leave the labor market. Many of them could be in abusive relationships or resort to dangerous methods to end the pregnancy, with tragic consequences. This not only impacts the health and future prospects of women and girls, but also hampers the development of entire societies, communities and nations.

Given the current population dynamics in Asia and the Pacific, this is simply not a problem the region can afford to ignore. In countries where the population is aging and the workforce shrinking, it is more essential than ever that young women and girls have the opportunity to thrive outside the domestic sphere.

Moreover, in countries where the youth population is growing, it is crucial that the potential of every young person is harnessed to build more equal, sustainable and prosperous societies. This can only be achieved if young women and girls are empowered and supported to pursue their own aspirations, free from the disruptions caused by unwanted pregnancy.

To end the crisis of unwanted pregnancies, governments must allocate sufficient funds to make voluntary human rights-based contraceptive and family planning services accessible to all. In addition to ensuring access to a wide variety of affordable, quality contraceptives, increased efforts must be made to provide comprehensive sex education to young people and adolescents and to combat social attitudes that deny women the right to choose. if, when and with whom Pregnant.

As countries grapple with economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other ongoing crises, investing in family planning is even more important. In a 2022 analysis conducted with data from 120 low- and middle-income countries, UNFPA estimates that the return on investment to meet unmet need for family planning and maternal health is approximately 8 times greater for each dollar spent.

In another study, we found that investing in rights-based family planning methods can yield an 18-fold return on every dollar spent in Timor-Leste, compared to 34:1 in Laos. Most of these economic benefits are due to the reduction of unwanted pregnancies, ensuring that girls can continue their education and develop their professional skills, and this increases women’s participation in the economy and society. Family planning continues to be one of the most cost-effective public health interventions.

In the face of such promising evidence, our message to policy makers in Asia and the Pacific at this year’s ICFP is to believe in the power of rights-based family planning and to allocate appropriate funds in the national budget to ensure availability and access to quality services. and programs for all individuals.

As we gather at ICFP 2022, let us all renew our commitment to upholding women’s bodily autonomy by defending their right to make their own decisions about getting pregnant, how many children they want to have and when. UNFPA will continue to defend this fundamental right and help governments and societies achieve a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.


The author is Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

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