UNFPA calls for prioritising access to quality reproductive healthcare
Kathmandu, October 23
The trend towards smaller families is a reflection of people making reproductive choices to have as few or as many children as they want, when they want. When people lack choice, it can have a long-term impact on fertility rates, often making them higher or lower than what most people desire, according to The State of World Population 2018, published by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
Family size is closely linked with reproductive rights, which, in turn, are tied to many other rights, including the right to adequate health, education and jobs. Where people can exercise their rights, they tend to thrive. Where these rights are stifled, people often fail to achieve their full potential, impeding economic and social progress, according to the new report, entitled ‘The Power of Choice: Reproductive Rights and the Demographic Transition’.
“Choice can change the world,” said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem. “It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families, and accelerate global development.” When a woman has the power and means to prevent or delay a pregnancy, for example, she has more control over her health and can enter or stay in the paid labour force and realise her full economic potential.
The report found that no country could claim that all of its citizens enjoyed reproductive rights at all times. Most couples cannot have the number of children they want because they either lack economic and social support to achieve their preferred family size, or the means to control their fertility. The unmet need for modern contraception prevents hundreds of millions of women from choosing smaller families.
Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, reproductive health and rights have substantially improved around the world. People have more information about their reproductive rights and choices, and a greater capacity to claim their rights. “The historic transition to lower fertility,” says the report, “has emerged through people claiming their right to make choices about their reproductive lives.”
The report classifies all countries in the world by the current dynamics of their populations’ fertility. It makes specific recommendations for policies and programmes that would help each country increase reproductive choices. To make the freedom of choice a reality, says the report, countries can prioritise universal access to quality reproductive healthcare, including modern contraceptives; ensure better education.