By Darina Naidu
Friday, November 29, 2013
About 222 million women in the developing world do not have access to contraception. Birth control isn't just good for women, says one advocacy group, it's key to economic prosperity.
Credit: Pippa Ranger/Department for International Development on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
(WOMENSENEWS)--Some family planning proponents emphasize health and longevity benefits; others talk of human rights.
In the mix of available arguments, Population Action International has been focusing on the promise of economic prosperity. The organization advocates for women and families to have access to contraception in order to improve their health, reduce poverty and protect their environment.
For every $1 the organization invests in family planning, $4 is saved in other areas like education, public health, water and sanitation, the Washington-based group says on its website. "Birth control isn't just good for women; it's good for the economy."
"Right now, 222 million women, or 1-in-4 women of reproductive age, in the developing world do not want to become pregnant but need modern contraception," said Dilly Severin, director of communications at the group, known as PAI. The organization "has a history of highlighting the common sense connections between fulfilling a woman's right to contraception and the health, economic and other benefits that flow from it."
Severin said that evidence on the economic benefits of family planning is documented. She pointed to the example of the Family Planning and Women's and Children's Health study, conducted from 1977 to 1996 in 71 of 141 villages in Bangladesh for family outreach programs.
Community health workers visited homes of married women of childbearing age in outreach villages to offer contraception and maternal health services and supplies. Nineteen years after the program launch, authors concluded that child-to-woman ratios were 16 percent lower in villages with an outreach program, and women reported monthly earnings 40 percent higher than earnings in comparison villages.
Women of childbearing age in the area of the outreach program also seemed to be healthier and more productive if they were part of the paid labor force than those in comparison areas that did unpaid work.
"Choosing to have fewer children also freed up household economic resources for investment in children's health and education," Severin said.
Some messages tweeted on Nov. 14 to support the program included:
— RH Reality Check (@rhrealitycheck) November 15, 2013
— Soraya Chemaly (@schemaly) November 15, 2013
— UN Women (@UN_Women) November 13, 2013
Severin said the conference helped sustain support for family planning, women and a speedier and more inclusive achievement of related global initiatives.
African political and cultural leaders made statements about the importance of youth to the demographic dividend, the economic growth that may result from changes in a country's age structure, Severin said.
"They recognized that investing in youth's sexual reproductive health and rights is critical to helping young people and to helping African economies reach their full potential. Many of these nations are on track to achieve the demographic dividend, but could significantly expedite progress with the boost of family planning," she said.
Mothers and infants in sub-Saharan Africa face the greatest risks, according to Save the Children's annual State of World's Mothers report 2013, which assesses the well-being of mothers and children in 176 countries. The bottom 10 countries on the Mothers' Index are all in sub-Saharan Africa, with infants in Somalia having the highest risk globally of dying on their birth day. First-day death rates are almost as high in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Sierra Leone. Meanwhile, mothers in Somalia and Sierra Leone face the second and third highest lifetime risk of maternal death in the world, respectively.
Darina Naidu is an editorial intern for Women's eNews and an intern at ABC News for the News Specialized Unit. She graduated with a degree in journalism from SUNY Plattsburgh in May 2013. Follow her on Twitter @DarinaNaidu.
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