Celebrating of World Population Day. The theme for this year is “unleashing the power of gender equality: uplifting the voices of women and girls to unlock our world’s infinite possibilities.”
In November 2022, the world population eclipsed 8 billion people. Many people saw this as a milestone to be celebrated. Evidence that we are living longer, healthier lives.But alongside this news, the UN also announced that two-thirds of people were residing in regions where fertility rates had declined below the so-called “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman.
Many commentators predicted that “too many” people would overwhelm the planet, while others expressed concern that “too few” people would cause civilization to crumble.
The question is not whether the human population is too large or too small. The question is: can everyone exercise their fundamental human right to choose the number and spacing of their children?
As well as marking World Population Day, we are also launching UNFPA’s global flagship State of World Population Report 2023: “8 billion lives, infinite possibilities: the case for rights and choices”. This report calls for the focus to be on the rights and choices of the individual woman, rather than slipping into an anxious narrative which exaggerates and blames.
With little recognition of the agency of those giving birth, birth rates are often identified as a problem and a solution.
Sadly, the most recent data from 68 countries shows that an estimated 44% of women who are in relationships are unable to make decisions about their health or their use of contraception. As
a result, a woman’s fundamental human right to choose freely and responsibly how many children she wants to have is violated by the fact that about half of all pregnancies are unintended.
Today, climate change, pandemics, conflicts, mass displacement, economic uncertainty, and other issues fuel concerns about over- and under-population. Yet human reproduction is neither the problem nor the solution.
Advancing gender equality is an often-overlooked solution to many of these concerns.
The most efficient strategy to increase productivity and income growth in aging, low-fertility nations with labourproductivity issues is to achieve gender parity in the workforce. Empowerment via education and family planning is known to pay off greatly in the form of economic growth and the development of human capital in countries with high fertility rates. To achieve complete equality, dignity, and opportunity, UNFPA is urging further efforts to realise bodily autonomy and support sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
UNFPA works closely with the Government of The Gambia to improve family planning services across the country. Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. In order to empower women, achieve gender equality, and fight poverty, its provision is crucial. UNFPA The Gambia is the sole UN Agency that supplies public health facilities in The Gambia with contemporary contraceptive supplies. 68,893 couples were protected in 2022 by family planning commodities made available by UNFPA. This support for the Government of The Gambia is part of our effort to bring about a society in which every pregnancy is wanted.
I am delighted to say that as a result of our persistent advocacy, the government signed the Compact of Commitment in 2022, pledging to provide matching funds toward the purchase of family planning supplies. This will guarantee that all women who require contraception can access it, regardless of where they live.
The country has made great efforts to ensure that close to 90% of service delivery points have documented no stock-out of at least three commodities. The availability of family planning commodities is key for quality service delivery. UNFPA will ensure program improvement with the help of our Ministry of Health counterparts and non-governmental partners to the point where no facility, wherever in the country, experiences stock-outs.
In The Gambia, UNFPA and the UN system are urging everyone involved to remember that the rights and choices of the individual woman are at the core of all population-related issues. This includes the government, CSOs, religious leaders, development partners, the media, and all other stakeholders. For every woman in The Gambia to be able to freely exercise her own reproductive rights and choices, we must continue to address the unmet need for family planning. We cannot use population concerns as an excuse to deny women and girls their rights and bodily autonomy.
On World Population Day 2023, UNFPA highlights the need to advance gender equality to help realise the dreams of all 8 billion of us. This process starts by listening to the voices of women, girls and other marginalised people and introducing laws and policies that enable them to exert their rights and make meaningful choices.
Only then will we be able to harness the power to take on the pressing problems of our day. A diverse, thriving world of 8 billion people – full of infinite possibilities – depends on it.