World Contraception Day, 26 SEPT 2023

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At that landmark event in Cairo, delegates from 179 governments affirmed the ICPD Programme of Action, which recognized reproductive health and rights – including voluntary family planning – as foundational to development. The delegates also affirmed that women’s empowerment and gender equality are necessary for societies to advance.

A woman’s right to choose the number, timing and spacing of her children is fundamental. Contraception is an integral part of her decision-making. The benefits are manifold: The use of contraception decreases the rates of maternal death and disability, newborn and child mortality and morbidity, unintended pregnancies, and abortion. Male and female condoms can reduce sexually transmitted infections. Girls and women who can plan their families have more opportunities to realize their potential; they can pursue education and participate in the economy, leading to more prosperous, stable and equitable societies.

Yet today, as we mark World Contraception Day, 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception. Among the reasons are concerns about side effects and misconceptions about long-term effects on fertility. Some women may be forbidden to use contraception by their husband, partner or in-laws. Some women may feel stigmatized for wanting to use contraception. Some women don’t know about contraception, cannot access it or cannot afford it.

UNFPA is the only United Nations agency addressing family planning. It is the largest supplier of donated contraceptives in the world, and its Supplies Partnership alone prevented an estimated 89 million unintended pregnancies, 26.8 million unsafe abortions, 254,000 maternal deaths and 1.6 million child deaths from 2008 to 2020. UNFPA has provided family-planning services after emergencies – from conflict to climate events to COVID. We have delivered contraception by canoe, motorbike, even by drone, so no one is left behind.

Until universal access to contraception is achieved, women’s empowerment and gender equality will remain elusive. Such access allows women and girls to choose their future, not chance it.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good