Sustainable development? Not without family planning!
“The lack of recognition of reproductive rights as essential to sustainable development was especially disappointing.”
Anita Nayar, Executive Committee Member of Development Alternatives with Women for A New Era (DAWN) – on the outcomes of Rio+20The Zimbabwean (2012), Women outraged at Rio+20 Summit, available at: http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/life/environment/59045/women-outraged-at-rio20-summit.html?utm_source=thezim&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=listarticle&utm_content=headinglink
Women’s groups had very high expectations of the United Nations Rio+20 Conference , which was a major opportunity to focus on women’s contributions to a more equitable and sustainable world through maintaining the livelihoods and welfare of their families and communities. Women represent half of the population, yet they continue to face many discriminations, despite the fact that their role as key agents of change is increasingly being acknowledged. Empowering half the population is therefore crucial to ensure environmental sustainability. Not only in giving women equal access to land, resources, technology and training, but even more importantly in giving them access to voluntary family planning. However, the Rio+20 outcome document mentioned women less than 0.01 percent, and only two of the 283 sections addressed women’s needs for family planning.Grist.org, Why women’s needs must be part of the conversation at Rio, 2 July 2012, available at: http://grist.org/population/why-womens-needs-must-be-part-of-the-conversation-at-rio/ Although this was a major disappointment for women activists, the emphasis on reproductive rights and family planning has already started to spill out following Rio+20 and is likely to continue, until change happens.
Table of Contents
Family planning improves the quality of life of whole communities
Positive links deriving from family planning include:
- Improving the well-being of women: Contraception allows women to determine whether, when and how many children they can have in their lifetimeTrustLaw (2012), The Word on Women – Taking Family Planning to the Next Level, available at: http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/blogs/the-word-on-women/taking-family-planning-to-the-next-level. For young women and adolescent girls, contraception can save their life, in the case of pregnancy-related complications: “every 2 minutes, a mother dies in childbirth”,The Guardian, Global development podcast: focus on family planning, 2 July 2012: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/audio/2012/jul/02/global-development-podcast-family-planning and despite the fact that the global maternal mortality rate dropped by 34% from 1990 to 2008, in many parts of the world such as Sub-Saharan Africa, women are still more likely to die in childbirth than women from developed countries
- Improving the well-being of children and saving children’s lives, notably via healthy spacing of pregnancies and decrease of adolescent pregnancies
- Preventing illnesses such as HIV/AIDS/AIDS
- Fostering education opportunities: girls and women can make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health, for example by deciding to delay their pregancy to complete their education, or by having smaller families to provide better living conditions for their children and be able to take care of them.Wikiprogress.org contributors (2012), Family planning, Benefits of family planning, available at: http://www.wikiprogress.org/index.php/Family_planning#Benefits_of_family_planning
- Increasing the female labour force participation: by delaying their pregancy, women are able to complete their education and start earning an income, which contributes to decreasing poverty levels in the family.
The direct link between family planning and sustainable development
While ensuring women’s access to full reproductive rights improves women’s well-being and quality of life, it also contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing climate change: studies show that decreasing population growth could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 8 and 15 percent.Kavita N. Ramdas (2010), What’s Good for Women Is Good for the Planet, Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, Aspen Institute, available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ppaustin/files/Texas%20Capital%20Region/Whats_Good_For_Women_KavitaArticle.pdf
In the long-term, access to family planning helps women to raise healthy and stable families, which protects valuable natural resources for future generations.
The Rio +20 outcome document
See below the mentions to family planning from the outcome documentUnited Nations (2012), “The future we want”, Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document, available at: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/381/64/PDF/N1238164.pdf?OpenElement:
- Paragraph 145: “We emphasize the need for the provision of universal access to reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health, and the integration of reproductive health in national strategies and programmes”
- Paragraph 146: “We will work actively to ensure that health systems provide the necessary information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive health of women, including working towards universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning, as this is essential for women’s health and advancing
- Paragraph 241: “We are committed to promote the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities and health-care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health, and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning.”
Family Planning high on the agenda
Following Rio+20, the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the support of UNFPA and other partners, hosted the international Family Planning Summit in London on 11 July. The objectives were:
- To revitalize global commitments to family planning and access to contraceptives as a cost-effective and transformational development priority
- To improve the access and distribution of contraceptive supplies
- To remove and reduce barriers to family planning
There was a clear consensus at the summit that responding to unmet need for family planning is a human right and it will lead to healthier, wealthier and better educated families and nations.Impatient Optimists (2012), Giving Voice to Women: London Summit on Family Planning, available at: http://www.impatientoptimists.org/en/Posts/2012/07/Giving-Voice-to-Women-London-Summit-on-Family-Planning The summit led to an agreement for donors to raise 4.3 billion dollars by 2020 in order to allow 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries, especially in Africa, to access contraceptives and other family planning materials.AllAfrica (2012), Africa: Family Planning Essential for Development, available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201207181111.html
Already following the UK Summit, the Female Health Company announced a their commitment to:
- Invest up to $14 million over the next six years in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention education and training, in collaboration with global agencies;
- Aggregate annual public sector purchases from all large buyers to set prospectively volume-based discounts on unit pricing; and
- Award major purchasers with free product, equal to 5 percent of their total annual units purchased.The Wall Street Journal (2012), The Female Health Company Makes Significant Commitment to Increasing Access to Lifesaving Contraceptives in the Developing World, available at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-female-health-company-makes-significant-commitment-to-increasing-access-to-lifesaving-contraceptives-in-the-developing-world-2012-07-19
Watch the two videos below by the Gates Foundation:
Where’s the Controversy in Saving Lives?
Family Planning: A Unique Opportunity for Change
- Family planning
- Family planning in Gender Equality in India
- Reproductive Category:Health
- Women’s Reproductive Category:Health
- Reproductive Rights
- Women and sustainable development at the Rio+20 UN Conference
Other progress-related articles
- See [Wikigender Progress Series|Wikigender Progress Series]
- Reproductive health indispensable for sustainable development equation (Global Times 07.07.2012)
- Women Leave Rio+20 Motivated to Galvanize Sustainability Around Family Planning and Reproductive Rights (Huffington Post 02.07.2012)
- Africa: Rio+20 – Governments Gamble With Our Future (AllAfrica 28.06.2012)
- Africa: Rio+20 – IPPF Condemns Disregard for Reproductive Rights (AllAfrica 25.06.2012)
- RIO+20: From the Future We Want to the Future We Need (Women’s Major Group Final Statement on the Outcomes of Rio+20 24.06.2012)
- UK Family Planning Summit: Keep the conversation going!