UNITED Nations Population Fund representative Gift Malunga says the failure to secure reproductive rights and choices for women and girls can sabotage progress towards the number one sustainable development principle of leaving no one behind. And national development planning minister Alexander Chiteme says thousands of Zambians, especially women and girls continue to live in poverty and are unable to enjoy their human rights.
During celebrations to mark 25 years of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), UNFPA’s 50th anniversary and the launch of the State of World Population Report 2019, Malunga said the State of World Population 2019 articulated, for the first time, data on women’s ability to make decisions over sexual relations with their partners, contraception use, and health care.
The report recommends focusing on the furthest behind first, in line with the United Nations blueprint for achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies by 2030. She said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had envisaged a better future, one where people collectively tear down barriers and correct disparities.
“So what lies ahead? At this very moment, somewhere in a remote village in rural Zambia, a young woman is expecting a baby. Does she have access to a health facility and a skilled midwife near her home? If she faces a complication, will the midwife be skilled and equipped to help her deliver safely? Will she survive? Will she hear the cry of her newborn baby? Will her newborn survive? And if she survives, will she have access to family planning services that allow her to decide whether or when to have any future children? Will she be allowed to have that choice?” she asked.
“We still have a long way to go before all women and girls have the power make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. But, with concerted efforts from all stakeholders, this is achievable. If we can do much more in the following critical areas, we can move faster in realising the Cairo promise, if we collectively focus on: The continued centrality of the ICPD Programme of Action, including for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs; The critical importance of the empowerment of women and girls, and the elimination of gender-based violence and harmful practices; The importance of achieving universal health coverage that includes access to essential sexual and reproductive health services; increased domestic financing for integrated and inclusive sexual and reproductive health, as part of overall health systems investments, including the potential of harnessing the demographic dividend through expanded access to family planning and investments in young people and the necessity of timely, disaggregated population data, such population and housing census to inform policies and programmes that truly leave no one behind.”
She said since UNFPA started its cooperation with Zambia in October 1983, it had worked collective with the government, other UN Agencies, cooperating partners, civil society and other stakeholders to empower women and young people, including adolescent girls, navigate through an ever-changing landscape of barriers to their sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, enabled by population dynamics, human rights and gender equality, in line with Zambia’s long term and medium term development frameworks.
Malunga said in 2018, UNFPA launched efforts to achieve three transformative results, ambitions that promise to change the world for every man, woman and young person.
“The first – to end unmet need for family planning. Family planning is central to women’s empowerment and sustainable development. Through the annual procurement of an estimated 50 per cent of family planning commodity needs for the public sector, UNFPA with support from donors, has empowered millions of women to make their own decisions about whether, when or how often to have children. This has contributed to an increase in the use of modern methods of contraception has increased from 9 per cent in 1992 to the current 45 per cent,” she said.
“The second – to end preventable maternal deaths. UNFPA has continued to partner with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders, to strengthen health systems, train health workers, educate midwives and improve access to the full range of reproductive health. This has contributed to the country’s 54 per cent decline of maternal mortality ratio between 2002 and 2014. UNFPA has also supported the repairs of over 2,500 Fistula patients since 2005, thus restoring their health and dignity. The third – to end gender-based violence and harmful practices. Violence against women and girls remains a worrying pandemic. Approximately one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime and one in three girls is married before age 18. Through integration of SGBV into sexual reproductive health and promotion of a safe spaces, UNFPA is proud to have contributed to reduction in the number of adolescent girls who are pregnant or have given birth by the age of 18.”
She said these milestones offered a collective opportunity to recommit to ensuring that everyone reaps the benefits of the transformative agenda, whose implementation was essential for accelerating progress across the SDGs.
And Chiteme said thousands of Zambians, especially women and girls continue to live in poverty and are unable to enjoy their human rights.
Chiteme said the UNFPA global report on the State of World Population 2019 titled “Unfinished business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all” energises Zambia on her commitment to the implementation of the goals of the international conference on population and development programme of action. The 2019 report asks a central question: “are women and girls better off today, than they were before the consensus on the programme of action of the 1994 international conference on population and development?”
He said Zambia needs to continue the implementation of the localised International Conference on Population and Development programme of action in order to finish the unfinished business of guaranteeing rights and choices for all, including ensuring inclusive national development.
“We all deserve a world – and a Zambia – where everyone enjoys all of their rights particularly principle 4 of the International Conference on Population and Development which states that ‘Human rights of women and a girl child are inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights’,” said Chiteme.