Friday 26 September marks World Contraception Day. Increased public and policy focus on family planning over recent years means that it has crept up the agenda.
That’s a welcome development. Especially given that it’s 20 years since a ground-breaking agreement was made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. On that occasion UN delegates decided on an ambitious programme of action that recognises sexual reproductive health and rights as a human right and key to achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Every woman’s right
Save the Children believes that family planning is integral to our work on child survival.
Our report, Every Woman’s Right, published ahead of the London Family Planning Summit in 2012, demonstrated how better access to reproductive health services has an important role to play in sustaining and accelerating progress in reducing child deaths.
As the report shows, that can’t be achieved without a more holistic approach that considers the right of women and girls to choose when or if they have children. Good-quality services and information are key.
Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Lack of access to healthcare during birth also means that, for every woman who dies as a result of pregnancy, another 20 suffer debilitating or disabling conditions such as fistula.
Girls and younger women are particularly at risk – there’s a 60% increase in the risk of death for babies born to teenage girls under 18. Many of these deaths could be averted simply by providing modern contraception and accurate information about the various methods available.
Reaching the most vulnerable
But access to family planning remains patchy.
It’s unacceptable that more than 200 million women around the world who say they would like to use modern contraception cannot access it. Most of them live in the world’s poorest countries. Many are from marginalised groups such as adolescents, migrants or urban slum dwellers.
Save the Children is strengthening the capacity of frontline providers to deliver good-quality sexual and reproductive health and family planning services that are friendly to adolescents. And we’re supporting them to focus on reaching those who are most vulnerable and hard-to-reach.
A fundamental right
As proponents of the right to health and advocates of child survival, we must continue to engage and join up the dots in demonstrating that sexual reproductive health and rights are not only crucial to improving children’s life chances but have a positive effect on the lives of women, men and young people.
But because sexual reproductive health and rights have traditionally been considered controversial – particularly in relation to sexual rights and abortion – our challenge is to ensure that world leaders do not to sidestep this important issue. It’s vital they ensure it is firmly anchored in the next development framework.
The Sustainable Development Goals must include targets to:
- end preventable maternal deaths
- ensure universal access to sexual reproductive health and rights for all.
Rights for all includes good-quality, comprehensive, integrated and affordable sexual reproductive health information, education and services, and modern methods of contraception, with particular attention to adolescents and young people.