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.”
UNFPA Representative Dr. Kim Eva Dickson said at the launch “This report is about global fertility trends, but it is also about choice- or lack of it – and what that means for women, for couples, and for countries’ prospects for development.” She added, “In Sierra Leone where the total fertility rate is 5.7 children per woman, we need to continue to extend the reach of reproductive health-care services and improve quality, and make sure everyone knows their reproductive rights and how to exercise them.”
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 labor force and realize her full economic potential.
The report found that no country can claim that all of its citizens enjoy 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.
Whilst delivering her keynote address, Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Mrs. Nabella Tunis said, “This State of World Population report calls on countries to confront their demographic challenges not through fewer choices, but rather by enhancing rights and choices.” She added, “The Government is aware that investments in reproductive health ensure reproductive rights for all. If people are unable to access sexual reproductive health and family planning services, it threatens the development of our country.”
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, and to have as few, or as many, children as they want, when they want.”
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 freedom of choice a reality, says the report, countries can prioritize universal access to quality reproductive health care, including modern contraceptives; ensure better education, including age-appropriate sexuality education; advocate for a change in men’s attitudes to be supportive of the rights and aspirations of women and girls; and make it easier for couples to have more children, if they want them, by enabling greater work-life balance through measures such as affordable child care.
Speaking at the event, Development Secretary for the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Mr. Peter Sam-Kpakra said, “Today’s launch of the State of World Population report provides a platform for increased awareness of our legislators and key stakeholders on reproductive choice issues and the policy and programme recommendations.” Additionally he said, “The launch aims to also provide an opportunity for honorable members to familiarize themselves with the key recommendations from the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD) review meeting, which was recently held in Accra, Ghana.