World Population Day 2017 - Family Planning: Empowering people, Developing Nations


12 July 2017

Blog by Hope Gloria Mugambi Mwanyuma., Founder: Hope Alive Africa Initiative

The World Population Day (WPD) is observed on 11th July of every year since 1989 after the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme recommended the observation of the day with the aim of focusing the attention on the urgency and importance of population issues in the world.

 

The WPD 2017 adopts the theme Family Planning: Empowering people, Developing Nations as policy makers seeks to eliminate poverty, uphold human rights, gender equality and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

 

As much as the world recognizes that access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right and is central to gender equality and women empowerment, as well as reducing poverty, it is evident that in many countries in the sub-Sahara Africa access to family planning and proper family planning information has been a challenge. This has in turn led to unplanned pregnancies and increased population as well as maternal health complications and lately to teenage pregnancy.

 

It is also reported that around the world, some 214 million women in implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) As much as the world recognizes that access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right and is central to gender equality and women empowerment, as well as reducing poverty, it is evident that in many countries in the sub-Sahara Africa access to family planning and proper family planning information has been a challenge. This has in turn led to unplanned pregnancies and increased population as well as maternal health complications and lately to teenage pregnancy. It is also reported that around the world, some 214 million women in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or service to lack of support from their partners or communities (http://www.guttmatcher.org ).

 

Many of those with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in the poorest countries on earth. The 2014 demographic survey shows half of women in Kenya (a country in the sub-sahara Africa) aged between 20 and 49 have had their first sexual intercourse by the age of 18, and that one in 4 women of the same age group have given birth by the age of 18, while one in two have given birth by 20. Kwale county, an area that I am well versed with, has in the recent past recorded an increased population of teenage mothers who have subsequently led to the increase in the population of the larger Kwale county. A girl of as low as 14 years is already a mother and a woman of 34 years is a grandmother. Parents in Kwale county opted to have their children use family planning methods since abstinence had failed to address the teenage pregnancy issue.

 

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of the challenges most countries in Africa still face. In a recent Demographic Health Survey (DHS), it is estimated that the prevalence of FGM in girls and women aged 15 to 49 is 27.1%. FGM is performed mainly on girls of school going age (12 to 18). There are many health issues that these girls face after the cutting which makes them not be able to attend school. This has greatly contributed to gender inequality especially in girl child education.

 

Hope Alive Africa Initiative is running a campaign on ending teenage pregnancy and ending female genital mutilation in Africa, and Kwale county is the first County in Kenya we have had our campaign outreach. One of the issues facing the county is increased population due to unplanned and unwanted teenage pregnancies leading to increased poverty and illiteracy rates. This has in turn hindered economic development in the county.

 

As the world marks WPD in 2017 under the theme Family Planning Empowering people, Developing Nations Hope Alive Africa Initiative is exploring different ways of addressing the health problems that come about as a result of FGM and teenage pregnancy.

 

The questions we are asking are: Do you think that allowing teenagers use contraceptives is the ultimate solution and remedy of teenage pregnancy and the raising population?  Is there reliable investment by governments in making family planning available especially to developing countries and marginalized communities in the rural areas and the refugee camps that yields economic and other gains that can help propel development forward?

 

How well will we achieve women’s empowerment and sustainable development if girls are being discriminated and are not allowed to acquire education.