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Support sex education and family planning for all

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UNFPA, family planning, contraception, education, campaign, No woman should die while giving life.

Earlier this year, World Population Day celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Teheran Proclamation, which affirmed the right to family planning, and the basic right of parents “to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children”.

And this year, the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA is calling attention to people who are unable to realise this right.

In developing countries, an estimated 214 million women want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptive methods; 155 million women using no family planning method at all, and some 59 million who are using traditional methods that are unreliable and may be unsafe.

Through its work with health workers, young people and vulnerable populations, UNFPA staff have learned of some of the folk methods people resort to, methods that are found all over the world, in both wealthy and poor countries.

Some involve ingesting or inserting harsh chemicals into the body. Disinfectant, vinegar and lemon juice, for instance, are sometimes used vaginally. These can cause burns, irritation and other damage.

Some people use herbs, such as ginger, that are useless in preventing pregnancy. Other herbs, like rue and neem, have been used since ancient times, but experts warn that the dosages that could make them safe or effective are unknown.

Some people use objects – such as plastic bags or balloons – instead of condoms.

But condoms are made using advanced technology and tested individually for reliability, to protect from infections and pregnancy. Plastic and balloons, on the other hand, are not, and are prone to break.

And some of the objects used instead can also be painful.

In at least one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of a freezer pop is used as a condom replacement, potentially leading to genital lacerations.

Only one method of the methods described, breastfeeding, could potentially be seen as reliable – but only under the right conditions, and only temporarily. Extended breastfeeding, a method employed by women around the world, does not provide reliable contraception.

These ineffective methods can, as you can see, have serious consequences.

The benefits of family planning and contraception are clear.

Promoting family planning – and ensuring access to preferred contraceptive methods for women and couples – is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities.

A woman’s ability to choose if and when to become pregnant has a direct impact on her health and well-being. Family planning allows spacing of pregnancies and can delay pregnancies in young women at increased risk of health problems and death from early childbearing.

Family planning and contraception prevents unintended pregnancies, including those of older women who face increased risks related to pregnancy.

And family planning enables women who wish to limit the size of their families to do so. Evidence suggests that women who have more than 4 children are at increased risk of maternal mortality.

By reducing rates of unintended pregnancies, family planning also reduces the need for unsafe abortion.

Family planning can also prevent closely spaced and ill-timed pregnancies and births, which contribute to some of the world’s highest infant mortality rates.

And infants of mothers who die as a result of giving birth also have a greater risk of death and poor health.

Family planning reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, resulting in fewer infected babies and orphans.

In addition, male and female condoms provide dual protection against unintended pregnancies and against STIs  – including HIV.

Family planning represents an opportunity for women to pursue additional education and participate in public life, including paid employment in non-family organisations.

Additionally, having smaller families allows parents to invest more in each child. Children with fewer siblings tend to stay in school longer than those with many siblings.

Effective contraception also reduced adolescent pregnancies. Pregnant adolescents are more likely to have preterm or low birth-weight babies. Babies born to adolescents have higher rates of neonatal mortality.

And many adolescent girls who become pregnant have to leave school. This has long-term implications for them as individuals, their families and communities.

The Conference also adopted Resolution XVIII, on the Human Rights Aspects of Family Planning, which stated: ‘[…] couples have a basic human right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and a right to adequate education and information in this respect.’

UNFPA is asking us to raise our voices in support of women and girls and to join UNFPA and its social media campaign and spread the word that reproductive rights are human rights, no woman should die while giving life, and gender-based violence must end once and for all.

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