World Population Awareness

How to Attain Population Sustainability

April 15, 2014

Carl Haub - Population Reference Bureau

It took the US 200 years to go from 7 babies per family to two. "Bangladesh has done that in 20. Iran has more than halved its fertility rate in a decade." doclink

2005

Before, we didn't know how to control pregnancy, we didn't have the education, and people in the area were having nine or ten children. We have 18 families and no one has more than three children. The health of the children and mothers has improved, and so has the spacing of babies. Everyone understands the importance of family planning now. Vincente Jarrin and Maria Juana Jarrin Malca, Husband and Wife Family Planning Promoters in Pasquazo Zambrano, Ecuador doclink

2005

Before, we didn't know how to control pregnancy, we didn't have the education, and people in the area were having nine or ten children. We have 18 families and no one has more than three children. The health of the children and mothers has improved, and so has the spacing of babies. Everyone understands the importance of family planning now. Vincente Jarrin and Maria Juana Jarrin Malca, Husband and Wife Family Planning Promoters in Pasquazo Zambrano, Ecuador doclink

The Two Parts of Sustainability Are Consumption and Population

The world could possibly reduce consumption down to a very basic level, but if population keeps growing, eventually that will not be enough. Even today many are living on a sub-sustainable level, due in part to an uneven distribution of resources, but also because, in many regions, population has outgrown essential resources for that region.

When people feel threatened by a hand-to-mouth existence, they are more likely to look towards less-than democratic ways to reduce population, especially if they have the foresight to realize that population growth is like a run-away train, very difficult to slow and stop.

However, more and more evidence is showing that the methods that work the best towards reducing population growth, are the methods established by the principles of the Cairo Conference in 1994 (United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) September 1994, Cairo, Egypt), which include: a. Empowering women and girls in the economic, political, and social arenas; b. Removing gender disparities in education; c. Integrating family planning with related efforts to improve maternal and child health; and d. Removal of 'target' family sizes. doclink

Population Progress

October 06, 2004, Boston Globe

A United Nations report says poverty perpetuates and is exacerbated by poor maternal health, gender discrimination, and lack of access to birth control. This holistic view has helped slow the increase in world population. The average family has declined from six children in 1960 to around three today. The world's population is expected to grow by 39% over the next 45 years and births in the 50 poorest nations are estimated to rise by 228%. Education and improved health for women and access to contraception are vital. Smaller families are healthier families and improve the prospects of each generation. 201 million couples do not have access to contraception and if they could practice family planning, 22 million abortions, 142,000 pregnancy-related deaths, and 1.4 million infant deaths each year could be prevented. Since 1994 more women have access to education and other rights, and more early-marriage traditions are being opposed. Most countries have laws prohibiting violence against women, female genital mutilation, and other violations of human rights. doclink

End to Population Growth: Why Family Planning is Key to a Sustainable Future

April 13, 2011, The Solutions Journal

by Robert Engelman ... We are far from a world in which all births result from intended pregnancies. Surveys show that approximately 40% of pregnancies are unintended in developing countries, and 47% in developed ones.

Over 20% of births worldwide result from pregnancies women did not wish to occur.

It is estimated that 215 million women in developing countries are sexually active, but don't want to become pregnant; in other words, they have an unmet need for family planning. For various reasons they are not using contraception.

If all births resulted from women actively intending to conceive, fertility would immediately fall slightly below the replacement level; world population would peak within a few decades and subsequently decline.

It is not expensive to help all women to be in fully control of the timing and frequency of their childbearing. The key obstacles are religious, cultural, and political opposition to contraception or the possibility of population decline.

More research and a public better educated about sexuality and reproduction could engender a global social movement that would make possible a world of intended pregnancies and births. doclink

The Best Way to Attain Population Sustainability

Amy Coen, PAI, Vanity Fair LTE

What could we, should we actually do about human population growth? Can population trends be altered? If so, can they be altered without violating core human values about the worth of all human beings and the freedom of all to make decisions about their own childbearing? Does the idea of altering population trends lead inevitably to "population control," to walls erected to keep out immigrants, and to coercive policies on childbearing that punish poor women for environment problems that may be the fault of wealthy people living far away?

At the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, some 180 nations agreed with economist Amartya Sen that coercion has no place in any population program, whether it be a one-child policy, sterilization, forced marriage, forced childbearing, or forced sex. The Chinese, to their credit, are turning away from coercion and toward the approach that the United Nations Population Fund is the United Nations Population Fund is demonstrating, and groups such as Population Action International are advocating worldwide. This more democratic and comprehensive approach champions women's education and access to information and to reproductive-health to reproductive-health care. That care ideally includes not only contraceptives but also pre-natal and post-natal care, professional birth attendants, nutritional and child-care counseling, as well as H.I.V./AIDS prevention. doclink

Meeting the Cairo Challenge

Family Care International

Policies based on population control are moving towards more people- oriented, reproductive health approaches. Although it takes time for policy and legal changes to benefit women and men at the community and household levels, such changes are a critical first step. Policies and laws are needed to hold health services courts, schools, and other institutions, as well as communities and families, accountable. As such, the policy and legal changes made since 1994 based on human rights, equity, and meeting people's needs--are central to fullfiling the Cairo Mandate. doclink

Articles From the Last Day of ICFP 2013 Conference in Addis Ababa

November 20, 2013, Degrees Live

This is a series of articles and videos from the November 2013 International Conference on Family Planning , including:

Girls' Globe Reports Live from ICFP: Coverage Archive - http://live.fhi360.org/category/icfp2013/#sthash.r5F3HcX1.dpuf

CFP 2013 Reflections: Maternal & Child Health, Family Planning… and NTDs http://live.fhi360.org/category/icfp2013/#sthash.r5F3HcX1.dpuf

Video: The Importance of Women Leaders in Family Planning - Ellen Starbird, USAID

Connected Health Workers Key to Improved Healthcare

Day Two of the ICFP and the Energy around Youth is Electric

Latin America's Contraception Crisis

Inspired by youth involvement: Kate Gilmore, UNFPA

ICFPLive Crowdblog: Wednesday Plenary - Achieving Equity through Women in Leadership

Family planning leads to health, education and income

Video: The Importance of Involving Youth in Family Planning - Isaiah Olowabi

The Challenge Ahead: Initiating a Demographic Dividend doclink

We Must Always Monitor Population Growth. Always

October 8 , 2013, World Outline

Ravi Prasad disputes the June 2013 "medium-variant projections" (MVP) of the Population Division of the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The UN offers these figures to the media as their most likely population forecast. Companies and governments often use the country-specific MVP breakdowns in planning. For example, where should a water purification company build plants to meet expected demand in thirty years, or what allocation of public funds should be set aside for pension provision given the size of the population in 2040. These projections should be based on realistic estimates of population growth and size. Ravi fears that, especially for certain developing nations, the MVP projections underestimate what will occur.

The MVPs project that world population will reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and 10.9 billion by 2100. These estimates assume that global fertility rates will plummet and converge to a rate of 1.85, with most nations reaching that level by 2050 and the rest by 2100. The UN Population Division derives these figures by basing the pace of future fertility decline on the historical experience of countries that underwent major fertility rate reductions after 1950. The MVP actually shows what is possible if poor nations achieve reductions in childbearing resembling those of more advanced nations. To achieve the MVPs rates, nations would need to produce about 20 billion fewer people by 2100 than current rates would produce.

Most future population growth will occur in the least developed countries (LDCs). Between 2013 and 2100, the population of 35 mostly LDC countries is expected to triple or more. Among them, the populations of Burundi, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia are projected to increase by at least five-fold by 2100. Of the 3.7 billion additional people anticipated, 2 billion will originate from LDCs - highlighting their above-average fertility rates. To meet the MVPs, the largest falls in fertility must occur in these regions. For example, in Mali, fertility must fall from 6.86 to 2.24 between now and 2100. The UN Population Division acknowledges these challenges, and admits the rates rely on "expected actions" being taken. They define "expected action" as LDCs improving family planning and widening access to contraception. Yet these LDCs differ fundamentally from advanced nations and do not follow conventional historical experience. Professor Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion" (which won the 2009 Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book Prize), explains why these countries are ‘trapped' and have not had the economic growth that permits them to follow in the footsteps of other nations.

One of the best known statistical relationships is that rich nations have lower birthrates than poor nations. For example, a country like Ethiopia, where the total fertility rate is 6.12 children per woman, is fifty-one times poorer than the United States, where the total fertility rate is 2.05. People offer a variety of explanations. For example, female empowerment helps reduce family size. Richer countries empower women through advanced legal systems (e.g. freedom of divorce), political systems (e.g. votes for women), social systems (e.g. contraception, childcare and education readily available) and economic systems (e.g. more employment opportunities for women). Another explanation argues that better healthcare in richer countries results in higher child survival rates, which lessens the need for having more children. Also, since retirees in richer countries can survive on their retirement incomes, they depend less on their children to support them in later life. Finally, since lower population growth means more capital per worker, workers can exploit productivity gains and drive economic growth.

All of these theories have merit, so if a nation is both rich and has a low population growth rate, the two advantages reinforce each other, and unless the cycle is broken, if a country is poor and has a high population growth rate, the two disadvantages reinforce each other. Breaking that cycle is difficult. Deep-rooted cycles prevent economic growth in LDCs, ranging from endemic diseases to endless conflicts. Yet, both growth and lower fertility rates require breaking those cycles. The UN Population Division assumes fertility will fall due to expected improvements in family planning, widening access to contraception, and educating about the dangers of unprotected sex. But these alone will not cut fertility rates. The UN must acknowledge the causal link between economic growth and fertility rates. It bases MVP forecasts on historical experience, but it fails to note that the historical experience the UN refers to, in nations where fertility rates fell since the 1950s, also saw an acceleration of economic growth rates.

The UN sees a lack of family planning usage, and explains it by a lack of supply. Yet, lack of usage is not necessarily indicative of lack of supply. Many LDC parents choose or feel forced to have more children either to support themselves on retirement or to counteract high child mortality (e.g. 20.9% in Chad) Also, in a war-torn country where sons die in conflict, people have more kids to offset their losses. Simply throwing condoms at LDCs to bring their fertility rates down has minimal impact where people choose to have large families. The driver for declines in LDC fertility rates is economic growth. doclink

Art says: Bangladesh demonstrates that birthrates can be lowered before a nation achieves economic success.

Karen Gaia says: I agree with Art. And also condoms are not 'thrown' at LDCs. Women must be empowered to have control over their own decisions and their bodies. Methods of birth control must be effective, accessible, available, and accompanied with advice from health care workers in integrated services. Often entire communities are involved in integrating conservation, health services, and family planning. The author assumes these things are not being done, but more and more is being done each year. Still .... funding is lacking for these programs.

Crowded Planet

A conversation with Alan Weisman
September 2013, Orion Magazine

Human population has grown in the last hundred years 'at a rate rarely seen outside of a petri dish'. Alan Weisman wrote the World Without Us and, recently Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? He spent two years traveling to twenty nations to investigate what the the world's recent population explosion means for our species as well as those we share the planet with.

Weisman was recently interviewed by Orion managing editor Andrew D. Blechman. His book addresses whether we'll be able to continue as a species, given all the things that we have been doing to our home.

The explosion began at the time of the Industrial Revolution when there were suddenly jobs in the cities rather than on farms. But they were crammed into tight quarters, and diseases ran rampant, so doctors learned about dealing with diseases. Suddenly, people were living longer, and fewer infants were dying.

Before that women would have seven or eight kids, but only two survived, on average. Two surviving is replacement rate where people have essentially replaced themselves, and population remains stable.

Then in 1930, when we were at 2 billion, we discovered how to pull nitrogen out of the air artificially and we were able to double the food supply. Today we've grown to 7 billion. 40- 50% of us would not be alive without artificial nitrogen fertilizer.

If you overfeed city pigeons, they have more babies and the population starts maxing out, whereas if you don't overfeed them, the population keeps itself in check. Too much food expands a population beyond its resource base, and then it crashes. And this is "not going to be very pretty."

"Some argue that population is in fact self-correcting, and that the correction is already underway."

Is there an answer to the question "How many people can fit on the planet before we set in motion changes that will threaten the future of life as we know it"? "We're all part of a big experiment to see how many of us can live on this planet without doing something to it that is going to destabilize it so much that our own future is in jeopardy," Weisman said.

"Should we take the responsibility to try to manage population decline gracefully, and possibly speed it up? We can do it humanely if we decide to manage it rather than let nature take its course."

It is not just the large number of people, it is also the amount that we consume that matters. The more consumers there are, consuming too much, the more consumption.

Paul Ehrlich said that there's no condom for consumption. "By the time we change human nature enough so that people consume a lot less, I think the earth will be trashed in the meantime."

"There's also no question that the most overpopulated country on earth is actually the United States, because we consume at such a ferocious rate. We may not be as numerous as China or as India, but our total impact is huge."

When Weisman was in the African country Niger, which has the highest fertilty rate in the world, people would talk about all the trees that had been cut down for firewood. This changed their climate so that there's less rain now. They also graze many more animals, creating more changes. "They're now in chronic drought. In every village, hundreds of children had died".

Eventually people in Niger and other countries will realize - if they haven't already - that "they don't have the luxury of continuing life as they used to live it, where men had multiple wives and wives had many children". By educating people, especially women, "they start to put these things together". "Education is the best contraceptive of all" because educated women adopt a family-planning mentality.

When you educate women, and give them rights equal to "anybody else's on this planet", they usually "choose to have fewer children, because they have another way to contribute to society that would be difficult if they had seven kids to care for".

Whereever you have educated women, society is more livable. "All we have to do is offer fair, equal opportunity to half the human race, the female half".

Weisman says people can adjust to smaller families, even one-child families. When in China he found out that, while these single children missed having siblings, but they said, "On the other hand, our cousins have become our siblings. Sometimes our best friends have. We've reinvented the family."

Of China's one-child policy he said "while a draconian edict may have worked in one place, it's not going to work everywhere".

We need to make contraception "very attractive to people, and let them manage their own population"". "There are a couple of Muslim nations that" ... " have brought their populations down to replacement levels without draconian controls from above, without any edicts". Iran got down to replacement rate a year faster than China, and it was completely voluntary. The ayatollah Khamenei, "issued a fatwa saying there was nothing in the Qur'an against having an operation if you felt that you had enough children that you could take care of. Everything from condoms through pills, injections, tubal ligations, vasectomies, IUDs—everything was free, and everything was available in the farthest reaches of the country". The only thing that was obligatory was premarital counseling. "They would talk about things to get you prepared for getting married, including what it costs to have a child, to raise a child, to educate a child".

Of catholicism, he said the Catholic Church is unique in its adamant opposition to birth control except for the rhythm method. The Vatican is populated by "just one-thousand people, virtually all of them men. They're making these rules that many Catholics outside its walls are paying no attention to. Italy and Spain, for example, have two of the lowest birth rates on the planet".

In Niger an iman showed him in the Qur'an where "Muhammad says that each child is entitled to two years of mother's milk," which was interpreted as an admonition to carefully space births. Another imam says that children are a gift from God and you can't turn down gifts from God, so he's even against birth spacing.

While many Evangelical churches have been an anti-abortion, even anti-contraception, one Evangelical leader "absolutely supports contraception and campaigns hard for it".

Every four to 4.5 days, there's a million more of us on the planet. That doesn't sound sustainable.

In Uganda, in order to preserve the wildlife, as well as the tourist-related income for the people who live in these areas, wildlife ecologists are trying to convince residents to have fewer children. In the Philippines, ecologists are convincing people to have fewer children to prevent them from running out of fish.

One the other hand, in the European democracies, their birthrates are so low that they've resorted to paying their citizens to have children. But we've always had room to expand. Now China has knocked down more and more forests, until they lost all their flood control.

"For an economy to keep growing, you have to have growing populations, because you need more laborers to produce more products, and then you need more consumers for those products".

We need to redefine prosperity in a way that doesn't involve perpetual growth.

The president of Uganda, who's convinced that his country's economic future is dependent on massive population growth is sorely mistaken. Look at Singapore with a very low birthrate and the highest per capita incomes of any country on earth.

On aging: there will be a generation or so of a bubble where they're going to have more older people, and then, as that generation dies off, the number of older people and younger people are going to balance out again. If we redirected our funds to "taking care of a generation of older people until our population evened out, we'd be a much better society".

How much the population grows rests on whether women on average have a half child more or a half child less. The projection of nearly 10 billion by 2050 assumes that all the family planning programs we have in place will remain in place. And that's dependent on a few donor countries, such as the United States. If the "last presidential election gone differently, the United States may well have withdrawn a great deal of its support for family planning programs all over the world".

If family planning loses funding, "a half a child more per fertile woman means that by the end of the century we're going to increase to 16 billion people. A half a child less per woman means that we're going to be back down to 6 billion really quickly".

"Nearly a quarter of a billion women who might use contraception don't have access to it. However, it would only take about $8-9 billion a year to ensure that everybody did". That's not a lot of money. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Singapore, South Korea, Macau, and Hong Kong all have lower fertility rates than China, yet they had no policy on number of children.

On education and family planning, health is also a very important factor. If a woman does not have a health care worker she can trust, she will not have enough to go on to help her to decide to start using contraception. Health care is usually combined with birth spacing for a very compelling reason to use contraception.

On aging: more emphasis should be put on our children's and grandchildren's future, and their education, health, well-being. They are the ones who will have to get through the bad times and they need to be well-equipped.

World Population Day 2013 - Press Statement From John Kerry, Secretary of State

July 13, 2013   By: John Kerry

As the international community commemorates World Population Day, the current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase another 1 billion by 2025 and reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

Continued population growth in many countries, as well as population aging, urbanization, and migration will have a profound impact on social and economic development and the environment in the years to come. Increasingly complex and interconnected population and demographic dynamics impact access to health, education, housing, sanitation, water, food, and energy, and influence the livelihoods of people and stability of nations around the world.

Today's generation of 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 is the largest the world has ever seen, and will shape the future of the world we live in. They will drive the economic, political, social, and cultural development of their countries and will need greater and more equitable access to education, employment, and health information and services, including sexual and reproductive health services. Whether it's across the Greater Middle East or Africa, the sheer number of young people is striking, and demands leadership capable of meeting their demands for dignity and opportunity in addition to basic necessities.

This changing global environment also highlights the need for our continued example of and commitment to protecting access to evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive rights, so that young people are equipped with the information and the means to make informed decisions about their health and protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.

We must also address the fact that millions of adolescent girls are too often vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and exclusion that prevent them from living their lives to their full potential. Too many young girls are forced to marry and leave school early, are at risk of sexual violence and coercion, and are subjected to harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation and cutting. Still today, complications from pregnancy and childbirth continue to be the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.

The United States stands ready to work with other governments, multilateral organizations, civil society, and the private sector around the world towards a safer, healthier, more just world for all. doclink

Women & Sustainability: Why They Need Each Other in a Post-MDG World

May 27, 2013, Huffington Post   By: Carmen Barroso

As the global economic crisis stumbles on, social services are cut worldwide, and the planet faces ever wilder weather, decreasing biodiversity, and shrinking natural resources, we need an even larger investment in girls and women for the sake not only of people, but also for the planet.

Investing in girls and women -- and especially in family planning services -- is one of the smartest, safest, cheapest, most impactful decisions any nation can make. For example, in Texas, the state legislature is working hard funding for family planning services after the financial costs of 2011's funding cuts became apparent.

With simple investments in basic technologies like condoms, the pill, and prenatal healthcare, there's a powerful ripple effect that emerges from women's empowerment. Women and children are healthier. We also see noteworthy dividends for our planet's ability to sustain us all. When we empower individuals and families with the information and services they need to decide on all aspects related to reproduction and sexuality, we create more sustainable and just communities. Give women choices about their children, and they make smart choices about their environment, too.

Global funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights has decreased 65% from 1995 to 2007, leaving more than 200 million women and girls worldwide without access to the modern contraceptives they want and need, to delay or avoid a pregnancy.

When parents are worried about how to bring home enough food for their family's next meal, they don't worry about whether they're taking too many fish from the sea, or cutting down too many trees to sell or to grow crops.

And when the environment is threatened, women are threatened too. Women bear the brunt of the responsibility for providing food and water for their families, for collecting fuel to heat their homes and cook meals. A rapidly changing climate, increasing pressure on food prices brought about by drought, shrinking access to clean water, clean air and healthy forests -- all hit women and children hardest.

It's time for us all to make these connections. We have an unparalleled opportunity to secure a sustainable world of justice, choice and well-being for all people, and without a doubt, we need healthy, empowered women and girls to ensure that our planet can continue to care for us all. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Also, when population grows, supplies of safe water and cooking fuel are often threatened, and women and girls have to walk further and further for these things.

People's Rights, Planet's Rights

December 20 , 2012, HowMany.org   By: Suzanne York, Institute for Population Studies

This comprehensive report suggests that the best way to discuss population growth and the myriad of problems confronting the planet today is through a rights-based, holistic approach that includes both people and the planet:

Women's Rights - providing voluntary family planning services to the 222 million women in developing countries who want access to family planning services but do not have access to contraceptives;

Youth Rights - providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to the nearly 3 billion young adults under the age of 25;

Rights of Nature - recognizing the legal right of ecosystems to exist; and

Rethinking the Economy - accepting that endless economic growth is unsustainable and that more efficient global indicators of human and environmental well-being should be adopted.

Click on the link in headline to read the entire report.

Interesting points from the report:

Norman Borlaug, the "father" of the Green Revolution, noted that this effort would only buy humanity a little bit of time. The New York Times wrote that he was frustrated throughout his life that governments did not do more to tackle population growth by lowering birth rates, and at one point said "If the world population continues to increase at the same rate, we will destroy the species."

The approaches we can take go beyond numbers and require a holistic, rights-based approach to talking about population and producing positive changes. Calling it the ‘Population Monster' or population control won't direct the conversation where it needs to be.

While the global rate of population growth has slowed, there are still 80 million people added every year. Africa's total population is predicted to increase from approximately 1 billion today to 2.2 billion by 2050. Pakistan could see a population increase from 175 million people to 335 million in the same time.

And it's not just numbers. In the developed world and emerging economies, it is about consumption, most of it occurring at unprecedented levels and still increasing.

The keys to keeping population numbers closer to the low-end projections are promoting women's rights and empowerment, reducing poverty and inequality, curbing unsustainable consumption, rethinking how we define economic growth and living in balance with nature.

When India and China implemented coercive policies as a means to reduce fertility rates, this gave a negative connotation to population issues for many years thereafter.It was not until the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo that family planning issues came back to the forefront and in a more positive light. This time issues were framed around terms like reproductive rights and reproductive health, and moved away from population growth or too much focus on demographics.

The history of colonialism, racism, globalization, oppression, and global inequality cannot be disregarded, and a focus only on numbers and statistics misses the bigger picture.

And on the other hand, a focus only on human rights can overlook the needs of the rest of the ecosystem. A stable population of empowered people benefits the world, both people and the planet.

Ultimately though, it's about understanding rights for all in the face of increasing environmental degradation. In a world where an estimated 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception, we need to overcome different viewpoints and remove obstacles to talking about population growth and its impacts. Lack of access, information, education, poverty, and limited options are some of the main barriers.

Christopher Elias of the Gates Foundation talked of the importance of understanding the three main drivers of population growth:

1. continued high desired fertility by some families and the concurrent need to bring down child mortality;

2. the existing unmet need for access to family planning services - 215 million women (ed.note: now updated to 222 million) in developing countries want access to family planning services but do not have access to contraceptives. "Women should be provided the means to do what they already want to do", said Elias;

3. the largest driver of population growth is population momentum, the natural increase in population in a world where half of the population is under the age of 25 and are either in or will soon reach their peak reproductive years. The global community should focus on education for girls and women, and create opportunities for better livelihoods.

The Guttmacher Institute found that fully meeting all need for modern contraceptive methods would cost $8.1 billion per year. This would mean that unintended pregnancies would decline by 2/3rds, from 80 million to 26 million; there would be 21 million fewer unplanned births; and there would be 1.1 million fewer infant deaths.

The world should listen to what women want, for themselves and their families.

The UN report State of the World Population 2009 addressed women and climate change. It emphasized that educating women about reproductive health and providing them access to family planning would do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than ending all deforestation.

Women are on the frontlines, facing at times drastically changing weather patterns. In most countries around they world they are the main providers of food, water, and other resources for their families. Empowered women can better support their families and communities, take care of their local environment, and adapt to climate impacts.

The Center for Reproductive Rights states that “The focus on population numbers at the expense of human rights is counter effective and even harmful to the goals of social and economic development." Consider the following statistics from Oxfam: Just 11% of the global population generate around 50% of global carbon emissions, while 50% of people generate only 11%;

Americans trash 40% of their food supply every year, valued at about $165 billion. Some 25% of all the freshwater consumed in the U.S., along with 4% of the oil, goes into producing food that is never eaten. Uneaten food accounts for 23% of all methane emissions in the U.S.

Writer Laurie Mazur said that inequality makes it difficult to address and even acknowledge the environmental impact of population growth. A sustainable balance between people and resources can be achieved by: 1) using resources better; 2) addressing equity/ensuring basic needs are met for all people; 3) choosing a slower growth path. doclink

United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, 1994

The Cairo Program of Action

Acknowledges the complex personal and social contexts within which decisions about childbearing are made. It separates the problem of unwanted fertility, which can be addressed by access to family planning services, from other causes of population growth, including the desire for large families. Calls for other social investments -- such as the education of girls and the reduction of infant mortality -- to help make small families the norm.

  • Endorses a reproductive health approach to family planning.
  • Recognizes the central role of gender relations, with a link between high fertility and the low status of women, and offers strategies to empower women through access to education, resources and opportunity.
  • Addresses the harmful effects of northern consumption patterns, drawing the connection between consumption, population growth and environmentaldegradation.
  • Strikes a historic compromise on abortion. While declaring that "in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning," the document asks governments to address unsafe abortion as a major public health concern. It also asks governments to ensure that abortion services are safe when they are not against the law, to provide reliable and compassionate counseling for all women who have unwanted pregnancies and to provide humane care for all women who suffer the consequences of unsafe abortion.
  • Stands on solid ethical ground. Coercion of all is rejected. The means it proposes to slow population growth are all desirable ends in themselves. It offers strategies to narrow the gaps between rich and poor, and between men and women.
  • doclink

    The United Nations Population Conference

    1994

    It took 40 years to build consensus.

    1954 - The Club of Rome

    1960 - USAID family planning services in the developing countries increases contraceptive prevalence from 14% in 1965 to 57% today. "Population control" sometimes used.

    1974 - Bucharest UN World Population Conference. Industrial countries wanted to control population growth, while developing nations said that "development is the best contraceptive."

    1984 - Mexico City U.N. Conference on Population becamed emeshed in U.S. debates over abortion and contraception.

    1994 - Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)- characterized by an extraordinary degree of international cooperation and consensus, by improving health, education, and access to opportunity doclink

    Assessing Progress for Populations Worldwide

    April 03 , 2014, United Nations

    Almost on the 20-year anniversary of the largest intergovernmental conference on population and development ever held -- the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994, the meeting of the 47th session of the Commission on Population and Development will be held.

    In advance of that meeting, John Wilmoth, Director of UN DESA's Population Division, spoke about how the heart of what the Cairo conference was all about individuals and their rights and needs, and addressing those issues first and foremost.

    Cairo helped galvanize action that brought major improvements in the well-being of people around the world. In 2013 over 90% of governments provided either direct or indirect support for family planning programs. Life expectancy has increased from 65 years in the period 1990-1995 to 70 years in the period 2010-2015.

    At the upcoming April session, representatives and experts from a large number of UN Member States and NGOs will meet in New York to assess the status of implementation of the Programme of Action, adopted by 179 governments in 1994.

    Wilmoth said there was more to be done: continuing to improve life expectancy, reduce fertility, enhance access to education, and achieve gender equality.

    The world's population is expected to reach 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050. In 1994 the world's population was growing at 1.5% a year, compared to only 1.2% in recent years.

    The combined population of the 49 least developed countries is projected to double by 2050. In contrast, in more than 40 other countries - many of them in Eastern Europe, East, South-East and Western Asia, other parts of Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean - the size of the population is expected to decline in the coming decades.

    Despite these advances, most countries will not achieve the ICPD Programme of Action target for life expectancy of 75 years (70 years for the countries with the highest mortality levels) by the target date of 2015. Worldwide, women live 4.5 years longer than men, a gap that has remained virtually unchanged since 1994. Similarly, the world as a whole will miss the Conference target of a 75% reduction in maternal mortality.

    The international community is increasingly recognizing the contribution of migration to global development. In 2013, the number of international migrants worldwide reached 232 million, up from 154 million in 1990. There are more people living outside their country of birth than ever before, and it is expected that the numbers will increase further.

    Lower fertility combined with higher life expectancy results in population ageing. Aging combined with rapid urbanization "creates challenges in terms of meeting the needs of the older population and also in managing the relationship between the generations as the working-age population inevitably has to provide a certain amount of financial and other forms of support for the older population," he said.

    The Commission will also be an important preparatory event for the special session of the General Assembly, which will take place on 22 September 2014 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Cairo conference. doclink

    Voluntary Family Planning Programs That Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights

    September 12, 2013, Futures Group

    Key points:

    In the orward to the 2012 State of World Population report, "By Choice, Not by Chance", Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA reaffirmed the right of the individual to freely and responsibly decide how many children to have and when to have thme has been the guiding principle in sexual and reproductive health, including family planning.

    The foundation for voluntary and human rights-based family planning can be traced to the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, which included in its proclamation that "parents have a basic human right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children." This right was reaffirmend at three subsequent international population conferences in Bucharest in 1974, Mexico in 1984, and Cairo in 1994.

    The landmark International Conference on Population and Development, which took place in Cairo in 1994, affirmed that ...reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsible the number, spacing and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so; and the right to attain the highest standards of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of descrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents (UNFPA, 1994, Programme of Action para. 7.3)

    Amidst the positive response to FP2020 (London Family Planning Summit in July 2012), including a civil society declaration signed by more than 1,000 organizations worldwide, some civil society organizations expressed concerns that the numeric goal of reaching 120 million new users of contraception by 2020 could signal a retreat from the human rights centered approach that underscored the 1994 ICPD. Concern was also raised that the FP Summit goal could also lead to a focus on services for urban groups who may already have access to services, at the expense of marginalized women, men, and young people are are more costly to reach but who may face more financial, social, or other barriers preventing them from accessing such services.

    A focus on reaching more women with contraceptives will not negate the the broader reproductive health and rights focus of ICPD. instead, it will draw attention and resources to family planning, a key component of reproductive health that has received insufficient attention and resources for nearly two decades.

    The need for renewed attention to family planning has been highlighted, resources have been pledged, and political will is high, offering what Kingdon (1984) identified as a window of opportunity for transformational change. Taking advantage of this opportunity will require bringing together diverse stakeholders -- representing family planning, reproductive health, human rights, and public health to harness relevant approaches to programming and create the conditions for achieving the FP202 goal (120 million new voluntary family planning users) in ways that guarantee choice and respect, protect, an fulfill human rights.

    Few attempts have been made to link voluntarism and human rights into a comprehensive operational framework to guide family planning policies and programs.

    This conceptual framework was reviewed by more than 150 people from 25 countries through a series of in-person and web-based consultations and the World Health Organization (WHO) consulting on rights-based family planning held in April 2013. Ultimately, it is hoped that this effort and the resulting framework can contribute to the implementation of the FP2020 program.

    As rights violations related to reproductive health have tended to focus on some egregious cases - such as forced abortion in China, forced sterilizations in India, Peru, and more recently among HIV-positive women -- more subtle forms of rights violations have been missed. Some programs or providers pressure or coerce clients into using family planning methods they do not want, while others create barriers that prevent individuals from obtaining and using methods they desire.

    Programs that offer a limited choice of methods cannot really be said to offer a full choice.

    The principle of volunteerism has been integrated into all U.S. government assistance for family planning since 1968. USAID notes that its assistance is guided by the principles of voluntarism and informed choice:

    * People have the opportunity to choose voluntarily whether to use family planning or a specific family planning method.

    * Individuals have access to information on a wide variety of family planning choices, including the benefits and health risks of particular methods.

    * Clients are offered, either directly or through referral, a broad range of methods and services.

    * The voluntary and informed consent of any clients choosing sterilization is verified by a written consent document signed by the client.

    Follow the link in the headline to see the entire, very long paper. doclink

    UN to Hold Special Session in 2014 on Population

    February 21, 2013, Associated Press

    The UN General Assembly has decided to hold a special session on Sept. 22, 2014, on the anniversary of the 1994 Cairo population conference - when some 180 nations adopted a plan that focused on birth control, economic development and giving women more power over their lives - to assess implementation the 20 year-old plan to slow the global population explosion.

    The world's population has grown since the 1994 conference, from 5.7 billion to about 7 billion. The U.N.'s top population official, Babatunde Osotimehin recently said the world will add a billion people within a decade, further straining the planet's resources.

    Kenya's deputy U.N. ambassador Koki Muli said there will be no final document from the 2014 session, a move that will avoid contentious negotiations on issues such as reproductive rights for women, sex education, abortion and family planning.

    The Cairo conference changed the U.N. Population Fund's focus from numerical targets to promoting choices for individual women and men, and supporting economic development and education for girls. Underlying the shift was research showing that educated women have smaller families.

    At the heart of the 1994 action plan is a demand for equality of women through education, access to modern birth control, and the right to choose if and when to become pregnant. It also recognized that abortion is practiced around the world and should be treated as a major public health issue and indicated that affordable and acceptable family planning is central to achieving safe motherhood. doclink

    Task Force to Kick Start Cairo Population Goals

    October 12 , 2012, IPS Inter Press Service   By: Becky Bergdahl

    In 1994 in Cairo, Egypt, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) instituted a Programme of Action which is the guiding document for the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.

    Recently, at the Ford Foundation in New York, a new 26-member high-level task force assembled to galvanise support behind the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

    Gita Sen is a professor of public policy at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, and has worked on population policies for 35 years. She is a member of the new task force, and attended the conference in Cairo in 1994.

    "I would not say that the goals have not been fulfilled, but that they have only been partially fulfilled," she said. "One thing that has definitely happened in those 18 years is that there is a language of sexual and reproductive rights, which was never there before." "This language has scared some people in governments, some very religious people, some social conservatives," she said.

    "They think that if women are empowered, if young people get autonomy and choice, they are going to lose out in terms of their ability to control them. Which is probably true, to some extent. But in the end it is for a better life for everybody."

    Sen said "The spread of evangelical conservatism in Africa is funded heavily from" the U.S. ..."It is funded by very rich people who are pouring their millions into very poor countries, in order to ensure that they turn their agenda away from sexual and reproductive rights, against gender equality. And with that much money pouring in it is hardly surprising that we have faced so much trouble as we do."

    Yet Sen maintains a positive attitude. "We are going to win this one. You can not keep young people and women back forever. This is not the dark ages," she concluded.

    200 million women worldwide still lack access to effective contraception, resulting in 80 million unintended pregnancies each year, with 40 million ending in unsafe abortions, many with life-threatening consequences. 800 women who carry out their pregnancies, wanted or unwanted, die every day in childbirth - 99% of them in developing countries.

    Ishita Chaudhry, a member of the new task force and the leader of the youth organisation TYPF in India, highlighted the importance of banning child marriage in order to achieve the ICPD goals.

    Child brides, girls married before their 18th birthday, run especially high risks of unwanted pregnancy and also of abuse. And there are currently over 60 million child brides worldwide.

    One in seven women experience domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime. Up to one in four women experience abuse during pregnancy.

    "Women's sexual and reproductive rights are at the heart of sustainable development," said Tarja Halonen, a former president of Finland and co-chair of the new high-level task force.

    "Pregnancy should be one of the happiest times in our life… Girls pay the price of taboos and double standards," she said. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: "179 nations at the 1994 Conference in Cairo endorsed the right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of one's children, and the right to a satisfying and safe sex life."

    Policymakers Recommit to Unfinished Agenda of Landmark International Consensus on Population and Development Adopted at 1994 Cairo Conference as 20-Year Marker Fast Approaches

    May 29, 2012, Planetwire.org

    In late May in Istanbul some 400 delegates, including more than 200 parliamentarians, discussed a course of action over the coming years to implement the ICPD Programme of Action by 2014 and beyond. They also considered ways to influence any new development framework to follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

    Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Jan Schakowsky from Chicago represented the United States at the parliamentarian conference.

    "ICPD is about human beings, respect, rights, and what we can do to ensure that every individual can make his or her own decisions," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

    Delegates committed themselves to its unfinished Cairo agenda plan by unanimously adopting the Istanbul Declaration of Commitment. In it, and under the theme, Keeping Promises — Measuring Results, they determined to advocate for increased national and external funding for the entire implementation of the ICPD agenda in order to achieve access to sexual and reproductive health, including family planning. They committed to strive to "attain at least 10 per cent of national development budgets and development assistance budgets for population and reproductive health programmes." That includes HIV prevention and reproductive health commodities.

    They pledged to support policies that give special attention to the specific concerns and needs of young people by promoting and protecting their right to "access good quality education at all levels, health, sexual and reproductive services, including comprehensive sexuality education," and to adopt measures to prevent all types of exploitation and abuse against them.

    The conference followed four similar global conferences, in Bangkok in 2006, Strasbourg in 2004, Ottawa in 2002 and Addis Ababa in 2009. doclink

    Conference Reaffirms Reproductive Rights

    May 25, 2012, IPS Inter Press Service

    Members of parliament meeting at the fifth International Parliamentarians Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) - held in Istanbul - agreed the economic crunch is no reason for governments to relax their commitment to women's reproductive rights and health, made 18 years ago.

    Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said 250 million women around the world do not have access to much-needed family planning services. "It is not acceptable because every life is worth more than the money that we talk about." he said.

    "We have what it takes to make a difference," Osotimehin said, referring to the advances in global communications and medical science since 1994, when the world adopted the ICPD Programme of Action to empower women to claim their reproductive rights.

    The conference aims at building on past commitments made in the first ICPD conference held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. The Programme of Action adopted nearly two decades ago set a target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015; which is also one of the most urgent targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    The good news is that maternal mortality has been reduced by 47% since 1990; still, governments are not doing enough to make reproductive health services widely available to women and young girls.

    "Our work is not done," he said, "until we are able to reach out to that little girl out there drawing water five miles away from her house, who, when she has her regular menstrual period, is sent out of the house because it is unacceptable in (her) culture to be the house." Such girls are denied the opportunity to realise their full potential.

    Safiye Cagar, of UNFPA, said reproductive health services, which are considered "soft issues" and therefore tend to be the first on the budgetary chopping blocks, unlike roads and schools. But building infrastructure will have little impact unless it is done in tandem with building a healthy population. "Full implementation of the Programme is not optional, it is essential, not just because of human rights but because so many other aspects of economic development hinge on its success."

    She called for governments to allocate 10% of their national budgets to ICPD programmes.

    Gita Sen, adjunct professor of global health and population at the Harvard School of Public Health, pointed out that the ICPD Programme is itself an unfinished agenda - the ICPD adopted in Cairo had talked about a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health package bolstered by a set of laws and regulations that would protect and promote the reproductive health rights of women, but family planning is still not integrated into issues like maternal mortality, and youth-specific sexual health needs are not being adequately addressed.

    The best example of this fragmentation is the global HIV epidemic, which in most places is a "vertical silo sitting by itself" or, at best, running parallel to the rest of the health system. If a woman contracts HIV, she could simultaneously be suffering from domestic violence, she may well have a maternity problem and, most likely, her children will be in dire need of support, according to Sen. A woman probably has neither the time nor the capacity to go to different places to receive treatment, she said.

    All the different sexual and reproductive health services need to be integrated as one package, which should give priority to family planning.

    As far as youth are concerned, the work being done on the ground to protect and preserve their rights is "next to nothing", Sen said. doclink

    Success Stories: Family Planning Works - Growth is Slowing!

    Why it Takes Teens With Condoms to Encourage Family Planning in Africa

    November 2013, Time magazine   By: Alexandra Sifferlin

    This year, Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, will host the annual International Family Planning Conference. Ethiopia's public health facilities offer several contraceptive options. Usage has grown from 8% in 2000 to 29% in 2011. Combining family planning with immunizations, antibiotics and other health services has reduced Ethiopia's maternal and child mortality rates. Minister of Health, Catherine Gotani Hara, says that women have fewer children when they expect them all to survive.

    The success of programs in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Malawi show that even poor nations can make family planning work. Contraceptives are free at public health clinics in all three of these nations. Women tend to pick long-acting reversible and discreet contraceptives (like implants and IUDs) over condoms and pills. But clinics offer other options so users can decide for themselves which methods to choose.

    Women often fear their husband's reaction, so health workers often offer birth control outside the clinic so husbands won't know that their wives have visited the program. Where men resist family planning, Ethiopia sends male mentors to their homes to help convince them. Officials in Rwanda encourage male family planning methods such as vasectomies. In Malawi, village campaigns headed by community chiefs promote family planning for couples. They include the voice and perspective of as many men as possible, including respected elders.

    Some programs also focus on teens. Although many 18-year-old girls are already married with children, some national leaders fail to acknowledge that teens have sex. Ethiopian community health centers now include youth services and private offices to educate teens and offer them contraceptives. Boys even learn about family planning in primary school. Since teens may feel uncomfortable discussing sex with adults, some organizations use unconventional approaches to reach them. For example, Planned Parenthood partners with Mary Joy Aid Through Development to train Ethiopian teens as peer health promoters who can talk to other teens about sexual health issues and distribute pills and condoms.

    Ethiopia's constitution makes access to family planning a woman's right, which highlights the critical role it has in that nation. Rwanda also introduced strong policies in support of family planning. It improved access to contraceptives by stocking up all public health clinics and training more family planning providers. This resulted in a 10-fold increase in contraceptive use (from 4% of married women of reproductive age in 2000 to 45% by 2010).

    In Ethiopia and Malawi, health extension workers help get people to clinics. USAID helps these nations fund the Women's Development Army, which trains community mothers as extension workers. In addition to a hospital and small health center in every community, Ethiopia also staffs a health post with two extension workers. They go door to door and they host informal gatherings to promote family planning and answer questions. Before joining the Women's Development Army, Yenenesh Deresa had her first of five children at 15. Now she talks to women about family planning over coffee. She says this empowers women to make their own decisions and have safer pregnancies.

    Countries that lower their fertility rates often experience an economic boost known as the demographic dividend. Family planning allows more women to work and help grow the economy. Where girls can work and support themselves, the nation has fewer dependents, thus adding to its stability. The first step is to lower fertility rates, but for young people of both genders to join the workforce, they must be trained and jobs must exist. This is mainly a problem for girls in low-resource countries since about a quarter of them get pregnant and drop out of school. Roman Tesfaye, First Lady of Ethiopia, says to become a middle income nation, girls "need to be protected from unplanned pregnancies." Zewdtu Areda, who oversees health services in her area, sees significant progress. "You can see that things are changing now for women. I am a woman, and I am a leader here." doclink

    Art says: According to 2013 CIA World Factbook estimates, these three nations still have a long way to go. Ethiopia has 5.31 children per woman. Malawi has 5.26 children per woman, and Rwanda has 4.71 children per woman

    Why I Work on Family Planning and Reproductive Health: Reflections on World Population Day

    July 11, 2013, MSH - Management Sciences for Health   By: Fabio Castaño

    In the 1960s, during Columbia's demographic transition, Fabio's Castaño's father and mother came from large families and consequently never went to college, but instead had to work hard as teens to help their families. At that time Profamilia, a Columbian affiliate of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), was helping steer the country through successful demographic transition. Fabio's mother wanted an education for her children and convinced her husband that the best way out of poverty was hard work and having a small family.

    Out of their large extended family of 70-plus, Fabio was the first one to graduate from college and medical school. Fabio's two sisters also received an education. Fabio's story exemplifies how access to reproductive health and family planning in a low-income country can have tremendous economic and life-transforming impact for young people and a whole generation -- beyond the reduction in fertility and improvements in health.

    On July 11, World Population Day, we observed the one-year anniversary of the London Summit and the launch of the FP2020 initiative. The momentum for voluntary family planning and reproductive health is growing, However, globally more than 200 million females still have an unmet need. Many of them are adolescents.This unmet need leads to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

    This unmet need can be met through quality family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) services. innovative public/private partnerships and high impact, evidence-based interventions, such as through integrating FP/RH with adolescent health and maternal, newborn, and child health services and HIV services, implementing community-based FP, encouraging healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, and by ensuring contraceptive security.

    MSH - Management Sciences for Health - has over 40 years of experience in bolstering the capacity of local partners to dramatically expand community-based care, especially key maternal, neonatal, child health, adolescent, and family planning services. MSH has been actively engaged in helping end child marriage, such as through promoting equal access to health care for women and girls in more than 135 countries for over four decades.

    Choosing to have a small family—and having access to quality family planning services and information—can lead to a multitude of positive effects for people's health, education, and economic safety. doclink

    DKT International's Social Impact Entrepreneurs Are Transforming Family Planning

    April 25, 2013, Business Wire

    DKT uses social impact entrepreneurship as a tool to sell condoms and other contraceptives and provide reproductive health and family planning services, through innovative marketing and distribution channels, including the Internet, social media sites, midwives, clinics, drug and grocery stores. This approach differs greatly from traditional nonprofits by providing goods and services as normal commercial purchases that offer consumers a benefit at an affordable price.

    In its most recent fiscal year DKT's $130 million in total revenue was balanced by an equal amount spent on programs, with approximately 70% of program costs recovered through sales. The balance of revenue comes from donors, and DKT's revenue generating models greatly leverage donor funds. It's an entrepreneurial model that works. In 2012 DKT programs prevented an estimated 8.2 million unwanted pregnancies, 1.7 million abortions, and more than 14,000 maternal deaths.

    Christopher Purdy, Executive Vice President of DKT International says: "Our strategy depends on recruiting high performing people who are true social impact entrepreneurs. Many country directors have undergraduate or advanced business degrees, and some have served in corporate marketing or business capacities before joining us. They direct a field staff of 1,800 people and have wide autonomy to make decisions quickly."

    DKT International's use of social marketing for reproductive health products and services builds contraception and family planning demand through mass media and non-traditional messaging that reduce social stigma and target all socio-economic groups. Each country director runs his or her custom-tailored, culturally appropriate program designed to reach the maximum number of people in each market segment.

    "Our directors use new approaches in countries where tradition, religious restrictions, government censorship and politics complicate their task," Purdy added. “By providing people with an essential service that they value, and can afford, our country directors create real momentum for social change." doclink

    According to Wikipedia, DKT International is Washington, D.C.-based; was founded in 1989 by Phil Harvey and operates in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 2012, DKT sold over 600 million condoms, 76 million cycles of oral contraceptives, 16 million injectable contraceptives and 1.5 million intrauterine devices (IUDs). This is equivalent to 25 million couple years of protection (CYPs), making DKT one of the largest private providers of contraceptives in the developing world. The average cost per CYP was less than US$3.00. Charity Navigator has given DKT a four-star financial rating, with 98.3% of its budget going towards programs and 1.6% towards administration and fund raising in 2010.

    Thailand: Thai Restaurant Offers Family Planning Advice with Meals

    December 20 , 2012, Times of India

    Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant Years ago former politician and activist Mechai Viravaidya popularised condoms, family planning and AIDS awareness in Thailand and helped establish a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms where condoms are distributed along with the bill. Eventually six such restaurants were established across the south east Asian country.

    Now the idea has been brought over to the UK with the new restaurant in Bicester, Oxfordshire, leading the way with all profits from merchandise sales donated to charitable causes in Thailand.

    Diners are given leaflets on protective sex at the end of the meal and even encouraged to buy condom-themed merchandise. The new restaurant even has the slogan 'and remember our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.'

    The name of the eatery refers to the idea that people should buy condoms alongside everyday mundane items such as cabbages.

    Diners at the new restaurant will get the chance to sample traditional Thai food 'in a cosy atmosphere.' Later they are urged to buy unusual condom-themed merchandise such as mugs, keyrings and books and even a mascot made out of the contraceptive. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I have eaten in the Bangkok Cabbages and Condoms. It is a very nice restaurant with a fun gift shop to browse.

    Thailand's fertility rate is 1.58 and it's population growth rate is 0.6% and still declining.

    Niger: Traditional Chiefs Sign Landmark Commitment

    November 26, 2012, Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

    In a forum organized by UNFPA Niger, 80 traditional chiefs have signed a statement of commitment to raise awareness of the crucial inter-relationship between literacy, education and reproductive health. The high turnout included three influential Emirs of Niger - the Sultan of Zinder, the Sultan of Dosso, and the Sultan of Matame.

    The Declaration is committed to highlighting family planning, to all children receiving at least secondary school-level education, and to the need to end child marriage. It also recognizes the inter-relationship between demographic growth, development and poverty, and calls for boys and men to be involved in reproductive health issues, modelled on the "Husbands' School", a strategy to involve men in health promotion and foster change at community level. doclink

    In Morocco, More Modern Contraceptive Use Plays Key Role in Decreasing Maternal Deaths

    June 29, 2012, Population Reference Bureau blog

    In Morocco there has been a 60% decline in the numbers of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth and a rapid increase in modern contraceptive use by both rural and urban women and for relatively low levels of "unmet need" for family planning - defined as the share of women who wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using contraception.

    Morocco's maternal death rate is now closer to the average for Central America (90 per 100,000) than the average for the North African region (270 per 100,000) or Africa as a whole (590 per 100,000).

    The share of married women ages 15 to 49 who want to postpone or avoid pregnancy was about 60% in 2004 and 80% by 2011, when 67% were using contraception.

    Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi, Middle East and North Africa program director at the Population Reference Bureau said, "When a woman wants a smaller family and uses contraception effectively, she can have fewer pregnancies—reducing her lifetime risk of disability and death from complications during pregnancy and childbirth."

    The nation is poised to to be on track to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 5 - reducing maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015. Morocco has made safe motherhood a priority and invested in increased availability of voluntary family planning services, expanded and improved maternal health care, and ensured access to obstetric care (including Caesarian birth) in part by eliminating fees.

    The Moroccan government has been by focusing on household-based delivery of family planning services, making modern contraceptives available to low-income and rural women who would otherwise not have access to private-sector services.

    57% of Moroccan married women of reproductive age were using a modern contraceptive method in 2011, an increase from 36% since 1992. 10% were using traditional family planning methods, compared with about 6% in 1992.

    While 44% of all Moroccan women ages 15 and older are literate, 72% of young women - ages 15 to 24 - are literate, according to 2009 UN data.

    A 2011 PAPFAM survey found that Moroccan women were having 2.6 children on average in 2011. The change has been particularly dramatic among women living in rural areas, whose fertility declined from 6.6 births in 1980 to 3.2 births on average in 2011.

    Modern contraceptive use among married women in the poorest quintile rose from 18% to 55% - not far behind that of women in the richest quintile. Unmet need for family planning among the poorest women was cut by more than half during that time.

    The 2011 PAPFAM survey results also reflect dramatic increases in health care during pregnancy and childbirth, which research has linked to improved survival of both mothers and children. These changes are partly the result of policies that increased the number of trained midwives and removed the barriers that prevented rural women from accessing health care during pregnancy and delivery, including transportation.

    Between 1992 and 2011, the share of births delivered at home declined from 95 percent to 61 percent for women in the poorest fifth of the population and from 73 percent to 14 percent for women with incomes in the middle fifth.

    72% of women practicing family planning rely on the pill and 16 percent rely on traditional methods. Morocco's family planning program would benefit from expanding services to include more contraceptive choices, including condoms that prevent both pregnancy and HIV.

    Moroccan family planning and maternal health services tend to focus on the needs of married women and these programs should be expanded to serve unmarried couples who are sexually active. "The number of couples in such relationships is not high, but the fact that women in such relationships find it difficult to access family planning counseling and services puts their health and well-being in danger, particularly if they are young," Roudi-Fahimi said. doclink

    Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar Connect Family Planning with Environmental Health

    January 2012, Population Reference Bureau

    Remote rural communities in developing countries typically face the related challenges of extreme poverty, poor health, and environmental degradation. And population growth often exacerbates these challenges. In communities that face environmental challenges along with high fertility and high maternal and child mortality, health programs that include family planing can have great benefits for the health and well-being of women and families, with positive influences on the local environment. Meeting the reproductive health needs of women and ensuring environmental sustainability by connecting family planning with environment programs has proven to be a "win-win" strategy. Yet this connection has often been seen as controversial or irrelevant to environmental policymaking.

    Developing countries, with their faster rates of population growth, are contributing a growing share of CO2 emissions, due to rapid deforestation which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    The UNDP says that developing countries face a double burden of being more vulnerable to wider environmental challenges such as climate change but also having to cope with immediate environmental problems such as resource depletion and poor water quality.

    Family planning is a response to an existing need, and it gives women autonomy and equity. A 2008 study found that unintended pregnancy accounts for up to 41% of all births worldwide and over 200 million women worldwide have an unmet need for family planning. Family planning is "the factor in population growth most amenable to program and policy interventions," according to the UNFPA.

    Researchers estimate that the demand for contraception will grow by 40% over the next 15 years. The context of family planning has shifted from population control decades ago to individual rights. And the impetus for programs is coming from local communities and developing countries.

    In Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Wildlife Fund, through partnerships with local nongovernmental organizations and the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is working to improve access to family planning in rural areas with existing conservation programs to give women more autonomy to limit their births and improve maternal and under-5 mortality.

    The family planning projects began with women reporting no access to family planning services in remote areas. The closest health center to either give birth or access other health services is up to 30 kilometers away and has few personnel, very limited equipment, and often no medicines. Because of this challenge, the programs focus on training community-based health workers who distribute contraceptives and provide guidance and counseling in rural villages. Public awareness campaigns, based on face-to-face dialogue, focuses on the benefits of family planning on women's health and income and how these benefits extend to children, families, and the entire community. Women with access to family planning services will know how to space births, have the time to recover from childbirth, and have the strength to work in their own businesses or in agriculture, leading to more income.

    Women also participate in land management training. With access to reproductive health, women are healthier to participate in conservation activities, decreasing the population pressure on the environment.

    Madagascar, off the coast of Eastern Africa, is home to 5% of global biodiversity and 80% of its flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world. With a per capita GDP of only US$438, it is a "least developed country," . Its population of 21 million is projected to reach 29 million by 2025. Maternal mortality is extremely high, and only 29% of married women are using modern contraception.

    In a coastal area that depends on fishing, women average six to seven children each, the closest facility that provides reproductive health care is 50 kilometers away through a desert, and high fertility and unmet need for family planning is stressing the environment. The number of fishermen in some areas has almost tripled from 535 to 1,510 in 20 years. And in 2011, 60% of the fish caught were juveniles, a trend that points to unsustainable fishing practices.

    On the other hand, Blue Ventures, a UK-based marine conservation organization dedicated to conservation, education, and sustainable development in tropical coastal communities, started the Velondriake marine conservation program in a remote area on Madagascar to support sustainable resource use and in 2007, and opened regional family planning clinics serving 40 villages by 2011. The clinics focus on peer-led education campaigns, group discussions, educational films, and community events such as theater, sports, and cultural activities. The contraceptive prevalence has risen from under 10% in January 2007 to almost 35% by January 2011, and the fertility rate has fallen by about one-third since the start of the project. doclink

    Pathfinder Saves Lives

    November 24, 2011, Pathfinder

    Pathfinder tells the story of Georgette, a mother in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been pregnant 20 times and lost 7 of her babies to starvation. Then she met a Pathfinder-trained community health worker. Empowered with information about family planning, Georgette was finally able to make decisions about her body and her future. She told one of Pathfinder's staff, "family planning saved my life."

    In the first six months of 2011, Pathfinder was able to provide much-needed services through more than 9.4 million visits and contacts with Pathfinder-supported health providers.

    Pathfinder says: your generous support and continued involvement - whether by signing a petition, sharing a video, attending an event, or following us on Facebook - means a lot. doclink

    Holdups: Male Preference, Violence to Women, and Others

    Madhya Pradesh Tribal Women Have No Idea of Contraceptive Use

    January 24, 2014, Times of India

    The state government of Madhya Pradesh claims to be actively educating residents about family planning, but evidence shows that half of the tribal women residing in the state are clueless about modern family planning methods.

    Vandana Tamrakarm, a research scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University conducted a study that revealed tribal women in Madhya Pradesh do not understand the concept of birth control.

    The study found that only 49% of tribal women have knowledge of contraceptive use. Only 41% women are aware of male condoms, 29% know about IUD (intrauterine device), and only a mere 14% know about the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP).

    "The reason for the low awareness could be attributed to low literacy rate and lack of exposure," explained Tamrakar. Results also showed that middle-aged, higher educated women are likely to use the modern method of contraception as compared to the younger women (aged 15-24).

    Using the information collected from District level Household Survey (DLHS), Tamrakar collected information from 51,419 households, 46,634 currently married women (aged 15-49), and 9,940 unmarried women (aged 15-24) from 45 districts of Madhya Pradesh.

    Tamrakar explained that adding that use of modern methods in Madhya Pradesh is affected by many factors like age of women, religion, couple education and economic status.

    Additional findings of the study have also found that despite some women in the study possessing higher levels of education, there was no significant association of contraception use. Tamrakar believes the situation could improve with the positive changes in economic statuses of families. doclink

    U.S.: Choice Project - Obstacles to IUDs

    August 09 , 2012, WOA website

    There was a discussion on Facebook about the Choice Project in St. Louis where women were given the choice of contraception, and most of them chose IUDs and implants, which resulted in fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions.

    Caitlin wrote: "There's a huge stigma to giving them out to "possibly slutty" women. My sister went to 2 private practice doctors who balked at giving one to someone under 20, and in "just" a year-long relationship. She finally got it at PP, which is why they are awesome :) The one doctor I went with her to talk to literally said "this would allow you to sleep around without consequences, and I'm not comfortable giving these out in those cases. I only do them for married women.""

    Anna wrote: "The reason my provider gave is that doctors are skittish about lawsuits - if you've never had a baby, and after you take the IUD out you have problems conceiving, you might blame the IUD and therefore the doctor." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We must work hard to make long-acting reversible contraception available to any woman or teen who is engaged in sexual behavior, married or not. Such barriers are what keep the U.S. fertility rate up.

    Con Las Manos Vacias: Delivering on the Right to Contraception

    July 2013, Population Action International

    Women in Latin American women go to a clinic for contraception, but often leave empty handed. They could easily become pregnant before they return to the clinic. As a result, more than half of pregnancies in Latin America are unplanned.

    Con Las Manos Vacias (empty hands)) was produced by a partnership between Population Action International and the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition.

    Share this video to spread the word: saying family planning is a priority isn't enough, it's time to make sure contraceptive supplies make it into the hands of women.

    doclink

    Why Has the Demographic Transition Stalled in Sub-Saharan Africa?

    August 07, 2013, NewSecurityBeat   By: Elizabeth Leahy Madsen

    The stalling fertility transitions across much of sub-Saharan Africa have motivated resulted in upward revisions in projections of Africa's population, directly affecting the resources that will be required to improve economic well-being, human capital, and social resilience among a young rapidly growing population.

    Southern African countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland) had an estimated total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.6 children per woman in 2005-2010, about half the level of Eastern, Western, and Central Africa, excepting Rwanda, with a 25% fertility decline 2005-2010.

    What are the differences between countries that are recording steady fertility declines from those where fertility has been stagnant or even rising?

    The "demographic transition" is a long process, during which populations move from high fertility and high mortality rates; to a period of low mortality rates and high fertility; and then to both low fertility and low mortality rates, which creates the temporary economic opportunity for a "demographic dividend." Some countries have completed this transition very quickly while others have stalled.

    Of the 22 countries included in the analysis, 10 recorded an annual fertility decline of at least 0.05 child per woman between the two most recent surveys and are considered to comprise the group in transition. The remaining 12 countries are experiencing a fertility stall; half of them actually recorded a small increase.

    In 18 of the 22 countries over 90% of those surveyed had knowledge of modern contraception, but in Niger and Nigeria, it was only two-thirds, and in Chad, only 49%. Chad also has one of the lowest rates of modern contraceptive use in the world, at less than 2%.

    In the stalling countries women in the middle of their reproductive years (ages 30 to 34) had their first child about six months earlier, at age 19.5, compared to age 20 among the transition countries. Modern contraceptive use among married women is much lower among the stalling countries, with a median of 11%, compared to 28% among the transition countries.

    Ideal family size is higher among the countries with fertility stalls, at an average of 6.0 children per woman, compared to 4.6 in the transition countries. In Chad and Niger, two of the stalling countries, married women report an ideal family size of nine children. Among the transition countries, ideal family sizes range from 3.6 children in Rwanda to 5.5 in Senegal.

    In Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, actual TFR is at least one child per woman below the mean ideal number of children, which would indicate that the desire to use family planning to limit childbearing is probably weak, although there may be interest in birth spacing. Of all of the stalling countries, only in Zambia are women having at least one child more, on average, than their ideal family size; this is the case in three of the transition countries, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and suggests likely demand for contraception in those places.

    Reasons for non-use of contraception are:

    * A woman believes that she cannot or will not get pregnant

    * She, her partner, or religious beliefs oppose family planning

    * She does not know a method or how to obtain one

    * She lacks physical or financial access to obtain a method

    * She has health concerns about contraception or its side effects

    In the stalling countries, the percentage of women who say they are not using family planning because they want more children is about twice as high as in transition countries (22 to 12%). Of the women who do not cite this reason, about 25% are not using contraception because they believe they do not need to. Another 20% of women in all countries cite opposition; in Nigeria and Senegal, it is the main reason provided by 40% of non-users.

    Health-related reasons are offered by an average of 27% of women in transition countries, tied with fertility-related issues as the most common reason for non-use. In stalled countries, only 16% cite health reasons for not using contraception.

    Another factor is the quality of national family planning programs in terms of funding, human resources, logistics, and political commitment. Demographers have found that increases in women's education and improvements in infant and child mortality contribute to faster fertility declines. This highlights the contributions of multi-sectoral social development policies to demographic change. Education affects fertility through contraceptive use and age at marriage, and mortality decline precedes fertility decline in the demographic transition.

    Knowing the reasons that women do not use contraception indicates an opportunity for governments and their partners to provide better information and education to potential users of family planning, to ensure that the quality of health services provided is high, and to improve the overall policy environment for health and for family planning in particular.

    Fertility is unlikely to decline dramatically while desired family size remains high. Not only are demographic transitions within Africa not following the mold of other regions, they are not following one another. doclink

    Syria: Why is Family Planning Seldom Prioritised in Refugee Settings?

    July 25, 2013, Guardian   By: Lizzy Berryman

    Imagine fleeing from Syria to Lebanon, which is often a long and treacherous journey. On arrival, your first thoughts go to basic needs, like food and shelter. Though this is a bad time and place to conceive, you find that reproductive health services are scarce in refugee settings. This year, 50,000 Syrian refugees will become pregnant - many of whom had been practicing birth control at home. Before the civil war, 58% of non-pregnant married women received free birth control from Syria's health system, but among refugees, only 37% are using contraception. On average, conflict-affected settings receive 50% less funding for reproductive health than stable settings.

    Difficult pregnancies are commonplace when women are driven from their homes. Pregnancy adds more stress and hardship, and delivery is often more complicated for those who have been through the trauma of fleeing a conflict. 15% of deliveries result in life-threatening complications that require emergency obstetric care, which only a doctor or midwife can provide. But that type of care may not exist, so refugees face a greater risk of hazardous birth complications.

    Some women give birth alone; others get to clinics, but when blood transfusions are urgently needed miles from the nearest hospital or blood bank, lives are at risk. Syrian refugees frequently tell aid workers they are terrified of becoming pregnant. Yet even though the risks are greater, reproductive health is often neglected in emergency relief situations.

    Why is family planning so rare in refugee settings? Lebanon, whose population has grown by nearly 25% since the war in Syria began, can hardly meet the demand for basic healthcare. Many refugees live in unofficial settlements far from cities and don't know where to get healthcare. At local privately run clinics, the consultation fee and pill prescription may cost only a few dollars, but most Syrian refugees are entirely reliant on savings, which dwindle quickly. Understandably, even when NGOs set up focus groups on family planning, people switch the subject and give highest priority to hunger, shelter, sickness, and jobs. doclink

    Mali: On the Wrong Side of the Demographic Divide

    May 25, 2013, Population Institute

    Many of the world's developing countries have gone through a demographic transition from high mortality, high fertility, and rapid population growth to low mortality, low fertility, and a slower population growth rate.

    The leads to smaller and healthier families, enabling of these countries to reap a "demographic dividend." Able to invest more in their children's nutrition, education and health, economic growth rates have soared. Examples are South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Chile, Brazil and Mexico.

    Some developing countries, however, have not lowered their fertility rates enough and have not made the demographic transition. Among them are countries that have become "failing states," experiencing violent conflict and making little or no progress in reducing severe poverty, alleviating chronic hunger, or lowering childhood mortality. These include countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.

    Recently, Mali became a failed state. Its democracy had held great promise, but then a military coup overthrew the government in Bamako and months later an Islamic insurgency broke out in the northern half of the country. France sent troops to quell the terrorists but the fighting could erupt again if the French forces are withdrawn later this year as presently scheduled.

    Mali ranked 175 out of 187 countries on the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index. 75% live on less than $2 a day. Having suffered three major droughts in a decade, conditions are expected to worsen further as a result of climate change.

    Mali's population has been growing at an unsustainable annual rate of around 3%. "In an undeveloped and largely barren land too many people are competing for too few local resources and opportunities. Young men have limited hopes of finding employment or even sustenance and are therefore deeply susceptible to the temptation of armed criminality and insurgency and to the lure of radical preachers who seem to offer them both a sense of purpose and scapegoats whom they can blame for their woes." -- Roger Howard, Foreign Policy, January 28, 2013

    Mali's population has tripled over the past half century, to 16 million today, and is projected to reach 45.3 million by 2050. Half the population is under 15 years of age. 25% of girls are married before age 15.

    There are fears that the troubles now engulfing the northern half of Mali could spread to other countries in the African Sahel, many of which are struggling with severe poverty, water scarcity, and chronic hunger and also experiencing rapid population growth.

    As required by U.S. law, all non-humanitarian assistance, including family planning assistance, to Mali was suspended following last summer's takeover.

    Even if the suspension is lifted, the level of U.S. support for international family planning and reproductive health is falling. The recent budget agreement for fiscal year 2013 reduces America's support for IFP/RH by $12 million. This money could have given 624,000 women access to family planning services, preventing 180,000 unintended pregnancies, and 84,000 abortions, including 60,000 unsafe abortions.

    Developing countries that would be impacted by proposed cuts include Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, and Haiti, all of which are experiencing rapid population growth. doclink

    Pakistan: Population Pressures

    April 1 , 2013

    So many people blame Pakistan's social decay on terrorism or political crisis or economic woes, but rarely look at the deaths of mothers and children during delivery due to lack of medical facilities, malnourishment and unplanned pregnancies. While terrorist attacks have killed 40,000 in Pakistan since 2011, around 20,000 mothers die every year from complications during childbirth, according to the NGO Population Council. And our child mortality rate is the fourth largest in the world.

    Pakistan, with 180 million people - 2.6% of the world's population, is the sixth most populous country in the world. Its total fertility rate (TFR) is 3 children per woman., and its economic growth rate is only 3%, compared with China's 9.2% and Bangladesh's 6.1%. Bangladesh has a TFR of 2.2. If Pakistan's TFR does not change, its population will reach nearly 380 million by 2050 and the country will face a devastating scarcity of resources, according to the UN.

    The Malthusian Theory of Population is still workable to understand the relation of population growth in geometric means and food growth in arithmetic means while technology remains constant.

    Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan and political parties still do not have a clear vision to address this issue, imposing birth control panic with slogans like "bachay do hi achay" (Two Children are enough), which created further fear and confusion among masses.

    Little or no progress has been made in Balochistan, with a TFR of 4.1, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa - 4.3, Punjab - 3.9. Major political parties chant slogans for the empowerment of women but when it comes to women's health, they hesitate to include the population issue in their manifestos. The MQM is the only political party whose manifesto reflects the need for family welfare.

    There is a great need for parliament to introduce legislation to provide an enabling environment for mothers and children to seek health care and make it incumbent upon the state to provide essential services. Investment in education and health for our women can considerably increase the economic growth of the country. Health education should be part of school curricula at the middle and higher levels. Furthermore, there is a need to incorporate lady health workers into the local government system to provide basic awareness, facilities and services to males and females at the grass-root level.

    In this way we can stabilise the economic growth of our country, manage its resources, prevent our mothers and newborns from death, and have safe births to protect and secure society at large. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Note that Bangladesh's TFR is now almost replacement. When I was there in 2000, it was around 3.0. In 2003 it had not budged and I thought they were stuck on male preference. However, Bangladesh TFR in the last 10 years has declined dramatically. My observation is that girl's education has finally kicked in, with girls now graduating from high school (and not getting married so early). The government had already had introduced contraception, along with reproductive health and infant survival using the Green Umbrella campaign. Bangladesh did NOT use one-child or two-child slogans. USAID financed Bangladesh's Green Umbrella campaign. This success story would not have happened without sufficient funding.

    New Study Finds Little Progress in Meeting Demand for Contraception in the Poorest Countries

    May 25, 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    A Guttmacher study - "Trends in Contraceptive Need and Use in Developing Countries in 2003, 2008, 2012" - finds that, from 2003 to 2012, the number of women wanting to avoid pregnancy and in need of contraception increased from 716 million to 867 million, with the biggest growth concentrated in the 69 poorest countries where modern method use was already very low.

    73% of the 222 million women in developing countries who want to avoid a pregnancy but are not using a modern method now live in the poorest countries, compared with 67% in 2003. These women in the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy are one-third as likely to be using a modern method as those living in higher-income developing countries.

    Notable progress in contraceptive use was made in Eastern Africa (31% to 46%), Southern Africa (75% to 83%), Southeast Asia (64% to 72%), Central America (71% to 77%) and South America (73% to 79%). However, in most subregions modern contraceptive use grew more slowly between 2008 and 2012 than between 2003 and 2008.

    Population growth and the growing desire for smaller families will increase the number and proportion of women with unmet need especially in the 69 poorest countries.

    Between 2003 and 2012, the use of sterilization declined from 47% to 38% of all modern method use in developing countries, and toward methods with higher failure rates, namely barrier methods (increasing from 7% to 13%) and injectables (from 6% to 9%). This demonstrates the need for services that help women use reversible contraceptive methods consistently and correctly.

    Study author Susheela Singh concluded: "Improving the quality of services must become a priority." ... "This includes providing adequate follow-up care, facilitating informed choice among methods, increasing public education and addressing the needs of young people for quality information and services." doclink

    Lack of Funding, Narrow-Minded Policy Makers

    The Geography of Unintended Pregnancy (infographic)

    September 04 , 2013, Huffington Post

    About half of the of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year are unplanned, according to a new state-level analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. The unintended pregnancy rate is a standout in the industrialized world, and has remained nearly flat since the 1980s despite advances in birth control technology and availability.

    Women with incomes at or below the federal poverty line are five times more likely than those at the highest income levels to become pregnant by accident — and unintended pregnancies have become increasingly clustered among the poor in recent years. Most of the births resulting from unplanned pregnancies are publicly funded, and they aren't cheap.

    Unintended pregnancy remains the main reason for abortion, a procedure three in 10 American women have by age 45.

    doclink

    Family Planning is Key to Healthy Pregnancies and Births

    May 10, 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    Each year in the United States an estimated 11,300 babies die on the day they are born, according to Save the Children. This is the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world. Investing in and expanding the reach of programs like Medicaid and Title X would make affordable pregnancy-related care and family planning services available to millions of women otherwise unable to obtain such care and would result in fewer first day deaths.

    Contributing factors include preterm, unplanned and teen births. One in eight U.S. babies are born prematurely and U.S. preterm births rank second only to Cyprus in the industrialized world. Half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended and the U.S. adolescent birth rate is the highest among industrialized countries -- with teenage mothers tending to be poorer, less educated and receiving less prenatal care than older mothers.

    Comprehensive efforts are needed to reduce pervasive economic, social and health disparities, including improving access to high-quality, affordable maternity care for all women and making effective family planning available to every woman who needs it. These interventions are proven to offer direct and positive effects on newborns' and mothers' health.

    Studies show there is a causal link between proper birth spacing and low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age. There is also an association between pregnancy intention and delayed initiation of prenatal care; women are less likely to recognize a pregnancy early if it is unplanned and therefore have fewer prenatal care visits. Children born from unintended pregnancies are less likely to be breast-fed at all or for a long duration.

    Contraception has played a major roll in the drop of the U.S. teen birth rate, which has declined for nearly two decades and the 2010 rate represents a 44% drop from the 1991 rate.

    Medicaid, Title X and other public programs help women avoid 1.94 million unintended pregnancies each year, which would otherwise result in 860,000 unplanned births and 810,000 abortions. Without these programs, levels of unintended pregnancy would be nearly two-thirds higher among U.S. women overall and among teens -- and close to twice as high among poor women. Ideological and fiscal attacks against these programs are not only counterproductive, but threaten to worsen what is already a severe crisis for U.S. women and newborns. doclink

    The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics

    December 29, 2012, RH Reality Check   By: Jon O'Brien

    The organization Catholics for Choice has made a movie called "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics." Jon O'Brien, who was the one who decided to make the movie, explained that he was talking to a stranger who felt uncomfortable with many of the positions taken by Catholics for Choice, and O'brian told the gentleman that his work in support of reproductive rights was not despite his Catholic faith, but because of it.

    The Catholic "social justice tradition wouldn't let me turn my back on people in need; nor would it allow me to ignore the importance of conscience in moral decision-making. Both issues relate directly to reproductive health: women are in the best place to make the decisions that affect their health, and deserve all the support necessary when life's challenges threaten their well-being, their health, or even their very lives. Those who are rich will always have the means to bypass the obstacles in their way, legal or otherwise, whereas the poor and needy are always the ones who suffer."

    O'Brian asked the gentleman "Why do you deny the truth about all the affirming messages in Catholic theology about women, choice, and sexuality in general?" and was told: "Those issues are too hot to handle." He would have been denied mainstream acceptance and positions if he'd tackled issues like reproductive rights. Rather than pick that fight, he had chosen, as many others do, to keep his head down Apparently those whose understanding and interpretation of core Catholic teachings is a little different the standard teaching are slighted and attacked for raising legitimate points of view about church teaching.

    There is a reason why people like Bishop Kevin Dowling, who tells the truth about Catholics and condoms in the shanty towns of South Africa, do not attain the trappings of power, position, and influence that have been lavished upon so many ultra-conservative American clergymen of late.

    "Telling the truth about Catholic theology really matters. It matters for reasons of self-respect, and it matters for so many who think they have to choose between their faith and how they live their lives. For me, working with theologians and so many marvelous thinkers in the church who are not afraid to stand up and speak out has been an amazing experience. It is truly liberating when you see that it is possible to be both true to yourself and authentically Catholic at the same time."

    And so, after talking to a filmmaker, the "The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics" was born.

    The "secret" is that there is more than one magisterium -- in addition to the hierarchy, there is also the magisterium of the theologians and that of the people. This means that any of us can be called to teach, and for many this can mean doing what the theologians and thinkers in the film have done: bravely speak out. Their paths often lead straight into confrontation with established authority.

    The first day we released the movie, thousands of people worldwide -- from the Philippines to South Africa, from the US to Eastern Europe -- watched the film online. There is clearly a genuine hunger for this message.

    Non-Catholics have learned from the film what the majority of Catholics actually believe. And the story told by "The Secret History" isn't just for Catholics. It gets to the heart of how we all make moral decisions and seek compassionate answers. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: population activists often get accused of being racist. Why do so many people think that family planning is evil? Why can't they see family planning benefits the family primarily, the community secondarily, and the world is behind family and community in importance.

    Philippines Faces Contraception Vote

    August 06, 2012, Wall Street Journal

    There has been controversy in the Philippines as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and President Benigno Aquino III clash over a proposed reproductive-health bill designed to bring down the country's unusually high birthrate.

    With a population of 104 million people and a birthrate of 25 births per 1,000 every year (compared to 13.7 per 1,000 in the U.S.) economists have suggested that the problems the Philippines has experienced in terms of poverty, pressure on natural resources and overburdened infrastructure will continue to cause hardship unless something is done. Affluent couples in the country have fewer than three children on average but the country's low-income mothers have nearly six.

    The proposed bill, which is being debated in the Philippines House of Representatives, would require the government to make contraceptives available. It would also require officials to provide information on family-planning methods and provide classes on reproductive health and sexuality in schools.

    With the results of a vote from the Philippines House of Representatives expected any day now the Catholic Church has been leading widespread protests, with an estimated 10,000 people protesting the bill in Manila in one day alone. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Pangasinan province attended the rally and was quoted as saying "Contraception is corruption", "The use of government and taxpayer money to promote contraception is tantamount to corruption." He also expressed concerns that contraception made sex "cheap without responsibility".

    Despite support for the bill from the United Nations, the bill would not only have to pass the vote in the House of Representatives, it would require support from the senate, which analysts say will be difficult.

    Despite these difficulties, President Aquino seems determined to reduce poverty and improve the economy, and has met with some success in this regard. The GDP grew by 6.4% in the first quarter compared with last year (the fastest increase in six quarters) and country has experienced a series of credit rating upgrades.

    In spite of these economic improvements the Catholic Church maintains its opposition, with the belief that economic development does not outweigh their moral concerns. doclink

    FY 2011 Country Operational Plan Guidance Fails to Offer Detailed and Realistic Plan to Support HIV-FP (Family Planning) Integration

    October 12, 2010, Population Action International

    PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) should ensure that a HIV-positive woman who wants to prevent unintended pregnancy can receive family planning services at any PEPFAR location. The ability to meet the immediate needs of a woman and provide comprehensive prevention of mother-to- child transmission (PMTCT) programs should not be contingent on the presence of another program or funding stream.

    In PEPFAR's annual Country Operational Plan (COP) guidance to the field, the Obama administration in principle continues to support an integrated, women and girl-centered approach to health services, but fails to provide implementers with the tools and guidance needed to make that a reality. This is a surprising development as it is the first COP released after the announcement of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) Plus Countries, and yet is out of step with public statements made by high-level officials touting the women and girl-centered, integrated approach to global health.

    As the COP process, GHI and PEPFAR implementation and additional guidance continue to evolve, we encourage partners in the field to communicate with staff at their mission and in the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator about what is working and what is not in order to inform their future decisions.

    The FY11 COP guidance says that:

    Any family planning services, including the provision of contraceptives for PMTCT, that are integrated with HIV services, must continue to be funded out of separate accounts. While these integrated activities are encouraged, the family planning commodities must be funded using non-PEPFAR funds.

    "Field teams are expected to prioritize opportunities to link PEPFAR-funded activities with those funded from separate accounts supporting reproductive health and family planning."

    PEPFAR programs are encouraged to provide referrals to family planning programs and to co-locate services. While this is a positive development, it does not address the family planning needs of women living in countries without family planning funding or programs. One-third of the 33 countries required to submit an FY11 COP do not receive any family planning/reproductive health (FP/RH) assistance from USAID.

    Historically the U.S. has underfunded FP/RH programs and even recent important funding increases still leave FP/RH funding nearly 25% below their peak levels in 1995 (when adjusted for inflation) and below the U.S. fair share of addressing the needs of the 215 million women who want to avoid pregnancy, but do not have access to modern contraception.

    Without significant scale up of funding for FP/RH, meaningful integration of these services will not occur using the referral and co-location model articulated in the COP.

    The COP rightly identifies PMTCT programs as an ideal platform to deliver other essential health services, including family planning, but again misses an opportunity to maximize the improved health outcomes through fully supporting the tools needed to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has long identified family planning as one of four essential components of PMTCT programs and many countries have both high HIV prevalence rates and high unmet need for family planning.

    While it was encouraging to see that PEPFAR funds could support much-needed PMTCT training for health workers that includes MCH (Mother and Child Health), family planning and reproductive health services for women living with HIV, the impact of having a trained work force and increased demand for these critical interventions is limited if the commodities needed to deliver the services remain unavailable. By issuing a COP that does not account for the increased demand for contraceptives that will likely result from training and community mobilization, PEPFAR falls short of ensuring that HIV positive women will be able to prevent unintended pregnancy and plan the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. doclink

    How Do Recent Population Trends Matter to Climate Change?

    April 29, 2009, Population Action International

    Demographic change is closely associated with greenhouse gas emissions, and that population dynamics will play a key role in attempts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of changes in the climate system in the future. according to the strong evidence that exists.

    By looking at only population size as the demographic variable in climate models, the contribution of "population" to climate change has been underestimated. Understanding fertility, population growth, urbanization, migration from environmentally depleted areas, household size and composition, and growing population density in marginal and vulnerable areas, is also crucial for the world to adapt to and cope with the adverse impacts of current and projected climate change.

    Climate change threatens to cause the greatest and widest ranging market failure ever seen, Sir Nicholas Stern warned in 2006. One percent of global GDP must be invested in order to mitigate climate change, and that failure to do so could risk a recession worth up to 20% of global GDP.

    Climate change poses a grave challenge for the whole world and has wide ranging implications for human well-being as well as for security, including the risk of armed conflict over resources and large-scale migrations of population within nations and across national borders. 150 million environmental refugees will exist in 2050, says the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), due mainly to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural disruption.

    Population policies and programs that promote universal access to voluntary contraception, when linked with broader efforts to address a range of demographic factors and meet development and poverty reduction objectives, such as the MDGs, particularly investments in family planning and reproductive health, girls education, economic opportunities and empowering of women, and in youth. These would help least developed and developing countries to speed up their demographic transition, enabling them to achieve demographic windows of opportunity which may contribute to economic growth and a greater capacity to cope with climate change impacts. doclink

    Contraception, a Life-saving Investment for the Philippines

    April 20, 2009, ABS-CBN News

    In the Philippines, more than half of the 3.4 million yearly pregnancies in the country are unplanned, resulting in high costs to women, their families and the national health care system. This very high rate of unintended pregnancy is impeding the Philippines development goals.

    Unintended pregnancies are highly preventable if women have access to voluntary family planning information and services, particularly modern methods of contraception. Investing in contraception significantly improves public health, while also saving money and bolstering national economies.

    Researcher by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the New York City-based Guttmacher Institute found that expanding access to modern contraceptive methods as well as natural family planning in the Philippines would result in 800,000 fewer unplanned births, 500,000 fewer induced abortions and 200,000 fewer miscarriages each year. It would prevent the deaths of 2,100 womennearly half of all deaths from pregnancy related causesand prevent the cumulative loss of 120,000 healthy years of womens lives that are currently shortened or impaired as a result of unintended pregnancies.

    The 35% of Filipino women aged 15-49 who are poor account for more than half (53%) of the unmet need for contraception.

    WHile providing modern contraceptive services to all women at risk of unintended pregnancy would raise annual family planning costs from P1.9 billion to P4 billion, on the other hand, the medical costs associated with unintended pregnancy, including treating the consequences of unsafe abortion, would fall dramaticallyfrom P3.5 billion to P600 millionresulting in a reduction of P2.9 billion in these costs and a net savings of P0.8 billion.

    These savings could then be used to improve and expand a range of health and social services, making it much more possible for the Philippines to achieve its development goals.

    The reason to invest in voluntary family planning is to let women decide when to become pregnant and how many children to have. If we succeed in this goal, the payoff will be great for Filipino women, their families, their communities and society overall. doclink

    Finance: Development Banks Lag on Sexual Health - Report

    July 06, 2007, InterPress Service

    Multilateral development banks (MDBs) that lend to poor nations have spent little money on sexual health, and, in some cases, have followed policies that impeded women's empowerment.

    The study examines the quantity and quality of funding for reproductive health from 2003 to 2006.

    It records a decline in World Bank spending and a shortage of support for reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. This occurred although these banks have pledged to help countries meet the MDGs.

    The World Bank was the largest funder from 2003-2006 approving a total of 7.5 billion dollars but funding declined from 2.7 billion dollars for such projects in 2003 to only 1.5 billion in 2006.

    This comes after the bank was criticized for attempts to water down bank policy on reproductive health.

    The African Development Bank Tunisia-based lender gave 44 million dollars for HIV/AIDS projects from 2003-2006 and 108 million dollars for reproductive health during the same time period. The Asian Development Bank's investments in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS from 2003 to 2006 totaled 47.4 million dollars. Last year, the bank lent 8.5 billion dollars for various projects.

    The Inter-American Development Bank provided three million dollars in loans and grants for reproductive health and HIV/AIDS during the same four years. MDBs initiatives often lack gender rights projects.

    Compounding lack of gender sensitivity is their unsustainability caused by project shortcomings including short-term duration and lack of funding for recurrent expenditures.

    The IMF was faulted for loan and policy advice that force most borrowing governments to place limits on public sector wages and reduce the number of doctors and nurses. Development banks have introduced systems to monitor progress on gender equality policies and there has been modest progress. doclink

    Birth Spacing

    Nigeria: Bundling Child Spacing and Immunization Into One Integrated Service

    TSHIP Advancing Health in Bauchi and Sokoto Targeted States High Impact Project
    October 09 , 2013, Vietnam News Agency

    Child spacing is a crucial aspect of improving the overall health of women in developing countries - helping to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the health risks associated with giving birth to many children. For children under-five years, a critical live saving measure is immunization.

    Bundling these two services together as TSHIP is doing provides a continuum of care - from child spacing, antenatal and postnatal needs of women to the care of children under-5 years.

    Raising awareness of child spacing is a tricky issue, especially in communities where conservative values are still strong. In an area of Sokoto such "cultural sensitivity" has been softened by making it a community-led exercise. The members of the WDC help start the needed dialogue at the community level, bringing health education and the issue of child spacing to locations as diverse as markets, gathering places and even places of worship.

    Another approach is the practice of holding child spacing education at the same time as immunization or antenatal services in health facilities. This takes less time and money, with local people keen to make the most of the health services offered. Maryam Umar, a worker at the Shuni dispensary, said ‘I provide immunization and child spacing services to women when they bring their children for immunization, because of fear that the women will not come back on the child spacing session day. Some will even report us to the WDC if we do not provide them with all necessary services'.

    The changes in Shuni are just a small drop in the sea of change happening in Sokoto. The state has over 70% of its health facilities holding integrated child spacing and immunization sessions. As more women bring their children for immunization, the opportunity to reach these women with child spacing messages and services has equally increased.

    TSHIP = Targeted States High Impact Project: increases the use of health services and strengthens health systems to be more responsive to the basic health needs of households in Northern Nigeria doclink

    India: Family Planning After Childbirth Is Critical to Women's Health

    April 15 , 2013, Impatient Optimists

    In India, Anita Devi had five children in nine years of marriage; three of her children were born within a year of each other. As part of India's postpartum family planning effort, the nurse-midwife encouraged Anita to choose contraception after the birth of her fifth child. Anita chose intrauterine contraception.

    "My mother-in-law was against any form of contraception," Mrs. Devi explained when asked about her previous births. "Though my second child was a son, she said that I should try for more sons. But my next children were girls. I was tired and felt I had nothing left in my body."

    In Bihar province, families have on average 3.7 children, and only 32.4 percent of women use any family planning method.

    With the support and technical expertise of Jhpiego (affiliate of Johns Hopkins University) and under the PPFP (Post Partum Family Planning) initiative supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, India's nurse-midwives are educating and counseling women about their family planning options during antenatal visits and introducing them to the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD). This long-acting method lasts for 10 years and can be inserted within 48 hours after giving birth. 16 states are participating in the program.

    She has seen firsthand the challenges women and their families face when burdened with too many children, often struggling to provide them with food and clothing. "Only if we have smaller families will we be able to have healthier families where the children will get better nutrition and opportunities to educate themselves. Only then can we ultimately have a better and healthier society." doclink

    South Sudan Women Choose Family Planning, Longer Lives

    November 08, 2012, Voice of America News   By: Hannah McNeish

    South Sudan has been cut off for nearly 50 years by Africa's longest running civil war, and, due to a lack of basic health and education, early marriage, and a culture that values big families have led to alarming child mortality rates, has seen the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The average woman has seven children and at 1.7%, South Sudan has one of the lowest contraceptive availability rates in the world, plus early pregnancy has increased from one-fifth to one-third of teenagers in recent years.

    Now newly-independent South Sudan has been building a health service from scratch with the help of international aid agencies and South Sudanese women are getting the chance to improve their chances for a long life. South Sudan hopes to increase the contraceptive availability rate to 20% by 2015, as the new nation's population grows at three percent a year and it struggles to get a grip on providing basic services. Family planning charity Marie Stopes International (MSI) started programs in South Sudan's three southern states.

    One woman is getting a hormone implant that will space her children and give her a five-year break. Another woman has a husband earning a paltry and irregular salary, and she is determined to educate her children in a hope that one may someday lift the family out of poverty.

    Over 80% of South Sudan women have no education and 16% are married off by the age of 15.

    A clinical officer Jude Omal at one of the clinics said, "When we were beginning, we had a lot of resistance as people think when you provide family planning to a mother, or a lady of reproductive age, she may most likely turn into a prostitute. You say ‘no, these services helps her to have children at a time when she thinks she's ready,' so this family planning is like an empowerment to women and girls of reproductive age."

    He said both men and women are increasingly aware about the links between a quick succession of pregnancies and lack of health care to high instances of maternal mortality. doclink

    Solutions to Poverty, Population Growth, Global Warming

    September 19 , 2012, Los Angeles Times

    Experts from three continents convened last week at UC Berkeley to discuss rapid population growth, climate change and other intractable problems. Before the conference, the Los Angeles Times held an online video discussion with some of the conference attendees.

    The article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper explored such issues around the world in its recent five-part series on population growth in the developing world. Among other topics, the "Beyond 7 Billion" series examined chronic hunger and mass migration in East Africa -- trends that Dr. Malcolm Potts believes will soon extend across the Sahel, an arid region of Africa just below the Sahara desert.

    Malcom Potts, a UC Berkeley professor of public health who co-organized the conference said, "What you've been seeing from Somalia is going to happen in all those countries, all the way across from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean." .. "You've just seen a fraction of what's going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years." The goal of the online broadcast before the conference was to discuss solutions to the problems facing this part of Africa and other impoverished nations with soaring populations. He was joined by Dr. Ndola Prata of UC Berkeley, William Ryerson of the Population Media Center and Fatima Adamu from Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto, Nigeria. Kenneth R. Weiss was the moderator.

    Dr. Potts: The Sahel is dry dusty region in Africa which is affected by climate change and has rapid population growth, and the status of women is low. It is where there are many cases of drought and famine. Other areas are also in trouble: Afghanistan will double by 2050; people there are growing poppies instead of food. Child brides are a problem in both areas.

    Dr. Prata: Women need control over number and timing of their births; Over 200 million women don't want to have a child in the next two years or don't want to have children at all. They need access to family planning. Family planning is very cost effective and has a beneficial impact on maternal and child mortality. Women want to be able to send their children to school, and family planning helps this.

    Ryerson - Only 1% of people who don't use contraception cite lack of availability as the reason. 40% of non-users cite religion, husband, or personal, 17% want as many children as possible, a sizable number cite fear of side effects, and another large number are fatalistic - 'God will determine how many children I have'. We must be very careful to avoid cultural imperialism. What is important is people's perception of what is normal. This can be changed. Population Media Center uses serialized entertainment mass media featuring role modes of various types of people. PMC models behavior such as delaying marriage and childbearing until adulthood, prevention of HIV, spacing births, and communication between husbands and wives concerning health and number of children. Of those who were interviewed, 67% of clients of a family planning clinic gave the PMC radio show as the reason for patronizing the clinic.

    Dr. Adamu - Agrees with the need to give women information and the culturally sensitive way that is needed to introduce these issues. There must be no coercion of any kind. Every woman wants to improve her life. It is important for the woman to have information of where to get services. The majority of our women lack basic information. We must invest in the woman and empower her. Many times religion allows women to space their births.

    Dr Potts: The best contraception is 'what the woman wants'. Even illiterate women can get family planning. A woman in the poorest countries have a 1 in 12 chance of dying in childbirth compared 1 in 5,000 for a developed country. Family planning could prevent most of these deaths. The current cost to Americans for international family planning funding is the cost of one hamburger. To provide adequate family planning and reproductive health for all the women who have an unmet need, it would take the cost of two hamburgers. It is shameful that we let so many women die for the cost of a hamburger. And what we avoid by family planning is the great cost of war and the cost of feeding so many people.

    Dr. Potts: Education has been considered one of the best contraceptives, but in the Sahel the population is growing so rapidly that schools cannot keep up. But education is not absolutely necessary. The women in Bangladesh were illiterate when they reduced their fertility rate so quickly.

    Dr Prada worked in Angola where the birth rate was 5 children per woman. Women want to improve their lives; they want to send their children to school; they want to feed their children. A family planning program will educate to allow women to make the best use of contraception. It is difficult to get contraception on a regular basis. Many want a long-acting injection but all they can get are condoms and pills. Dr. Prada suggests couple counselling before marriage.

    Dr. Adamu: Too many girls get married early. We must delay those marriages. The government must be working on poverty reduction and saving the woman's life. Let us not approach it in terms of 'population control' but more for saving lives. No husband wants his wife to die. Dr. Adamu works with adolescent mothers - some are age 12. They work in peer groups and involve the husbands and mother-in-laws. Giving them information on how to control their reproduction and get health care - and that there is a choice - empowers them and gives them the self-esteem to choose the number and the spacing of their children.

    Dr Potts: If you respect women and give them a choice, they will tend to have fewer children.

    Ryerson: Coercion is a terrible idea. However we must still realize that population is a key threat posing a real threat to human survival. Yet the U.S. Congress tried this year to stop all funding for international family planning.

    Dr Adamu: We have to understand the woman in the village where her respect lies in the number of children she has. There is still the question of how many children will survive, and so she values having many.

    Ryerson: People need to know that children will survive. Infant mortality rates are continuing to come down, but knowledge of that lags. Part of education must include the health of infants and ways they can survive.

    Dr Prada: The desired number of children does come down. Often the number of children a woman has is below the number she said she desired.

    Ryerson: The U.S. is not immune to population problems. It has the third largest population in the world and the highest per capita energy consumption. It promotes endless growth which is not possible. We need a whole new paradime for our economy. doclink

    U.S.: Early, Adequate Prenatal Care Linked to Healthy Birthspacing

    March 01, 2012, Guttmacher Institute

    The findings of a study called "Prenatal Care and Subsequent Birth Intervals," by Julien O. Teitler, "provide strong evidence that earlier and more intensive exposure to prenatal care during a first pregnancy is associated with more optimal spacing and thus, most likely, better fertility control."

    The authors used birth records from New Jersey women who had a first birth between 1996 and 2000, and examined the relationship between the timing and adequacy of prenatal care prior to a woman's first birth and the timing of her second birth. Most women (85%) had initiated prenatal care during the first trimester. However, 12% of women had initiated prenatal care in the second trimester, and 3% in the third; fewer than 1% had had no care. The later prenatal care was initiated, the more likely women were to have had a second birth within 18 months. Additionally, the likelihood of having a second birth soon after the first was greater if women had had inadequate rather than adequate prenatal care.

    The authors suggest that providers should take advantage of their encounters with women who initiate prenatal care later in pregnancy in particular, to ensure that these women receive family planning information and services during their prenatal visits. By doing so, providers could bridge the gap left by funding and service cuts to the family planning program; the potential impact on public health is large. doclink

    The Word on Women - Niger Starts to Tackle Soaring Population - with Help of Imams

    AlterNet

    Until recently the subject of family planning in Niger was taboo, but commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, the European Union's top humanitarian-aid official, was pleasantly surprised this time to see a project teaching women about contraception and the importance of spacing births.

    The local Imam where she visited "was quoting the Koran saying there's a verse that says there has to be time between the birth of children so the children and mother can recover and be strong."

    The support of the local religious leaders at the health centre she visited in Bambey, in western Niger, was crucial for bringing down the high rate of population growth, she said. The growth was putting a strain on a country that is among the poorest in the world, that struggles with a harsh climate and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

    Since independence in 1960, Niger's population has risen from less than 2 million to 15 million plus.

    Now there is "remarkable openness to address family planning". "At the level of the president, prime minister, ministers and cabinet there's an openness to discussing family planning. There's an openness that 3.3-percent population growth is not sustainable," she added.

    "There are already activities on the ground (for) family planning in a very community-based and respectful manner … The topic is not taboo anymore."

    Mothers need to space their children to avoid back-to-back pregnancies which contribute to malnutrition and keep mothers weak. "That's where there is potential to work hand in hand with community leaders and religious leaders. It has to be culturally acceptable to work."

    The annual hungry season in Africa's Sahel countries is expected to begin in late February or early March - several months earlier than usual. Aid agencies say between five and nine million people are at risk.

    Talking about population growth in relation to food shortages is a sensitive issue, partly because large families are considered important in many cultures, particularly where people rely on their children to help on the land and to support them in old age.

    Many argue that the real causes of food shortages are political and economic. Georgieva says a food crisis is looming in the Sahel due to poor rains, bad harvests, food-price hikes and the return of migrants from Libya, among other factors.

    But she also argues more generally that it is time for the world to pay more attention to managing population growth in fragile environments. When she visited Kenya last year she realised that in 1963 it had more or less the same population as her own country Bulgaria - well below 10 million. Today Bulgaria is at 7.5 million whereas Kenya's has soared to 40 million.

    The populations of other affected countries had also grown five times and this meant that when there were droughts the impact was all the more severe.

    For a very readable look at some of the arguments on why population growth is not the cause of famine, take a look at this article published by Al Jazeera: Famine in the Horn of Africa: Malthus beware. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/08/20118178844125460.html doclink

    Karen Gaia said: I looked at the Al Jazeera article and it kept comparing the Horn of Africa to the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma, as most Americans recall, in the 1930s had huge desertification and a resulting 'dust bowl' that drove farmers out of the state. This was a time when Oklahoma's population was far less than today, and it lost 7% of its population due to the Dust Bowl.


    Other comments following the Al Jazeera article:


    Of course population growth is not the sole aspect of famine - bureaucratic and political incompetence and venality is there too. Factor in useless and ineffective donor-driven projects and lack of market infrastructure. But the comparison with Oklahoma is invidious - simply nonsensical unless one suggest that Okies are demographically youthful, illiterate, chronically sick, underfed (if not starving), corrupt and lack access to all the resources that those in the HoA clearly do. Technical change does indeed keep the developed world ahead of population growth and could materially assist with the basic conditions (e.g., zero till agriculture in arid zones, new seed varieties, effective storage and transportation systems) in the developing world , but NOT given the paucity of talent, resources and corruption mentioned above. The fact is that with population doubling times in the 25 to 30 year range technical development in agriculture just cannot keep up with the number of mouths to feed. Additionally one cannot take the absolute population density per sq km - the productive land area is much less in Africa than one expects. For our detailed analysis please look at http://www.agrimarkets.info/20



    "However, for many others, children are crucial sources of farm labour or important wage earners who help sustain the family." That argument did not hold water during the time when America was basically an agricultural economy because you had to nourish and feed the children for them to grow and become productive, a problem Africa is facing now. Henceforth, the American importation of slaves from Africa to work the farms.



    "Children also act as the old-age social security system for their parents." Again, parents have to feed them before they can secure their own future and the future of their parents, as well. And if history tells us anything, it is that parents cannot fully depend on their children for care in the winter of their lives, because children will eventually have their own jobs, families and responsibilities that will prevent them from paying back their parents. Henceforth, the growth of Nursing Homes in America and the birth of the Social Security System in the west.



    If you do the math, if you have a family of twelve and you can afford to feed them all, then you are not over populated; whereas if you have a family of three and you can only feed one of them, then you are over populated.



    Moseley knows not even the most basic detail concerning the household economies in the Horn. These are NOT farming people, but pastoralists. Yes, they may do a bit of farming on the side, when irrigation or rainfall is adequate, but their dominant income stream is from livestock (or, in some cases, as we know, via piracy or mercenary activities in Somalia). Hence, the Malthusian equation is simple: more people = more livestock = land degradation. Throw in a drought, and you have a failure of the basis of survival. Loss of livestock = no barter, no sales = no food = famine. Would a reduced population be more sustainable? Indubitably, because aggregate herd/flock size would be lower, offering the land a chance to recover and add resilience to ecosystem functions.



    The theory is open to discussion as to which came first: agricultural innovation or increased population density. The Horn is trying the latter, and not succeeding in the former.



    Moseley should look closer to home to study systems failures. Phoenix (Arizona) was named this by the first White settlers in the area because they saw what were obviously canals criss-crossing the desert but no populace. (Satellite imagery has subsequently shown an immense canal network, some 25,000 miles in end-to-end length.) The Hohokam - the Native Americans of this civilization - clearly outstripped their resources, and their society collapsed. As did the Anasazi in the Four Corners area, having deforested the plateau. Let's not make excuses: the Horn is facing the same civilizational collapse, driven by overdemand on ecosystem functions. Will the rest of the world have to step in, time and again, whenever famine threatens? Or should we allow a rebalancing to take place?

    Time for Uganda to Prioritize Family Planning Investments

    July 1, 2011, The Monitor (Kampala)

    Facing severe budget shortfalls at home, many donor countries are cutting back their foreign aid programs, including support for crucial international family planning programs. The United States, the global leader in supporting contraceptive services in the world?s poorest countries, recently reduced its 2011 international family planning and reproductive health assistance by $33 million.

    Uganda must step up its own funding for family planning. The time to act is now. The country has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, but we should remember that social and economic progress is linked to improved access to quality family planning services. Such services save women's lives, save the country money, and create a healthier, more productive society. Failure to support these services now will only end up costing more down the line.

    Low levels of contraceptive use are already taking a toll. 70% women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using an effective contraceptive method. More than half of all pregnancies are unintended.

    In rural areas, where 85% of the population lives and where family planning services are scarce, the poorest women now have two more children, on average, than they want, increasing economic hardship among the most vulnerable families, leaving them with fewer resources to invest in education, health care and other basic needs.

    Unintended pregnancy is also a serious threat to the health and survival of women and newborns, often resulting in high-risk births occurring too soon after a previous delivery or when a woman is too young. This reality is starkly reflected in Uganda's high rates of maternal and newborn deaths. doclink

    Kenya: Melinda Gates: Discussing Family Planning with the Mothers of Korogocho

    March 07, 2011, Huffington Post

    Melinda Gates, philanthropist, talked with new mothers in Korogocho, a large slum in Nairobi, Kenya. She asked them "Why do you want to plan the number and spacing of your children?"

    One woman said she wanted to be able to feed all her children.

    Another woman added, "Where am I going to keep them? Under the bed?" It was funny until she explained she had only a single room in which to raise her children. "Our houses are toilets," she said. "Why bring so many kids into a toilet?" It was impossible for her to raise her children in a safe and healthy environment.

    One woman said if she had too many children, her husband would leave her.

    Finally a woman summed the whole conversation up in one sentence. "I want to bring every good thing to one before I have another," she said.

    "As different as many of their experiences are from mine -- fighting their husbands for the right to plan, struggling to put food on the table -- there is something universal in motherhood that unites us. We all want to bring every good thing to our children," Gates said.

    doclink

    Childbirth Complications, Maternal and Infant Mortality

    Infant Mortality and Birth Rates

    It has been shown that providing reproductive health care, lowering the infant mortality rate and the maternal death rate have had a positive correlation to reducing birth rates. In the case of infant mortality, when a women thinks that many of her children will not survive childhood, she wants to have extra children as insurance that she will have enough children. When death rates are high, as in the case of HIV/AIDS, families try to have more children to replace family members who will die, even if the result is a growing population. Women who are given attention in basic health matters begin to see themselves as more than just baby machines, and they gain more respect for their own lives. Then they can look beyond birthing babies and see themselves in other ways: as income-earners, as community workers, as valuable human beings who do not have to produce babies to show their worth. doclink

    Bill Gates - Saving the Lives of Children Reduces Population Growth

    November 2010, Bill Gates at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference

    While most of us assume that saving the lives of children will contribute to overpopulation, Gates said the contrary is true. "The key thing, the most important fact that people should know and make sure other people know: As you save children under 5, that is the thing that reduces population growth. That sounds paradoxal. The fact is that within a decade of improving health outcomes, parents decide to have less children."

    "As the world grows from 6 billion to 9 billion, all of that population growth is in urban slums," he said. "Slums is a growing business. It's a very interesting problem."

    He said no matter what we care about—the environment, schools, nutrition, conflict—the issues are insoluble at 3 percent population growth per year. "Nobody can handle that type of situation, so the best thing you can do is avoid those deaths." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: There are people who twist this very concept into accusations that Bill Gates is practicing eugenics with his vaccine. See http://www.voltairenet.org/article164347.html In fact, it has been long known that reducing infant deaths by any means (treating diarrhea, and pneumonia, for example), have made mothers more confident about, and desirous of, having fewer children.

    August 28, 1999, Werner Fornos

    It is well-known that high infant and child mortality in poor countries, where 97% of world population growth occurs, is a principal reason that women in less developed regions give birth to two and three times as many children as do women in industrialized regions.

    Women in poor countries tend to believe that the more children they have, the greater their chances that the number they actually want will survive. It is a tragic commentary on the health risks to infants and children in developing regions, among them: births too closely spaced, air and water pollution, lack of nutritious food and a shortage of medical supplies and personnel. doclink

    Impact of Child Mortality and Fertility Preferences on Fertility Status in Rural Ethiopia

    July 09, 2005, East African Medical Journal

    Child mortality is an overwhelming factor in determining fertility among rural Ethiopian women. According to a study conducted by physicians among over 1100 Ethiopian women, those who were older when they married and had their first child tended to have fewer children.

    Moreover, women who did not lose children in infancy had far lower fertility rates than those who lost one or more children. doclink

    Recognize Effective Ways to Save the World's Children

    November 23, 2013, Durango Herald

    Two of my recent columns dealt with child deaths. The sad fact is that, worldwide, 19,000 children die every day - mostly in poor regions, and mostly related to inadequate nutrition.

    The first column (Herald, Aug. 25) told the story of two boys I took care of in Nicaragua when I was in medical school. Miguel hadn't been fed enough protein and recovered with good food. Van was just skin and bones, and died from starvation.

    The second article (Herald, Oct. 27) mentioned that there is hunger in the United States. Our country doesn't have a universal safety net to catch people in need.

    Sending food to poor countries does not help in the long run because it increases people's dependence. Indeed, well-meaning people may do more harm than good. This is made clear (in a religious context) in the book When Helping Hurts. It points out that many actions that might seem helpful have the opposite effect.

    Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, transferring technology from rich to poor countries can have bad effects. Supplanting breast-feeding with artificial formula is a good example. Contaminated water may be used to mix the formula, and poor parents cannot afford to buy the formula after breast milk has dried up.

    Nepal, where villages had an epidemic of deaths, provides another example of unintended consequences. Metal cookware appeared to be a boon to the Nepalese because food cooked more rapidly than in old-fashioned earthenware pots. This meant less denuding forests for firewood and less smoke from cooking fires. But it also meant that pork wasn't uniformly well-cooked. Pork tapeworms lodged in people's brains and killed them. Fortunately, cooking pork adequately can prevent this disease, cysticercosis. Sanitary toilets are also important in separating human waste from pigs. We must try to foresee and prevent unintended consequences when trying to help others.

    There are many examples of programs that are very effective in reducing child deaths. Brazil, which has experienced a remarkable transformation, is one.

    Nancy Scheper-Hughes first went to a favela (Brazilian shanty town) in 1964 as a Peace Corps volunteer. She is now a professor of medical anthropology. Her article "No More Angel-Babies on the Alto" is available at: http://clas.berkeley.edu/research/brazil-no-more-angel-babies-alto.

    Nancy found that many babies in the favela died, and she was shocked that their mothers didn't grieve their deaths. The average woman gave birth to eight children, of whom almost half died. One woman put it this way: "Why grieve the death of infants who barely landed in this world, who were not even conscious of their existence?"

    When Nancy returned to Brazil recently she was surprised to find that the under-5 death rate in that same city had decreased from 110 to 25 per 1,000. How had this radical drop been achieved? She cites several factors. Brazil's president's wife was a strong advocate for women's rights. They started a system of care for all, including “barefoot doctors" to identify children at risk. The “zero hunger" campaign provides food for the most vulnerable. Safe water supplies and prenatal clinics improved the health of pregnant women. Women's literacy is a universal theme in social change, especially for improving child survival.

    Along with the decrease in child mortality has come an amazing decrease in family size. The average number of children a Brazilian woman will bear is 1.8 - fewer than in the U.S., and less than replacement. Each child born can be expected to live to adulthood and is therefore valued from birth. This favela has gone through the demographic transition in less than 40 years!

    What is the difference between good aid programs and not so good? The best programs tune in to what the local people want rather than imposing agendas that are not culturally sensitive. They are sustainable - meaning that the aid recipients will be motivated to maintain the work with little or no help from donors.

    Back to Nicaragua. People there are still impoverished; it is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent living on less than $2 per day. Less than 40 percent of people in rural areas have improved sanitation. Fortunately, the country is receiving sustainable assistance. El Porvenir (a nonprofit organization) partners with rural Nicaraguans to build sanitation and pure water infrastructure and protects the water supply through reforestation. Their school hand-washing facilities make kids healthier and increase school attendance by 20 to 30 percent!

    These improvements have raised the standards of living and health. Better-educated women have healthier and fewer children. Development has helped Nicaraguans in many ways, including reducing the average number of children a woman has from seven when we visited in 1968 to just 2.6 now.

    Note: this article was first published in the Durango Herald doclink

    Kenya's Maternal Death Rate May Fall Thanks to Free Services for Women

    July 15, 2013, Vietnam News Agency   By: Katy Migiro

    Last month Kenya began offering free maternity services for women, and some hospitals report a 50% increase in deliveries. A 10% increase was estimated around the country. However Kenya will not meet the MDG of a 75% drop in deaths between 1990 and 2015. Giving birth with the help of a trained professional is critical for reducing maternal mortality, but 56% of Kenyan women give birth at home. 42% reported that services were too far away or there was no transport, 20% said it was unnecessary, 19% said that their labour was too quick to have time to get there, and 17% said services were too expensive.

    Wambui Waithaka, a doctor at Nairobi's Pumwani maternity hospital said the government is giving the hospital extra money each week to buy the things they need to treat patients. However, in Pumwani, there is a shortage of incubators.

    The next step is to educate women about their care. "The most critical thing in improving maternal health is educating the woman herself and the community around her," said Waithaka. "If she doesn't know that her labour is going a dangerous way, we are not going anywhere."

    Almost 28% of women give birth at home with the assistance of traditional birth attendants, the same percentage as are helped by a nurse or midwife. The region where the use of traditional birth attendants is highest - at 64% also has the highest maternal mortality rate, twice the national average.

    In Kenya, 43% of pregnancies are unwanted due to limited access to contraceptives, poverty and high rates of sexual violence. Unsafe abortions account for 35% of maternal deaths compared to the global average of 13%. Rich women easily access safe abortion in private facilities. But the poor and uneducated risk their lives using backstreet doctors as government hospitals are reluctant to treat them.

    A high proportion of maternal deaths are among adolescents. Shahnaz Sharif, the government's director of public health and sanitation said. "They tend to hide their pregnancies. They don't come to the clinic," ... "Or they'll go for abortion." Teenagers also tend to have more complications because their bodies and minds are not ready to give birth. doclink

    3 Unexpected Ways to Improve Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

    July 31, 2013, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Tim Searchinger and Craig Hanson

    Sub-Saharan Africa would need to increase crop production by 260% by 2050 in order to feed its projected population.

    The UNs' new population growth projections say that the world will reach nearly 9.6 billion by 2050. Unless we control dietary shifts to more meat and reduce food loss and waste, the world will need to produce about 70% more food by 2050 to meet global demands. Plus we would need to do this without converting millions more hectares of forests into farmland if we don't wish to contribute to more climate change.

    The population of Sub Saharan Africa is expected to more than double by 2050 and quadruple to 3.9 billion people by 2100. Even today FAO says that over 25% of Sub-Saharan Africa's people are undernourished, and the region already imports roughly 20%of its staple calories. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's lowest grain yields and extensive areas of degraded soils.

    One way to help meet the food challenge would be to hold down population growth.

    Most of the world's regions have already achieved or are close to replacement level fertility, but Sub-Saharan Africa has a total fertility rate was 5.4 children per woman - double the fertility rate of any other region. While the regions fertility rate is projected to decline to 3.2 by 2050, this is not enough to avoid the large projections of population growth.

    Go to the link in the headline to see the interactive maps.

    What can be done?

    *Increase educational opportunities for girls. In general, the longer girls stay in school, the later they start bearing children, and the fewer children they ultimately have. In countries where 80-100% of the women have attained at least a lower secondary education level, total fertility rates are around 2.1

    *Increase access to reproductive health services, including family planning. Millions of women want to space and limit their births, but do not have adequate access to reproductive health services. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that 53% of women in Africa who wish to control their fertility lack access to birth control, compared with 21-22 percent in Asia and Latin America.

    *Reduce infant and child mortality. Reducing infant and child mortality assures parents that they do not need to conceive a high number of children in order to assure survival of a desired number. Better health care, sanitation, and food will accomplish this.

    Botswana has a country-wide, free system of health facilities that integrates maternal and child healthcare, family planning, and HIV/AIDS services. Mortality rates for children under five declined from 81 per 1,000 in 2000 to 26 per 1,000 in 2011. Contraceptive use increased from 28% in 1984 to 53% in 2007. Botswana has long provided free education to all, and still exempts the poorest from school fees, resulting in an 85% literacy rate and a rate of 88% of girls enrolled in lower secondary education. Botswana's fertility rate has fallen from 6.1 in 1981 to 2.8 by 2010.

    Advantages to achieving replacement level fertility in Sub Saharan Africa:

    *Gender equity will be advanced, giving people more control over life decisions, and save millions of lives.

    *About 9% of the gap between food available in 2006 and the amount needed in 2050 would be closed and and the projected growth in food demand in Sub-Saharan Africa would be reduced by 25% in the same period.

    *A "demographic dividend" could be achieved. During and after a rapid decline in fertility, a country simultaneously has fewer children to care for and a greater share of its population in the most economically productive age bracket. Researchers estimate that this type of demographic shift was responsible for up to one third of the economic growth of the East Asian "Tigers" between 1965 and 1990.

    *Agriculture's impact on the environment would be reduced since, according to FAO projections for yield gains in the region, Sub-Saharan Africa will need to add more than 125 million hectares of cropland from 2006 levels to meet the region's projected food needs in 2050. Achieving replacement level fertility would cut that needed cropland expansion in half, sparing from conversion an area of forest and savannah equivalent to the size of Germany. doclink

    Improving Child Health Through Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies in Rural Ethiopia

    July 01, 2013, Population Reference Bureau blog

    The UN Millennium Development Goal (MGD) 4 is to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. In Ethiopia, under-5 mortality declined dramatically by 47% in 11 years. Infant mortality also declined by 39% during the same period. Ethiopia has made progress in reducing child mortality, but still today, one of every 17 Ethiopian children dies before age 1.

    High fertility, inadequate birth spacing, as well as mother's age at the birth of her children, length of birth intervals, and the number of births a woman has already been shown to affect child health and survival. Family planning can improve child health and survival by preventing births to older and younger women (ages that carry increased risks to maternal health), reducing the number of births per woman, and lengthening the interval between births.

    A study from data in southwestern Ethiopia of 1,370 mothers who had 1,382 births in the two years before the survey date March 2012 found infant deaths high in the study area: 56 deaths per 1,000 live births, but twice as high in rural areas than in urban areas in the study (66 deaths compared to 31). Similarly, there were 75 deaths per 1,000 births among poor households compared to 37 deaths among wealthy households.

    It was also found that infant deaths were higher when the mother's age at birth was 35 years or older, or when birth intervals were shorter. When birth intervals were shorter than 36 months, the infant mortality rate was 66 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 46 deaths when the intervals were longer than 36 months.

    Fertility behavior also influences use of vaccination services. The percentage of children ages 12 to 24 months who received measles vaccination was 49%, and the vaccination rate was higher when the mother was younger (51%), when there are fewer children under 5 in the family, and when the pregnancy was intended. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: In other words, family planning results in healthier children.

    Maternal, Infant, and Child Health Care

    America Gets a C- in Women's Reproductive Health, No One is Surprised

    January 21, 2014, Huffington Post

    The Population Institute released its annual State of Reproductive Health And Rights report card showing that on average America rates only a C-.

    The report attributes most of our low scores to:

    • A high unintended pregnancy rate (almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended)

    • Funding cuts and other threats that were made to family planning clinics

    • Concern that conservatives in Congress and state legislatures continue attacking family planning

    The Population Institute also rated individual states on criteria such as teenage pregnancy rates, sex education programs, access to family-planning and abortion services, implementation of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and access to emergency contraception in emergency rooms. States were given a numerical score out of 100, and assigned a corresponding letter grade.

    These four states earned gold stars:

    • California (A+)

    • Washington (A+)

    • Oregon (A)

    • Maryland (A)

    And these six states failed:

    • Louisiana (F-)

    • Indiana (F-)

    • Texas (F-)

    • South Dakota (F-)

    • Missouri (F-)

    • Mississippi (F-) doclink

    Health Exchange Enrollment by State, in 2 Charts

    December 11, 2013, NPR National Public Radio   By: Elise Hu

    California is top in number of residents who selected a plan and Vermont is top in number of uninsured who selected a plan.

    About 364,000 people have signed up for private insurance coverage under the ACA.

    Click on the link to see the two charts showing state-by-state enrollment totals and the the cumulative enrollment numbers by the percentage of a state's uninsured population for the months of October and November.

    With a few exceptions, such as Maryland and Hawaii, the states with their own exchanges outperform those using the federally facilitated exchange.

    Since Dec. 1, when HHS announced that the site is working smoothly for the "vast majority of users," enrollment surged. Officials say they're still confident they'll reach the goal of 7 million sign-ups by the end of March, when open enrollment closes. doclink

    The ACA is important to ensure women have equitable access to health care. The ACA is supposed to cover preventative medicine, including prevention of pregnancy, a major part of women's health.

    UNFPA's Clean Delivery Kits Delivered in the Philippines

    December 05 , 2013, Friends of UNFPA

    Contents of the clean delivery kits distributed by @UNFPA in the #Philippines. http://t.co/442PaEWRD7 doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Women are more likely to trust in providers of family planning when the providers give care that saves both mother and infant lives.

    Ban Pleads for Women's Rights to Curb Sahel Fertility

    October 30, 2013, Tengri News (Kazakhstan)

    In Niger, the country with the world's highest fertility rate, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pleaded for better reproductive health to curb the Sahel region's runaway demographic growth at the launch of a $200-million regional initiative to improve women's reproductive health and girls' education. "Women should be able to demand their rights. But I also want men to join this call," Ban said. "Help us create families where mothers and fathers decide together how many children they want to have. The time to do this is now," he said, "When women and girls have the tools to shape their own future, they will advance development for all." The fertility rate in Niger is over children per woman and over 2/3 of the population is under 24, creating huge economic pressure on the impoverished west African state. Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said that his country's population had trebled since he was as old as his own children are now. "They are causing our future needs to grow exponentially, even as our current needs -- in food, education and health, are far from being met," he said. doclink

    A New Era of Coverage - Mixed Status Families: Enrollment Not a Trigger of Immigration Enforcement

    November 05 , 2013, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network   By: Ruben Cantu

    Just last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) clarified that immigrant parents can enroll their children and other eligible family members in health insurance programs under the ACA without triggering immigration enforcement activity. Hopefully, this will go a long way toward alleviating the fear many immigrants face about applying for health coverage.

    Follow the link for the ICE's 'Clarification of Existing Practices Related to Certain Health Care Information' document (pdf). doclink

    In Republic of Congo, a Revolution in Maternal Health

    The rate of women dying in childbirth has fallen significantly - in part because of free Caesareans
    September 18 , 2013, AlJazeera America   By: Jina Moore

    In 10 years, the Republic of Congo has reduced the number of women dying in child birth by more than 50%, with most of that drop occurring in the last two years.

    Doctors and public health experts give much of the credit to a presidential decree that put this expensive birth in reach of even the poorest women: Since 2011, Caesarean sections, which had cost upwards of $500, have been a free public health service. Before, if you didn't have the money, you had to find it. Or die there, on the table.

    Before 2005 "there was nothing" in most health facilities, says Dr. Léon Hervé Iloki, a practicing gynecologist and director of the national Observatory on Maternal and Newborn Mortality, established in 2010 to audit the causes of maternal and infant death.

    56% of women worldwide who die in childbirth are dying in sub-Saharan Africa. Less than half of all births in the region are overseen by qualified professionals.

    Globally, maternal mortality has dropped by roughly 45% in the last 20 years, however Congo-Brazzaville has exceeded that global rate by a third. David Lawson, the country director for UNFPA, a partner in the maternal health projects, says that if progress continues at the same rate, Congo might, in fact, meet the Millennium Development Goal on schedule, in 2015. Only about a dozen countries are expected to meet that goal.

    A recent WHO survey found that only 2 to 5% of women in sub-Saharan Africa birthed by Caesarean. In contrast, 17% of deliveries last year were C-sections.

    Yet, just 30 miles north of Brazzaville the health services change. There are no services, only midwives. Giving birth is not free. There are no ambulances, just taxis. And indigenous women have it worse.

    Not all maternal health comes down to what happens in the delivery room. Improving access to - and the acceptability of - family planning is another key goal. "They're directly linked," says Zéphirin Abel Moukolo, the director of programming for the Association for the Well-Being of Congolese Families, a local affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. "How to keep women under 18 from falling pregnant?" he asks, intoning the physical dangers of premature pregnancy. "It's family planning."

    Family planning still runs up against social taboos, which affect the well-being of more than pregnant mothers. "We see reproductive health as a question of sexuality. In our country there are so many taboos on sexuality," she says. "But what else is HIV/AIDS prevention but a question of sexuality, of sexual health? Same with youth…same with family planning." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Providing reproductive health services is extremely important. Health care workers are in an excellent position to provide advice about spacing births and what contraception is available and what contraceptive methods are more effective.

    Five Myths About Obamacare You Shouldn't Believe

    August 28, 2013, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler

    Here are five popular myths circulating about Obamacare's presumed impact that you shouldn't be so quick to believe:

    1. Obamacare will cause young people's insurance premiums to skyrocket.

    A study from the Commonwealth Fund estimates that more than 80% of the estimated 16 million young people who don't currently have health care will qualify for some kind of subsidized coverage under Obamacare, either through federal subsidies to help them buy insurance plans on the state-level marketplaces, or by qualifying for Medicaid coverage after the health law expands the public program's enrollment pools.

    2. Obamacare is incredibly unpopular, so most Americans want to get rid of it and Congress wants to exempt itself from it.

    While most Americans say they don't like the health reform law as a whole, polling has repeatedly shown that's largely because they don't understand what it actually does. They still don't support defunding it. When GOP lawmakers talk about repealing the whole law, but then concede they'd like to keep its most popular provisions intact.

    3. Obamacare is using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.

    Each state has the option of providing insurance plans that offer abortion coverage in their marketplaces, and must also offer at least one plan that doesn't cover abortion services.

    The federal government will not fund abortion under the health law. Obamacare stipulates that the insurers offering abortion coverage on the marketplaces must separate out federal money so it doesn't go toward that type of reproductive care.

    Obamacare grant money has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion. "These grants will enable local Planned Parenthood affiliates to help people enroll in new, more affordable insurance plans that cover preventive care, maternity care, and emergency care," a spokesperson for the organization explained.

    4. Obamacare is forcing companies to slash employees' hours and shorten the work week.

    The health law requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide adequate health benefits to anyone who works at least 30 hours a week -- and CEOs are saying they can't afford that, so they'll need to make sure their employees don't work more than 30 hours so they won't qualify for coverage.

    However, Obamacare just serves as a convenient scapegoat for anti-labor practices. Employers have been attempting to shift more health costs onto workers for the past decade, and workers' health care costs have been skyrocketing as the same time as their wages have stagnated. Large employers were trying to slash workers' hours long before Obamacare was around.

    There are claims that the health reform law now "redefines full-time as 30 hours a week," but in reality it simply hopes to protect 30-hour-a-week workers by making sure their employers are required to extend adequate health coverage to them. Starbucks, for example, already provides health insurance to every employee who works at least 20 hours a week.

    5. Obamacare is causing workers' spouses to lose their health coverage.

    The shipping company UPS announced that it would drop its employees' spouses from its insurance coverage -- specifically citing the health law --, and critics saw that as evidence that Obamacare will be catastrophic for workers.

    An editorial from Bloomberg suggested that UPS is likely “using the health-care law as a smokescreen for cutting costs it wanted to cut anyway."

    Thanks to the health reform law, the spouses of UPS employees won't be left out in the cold without any options to get insurance. They'll be able to get it through their own employers -- who will now be required to provide it -- or through Obamacare's new state-level insurance marketplaces. doclink

    Millions of Girls in Africa to Gain Access to Family Planning - UNFPA

    August 2, 2013, Thomson Reuters Foundation

    Millions of marginalised girls and young women aged 15-19 will get improved access to age-appropriate reproductive health education and services in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tanzania - with the help of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). These countries have some of the fastest growing populations in the world.

    16 million adolescent girls give birth each year, most of them living in low- and middle-income countries.

    Family planning and avoiding unwanted pregnancies helps girls stay in school longer, accumulate more skills and eventually earn higher wages. Every year a girl is in education delays marriage by one year . Delaying marriage usually means delaying first pregnancies, lowering the risk of contracting HIV and reducing childbearing-related deaths. Pregnancy, childbirth-related complications and unsafe abortions are the main cause of death for adolescent girls in developing countries.

    About 40% of the global labour force and over 60% of agricultural workers in sub-Saharan Africa are women and so women are important contributors to the world's economy. This means that reproductive health is also crucial to the economy.

    UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said, "We believe, and firmly so, that if you're able to develop girls and their education, [give them] access to reproductive health, education and services, and they are able to make choices in their lives without any coercion, then what you are likely to have is that, in addition to the general education at school, they would be able to reach their full potential." ... "They would become economically viable, they would also then be able to take decisions about who they want to marry, when to marry, how many children to have or not to have, what space to have between one child and the next," he added.

    "We know once you empower girls in that sense, they'll actually have children that they also care about and they would also be able to go to school. So you're actually lifting them out of poverty and creating a new generation of people who then would create those priorities for their communities and their countries," he said. doclink

    Reproductive Choice

    Decisions about Sexual Activity

    October 02, 2000, New York Times*

    The new annual report of the UNFPA says "If women had the power to make decisions about sexual activity and its consequences," ... "they could avoid many of the 80 million unwanted pregnancies each year, 20 million unsafe abortions, some 750,000 maternal deaths and many times that number of infections and injuries." And: "They could also avoid many of the 333 million sexually transmitted infections contracted each year." doclink

    October 2003, UNFPA

    Meeting the need for contraception services could reduce maternal mortality by 20%. doclink

    Transformation Doesn't Happen Over Night

    January 27, 2014, Population Action International

    Since the 2012 London Summit, the concept of reproductive rights has begun to permeate family planning commitments and implementation plans. These rights apply as much to the freedom to choose appropriate contraceptive options as the freedom to use or not use contraceptives, and they should emerge from citizen and community discussions, rather than by official policy decree.

    Of the 28 developing countries that made FP2020 commitments, 15 made specific references to improving choice, expanding the range of methods, or reproductive rights. Having committed to a rights-based approach to family planning and reproductive health, these nations may now need assistance in fulfilling their pledges. The commitments stress voluntarism, informed choice and diversifying the mix of family planning methods. To exercise their rights, people need clear information and quality services, which includes the ability to freely choose among a range of methods. Programs must offer these options to meet the needs of women at all stages—pre-conception, postpartum and post-abortion. For example, women's reproductive rights are fulfilled when, 1) Providers are trained to provide implants and IUDs so that women can select a long-acting method. 2) After abortions, women can freely choose an effective, modern method of family planning as a result of quality, family planning counseling, and 3) a couple can choose gender based contraceptive methods because their health facility stocks a full range of options. Eight nations specifically mention offering the full range of contraceptive methods as part of their FP2020 commitments.

    The commitments of South Africa, the Philippines, and Myanmar specifically refer to reproductive or human rights. They will need monitoring and support to translate these commitments into action. But to ensure success, the commitments and implementation plans must be their own. Nations with limited experience may not know how to proceed. They must learn to prioritize their objectives and ensure active community participation.

    Those who call for rights-based family planning programs and policies must realize that each nation is starting from a different point and has different needs. Some may not yet appreciate the vital role that informed choice and voluntarism play in making programs successful. Supporting programs can best help nations meet their commitments by offering tools to help. We should try to make the current set of frameworks and guidance documents for policymakers, civil society organizations, and program designers and implementers more useful and practical.

    In short, we need to provide the support needed to ensure that each nation: 1) Embraces a comprehensive approach to rights-based family planning 2) Prioritizes the need to offer a selection of options 3) Has the training and equipment required to fulfill its pledges. doclink

    Art says: As used here, choice and rights refer largely to the community owning the program. An imposed program will not succeed as well as one that involves community leaders in planning and implementation.

    Karen Gaia says: While it is important that communities are involved in the planning of family planning programs, it is even more important that the individual or couple who are planning their family have choice and rights.

    The Long-term, Extremely Positive Effects of Birth Control in America

    October 7 , 2013, Business Insider   By: Max Nisen

    According to University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey, many family and social benefits have occurred since birth control was legalized and made more readily accessible. Enabling people to control whether and when to have children helped to facilitate upward mobility for both parents and their children. Birth control usage seemed to improve college completion rates, job quality, wages, the ability of women to work, and family investment in children. Bailey also claimed that birth control allows people to delay marriage, perhaps due to fewer "shotgun" weddings. This, she says, allows for better marriage choices.

    In effect, family planning can reduce poverty rates. Since delaying parenthood allows women to work and parents to train for better jobs, family incomes improve. And, when parents have fewer unwanted or "ill-timed" children, they have more time and resources to spend on each child. Bailey charted these improvements statistically. As contraception became more common, adults improved their incomes by 2 - 3%, and their children were 2 -7% more likely to complete college. Nisen concluded, "When people are able to delay having children and have fewer of them, they tend to be more financially secure and better able to help their children succeed."

    When birth control pills were first introduced, only some of the states legalized their use, and states where “the pill" was legal had far lower fertility rates. But after the Supreme Court case Griswold vs. Connecticut prevented any state from restricting contraceptive sales, lower fertility rates soon occurred more uniformly throughout rest of the country.

    Follow the link to see the chart that shows the difference in fertility rates between states that allowed the Pill to be used and those that prohibited it. doclink

    Addressing the Population Overshoot

    Slowing population growth is the best way of addressing over-exploitation of resources.
    August 20 , 2013, Population Matters

    Today is Earth Overshoot Day 2013. This is two days earlier than last year. In just eight and a half months, humanity has consumed the equivalent of this year's entire production of renewable resources. For the rest of this year, we will be in effect relying entirely on non-renewable resources, continuing to degrade the environment.

    We can continue to do this for now. The question is what will happen when non-renewable resources become scarce and production falls. Commodity prices will rise, as they are already doing, adversely affecting living standards, particularly of the poorest people. At the same time, climate change is posing ever larger challenges and could both increase demand for resources and reduce their production.

    Demand for resources has been growing rapidly in recent years, driven by population growth and rising per capita consumption. Even with technological improvements, it seems likely that this growth in per capita consumption will continue, as the poorest regions of the world seek to improve their living standards.

    In responding to natural limits, no-one wishes to reduce their living standards. However, what we can do is to reduce and reverse population growth. By choosing to have smaller families, we can eventually rebalance overall human consumption and available resources.

    This also means supporting people in their desire to have the full ability to manage their fertility, through strengthening women's opportunities to study and work and the provision of quality sex education and affordable and accessible family planning, through, for example, the Family Planning 2020 initiative.

    Commented Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, "Most people worldwide are happy to have smaller families, given the means and motivation to do so. Slowing population growth should be a priority in addressing the imbalance between human consumption levels and the production of renewable resources." doclink

    Even When Wanted, Motherhood An Enormous Sacrifice

    July 16, 2013, Population Connection   By: Amy Phillips Bursch

    Both adults and children are happier when individual women are able to choose whether or not to parent, according to a longtime supporter of Population Connection. Women have been programmed to have children, but there are many single parents who have to make an enormous sacrifice. It is scarcely mentioned what an enormous sacrifice women in particular will make to raise their children.

    When women are forced to have children, either because of religious convictions or not having sufficient funds or knowledge to take care of themselves, often their children are never actually welcomed because the mothers are forced to raise children they cannot afford. And consider the cost to the tax payers and society in general.

    The author was raised to believe in living happily ever after, but when she became a single mother having to fend for herself and her children without financial support, she had to work 7 days a week on three jobs intermittently to pay for all the expenses. She had no help or time off.

    We should support all women choosing not to have children, for children are enormous responsibilities and financial liabilities lasting over decades.

    Nowadays, not only are parents called to take care of their parents, but adult children who are supposed to be on their own return to their parents for support, often with their children, which grandparents must raise.

    Every woman MUST have a choice to decide whether to have children or not. Those people in favor of forcing women to have children should be made responsible to take care of them, paying all expenses to adulthood. Today we realize the psychological damages inflicted on those innocent children, and those consequences can haunt them the rest of their lives.

    "If women don't want to have more children, then instead of abandoning women's equality as a goal, we should rework our economic system so it doesn't rely on steadily growing population to function."

    Personal freedom to choose and access to birth control should have top priority. doclink

    Economic Shock of Crop Loss Increases Contraceptive Use Among Women in Rural Tanzania

    May 2013, Population Reference Bureau blog   By: Shamma Adeeb Alam

    Research using data from Tanzania's Kagera Health and Development Survey 1991-1994 found that economic hardships affect a family's decisions related to the timing of pregnancies and births.

    The study of farming households in rural Kagera increased contraceptive use when provided at an affordable rate, if they lost a significant portion of their crop. Couples will choose to delay their next births to a time when their household economic conditions are better. Postponing these births helps reduce malnutrition and mortality among children.

    The study found that 10% of all women surveyed became pregnant after a crop loss, compared to 15% among women who did not suffer a crop loss. This correlates to a higher usage of contraception: 17% of women used contraceptives following crop loss, compared to 14% among women who did not face any crop loss. Most households in the areas where the study was conducted can acquire contraceptives for free or at a low cost. Households suffering a loss of crops in the prior seven months have a 13% greater chance of using contraceptives compared to households that did not lose a crop.

    Possible explanations:

    * Children can be costly in the short-term. Young children do not contribute to household income, but they do require important household resources such as food and clothing.

    * An infant takes up a significant amount of a mother's time. During economic hardships, the mother may need to work even more to recoup a portion of the family income following the loss of crop.

    *Households may be aware that children born following an economic hardship are malnourished and less likely to survive.

    Children born or conceived during floods, droughts, unemployment, or any other economic hardships are likely to suffer severe malnourishment, or even die resulting from it, according to several studies. These children are also less likely to complete primary or secondary education.

    Households in other parts of the world are likely to behave similarly, and ensuring access to family planning is likely to have a similar, beneficial effect. doclink

    Women's Choice is Key to Reduce Maternal Deaths

    November 24, 2012, Lancet

    Access to safe abortion remains the neglected taboo in discussions about reproductive health and family planning.

    In Ireland, which has restrictive abortion laws, Savita Halappanavar was denied a termination of pregnancy during a threatened miscarriage and subsequently died of sepsis in the hospital in October 2012. Her death sent an outcry throughout the developed world. While maternal deaths are now rare in developed countries, any such death is usually avoidable. The Irish Government should thoroughly review and reassess its ambiguous abortion law.

    In the developing world, of about 350,000 maternal deaths all but about a 1000 happened in developing countries, the majority in Africa, according to 2008 figures. The leading causes are post-partum haemorrhage, hypertensive disorders, sepsis, obstructed labour, and complications from unsafe abortions.

    Of an estimated 43.8 million abortions per year, 49% are classified as unsafe and nearly all (97%) in Africa are unsafe. About 47,000 women each year die from unsafe abortion and another 5 million women suffer disabilities related to unsafe abortions. Without access to legal and safe abortions, many women will continue to die needlessly.

    The best way to reduce the number of abortions is to give women choice over when and how to plan their families and avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Through access to contraceptives almost 300,000 maternal deaths were averted in 2008. Yet, there are still about 222 million adolescent girls and women worldwide who lack access to family planning.

    At the London Summit on Family Planning in July, US $2.6 billion in new donor money was pledged to give an additional 120 million adolescent girls and women access to contraceptives by 2020. However $4.1 billion is required to reach everyone who has unmet needs.

    A UNFPA report that came out in November estimates that making voluntary family planning available to everyone in developing countries would reduce costs of health care for women and newborn babies by $11.3 billion annually. The report makes a strong case that family planning delivers immeasurable rewards to women, families, and communities. Women must be allowed to take part in society beyond reproduction. Adolescent girls' lives should not be restricted by early childbirth, lack of education, and poverty. Deaths and disability from childbirth and unsafe abortions should become a scourge of the past.

    The 2014 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 2015 post-Millennium Development Goals project will give us the opportunity to make the strongest effort possible to give every woman in every country the right and choice to decide when and how to plan a family. Sustainable development requires the full participation of women in society worldwide. doclink

    Media and Availability of Contraception

    Fertility and Economic Growth in Bangladesh

    January 13, 2014, Population Reference Bureau blog

    This interactive graphic summarizes some of the many different areas of family life that research on the Matlab program showed were affected by a couple's family planning use. These include mothers' health, increased family assets, increased home value, improved pregnancy and newborn health, health and education benefits for boys and for girls, improved water sources, and agricultural investments. doclink

    Health Educators and Clinicians Differ in Knowledge and Practices About Long-acting Reversible Contraceptives

    December 10 , 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    During 2011-2012 staff members at 40 Planned Parenthood clinics were interviewed, and it was found that health educators considered a smaller proportion of their clients eligible to use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) than did clinicians (57% vs. 77%). They were less likely to consider offering IUDs to teenagers, women who had never had children, and unmarried women. Additionally, the researchers found that 64% of health educators and 40% of clinicians desired additional LARC training.

    The study, entitled "Counseling for IUDs and Implants: Are Health Educators and Clinicians on the Same Page?" was by Kirsten M.J. Thompson of the University of California, San Francisco, et al

    Health educators are often the first -- and sometimes the main -- source of contraceptive counseling in such clinics, which makes it essential that these staff provide high-quality and evidence-based contraceptive counseling. The researchers suggested that when possible, health educators and clinicians be trained together to ensure consistency in counseling and method provision. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: LARCs are much more effective that other methods of contracpetion, and it is this effectiveness that teens, unmarried women, and women who want to finish school and start a career before starting a family need more than any other group.

    U.S.: Doctors Are Still Reluctant to Give Women the Most Effective Types of Birth Control

    November 14 , 2013, Think Progress

    A new study shows that over 90% of women who begin using a long-term form of birth control continue with that method for at least six months. This could be a contraceptive implant or an intrauterine device (IUD).

    The senior author of the study, the Washington University School of Medicine's Dr. Tessa Madden hopes this study will dispel the perception among healthcare providers that women discontinue these methods rapidly.

    Women used to stop using their IUD because of heavy cramping or bleeding due to faulty IUDs in the 1970s, but today, the IUD is the most effective form of birth control available, and multiple studies have confirmed it's perfectly safe.

    But most U.S. women aren't opting for the IUD, in part because their doctors still aren't suggesting it.

    Medical professionals are reluctant to prescribe implants or IUDs to young women, assuming that negative side effects will convince them to give up. But the study shows that young women weren't any more likely to discontinue their long-lasting birth control than older women. Previous studies show that IUDs are just as appropriate for teenagers as they are for adult women, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now encourages doctors to give IUDs to their teenage patients since they would benefit the most from long-lasting contraception.

    But parents are not comfortable with the idea of their teenage daughters having an IUD, and many medical professionals think of long-lasting birth control as something that's mostly appropriate for married women. Some think that giving women the resources to prevent pregnancy may seem like giving them a license to be promiscuous. The same idea is behind misguided resistance to the HPV vaccine and Obamacare's birth control benefit.

    Birth control may seem basic, but many women are still misinformed about their options and reluctant to initiate that conversation with their doctors. "Studies like this will encourage providers to use these methods more, and to not create additional barriers for women to get the most effective methods," said Madden. doclink

    What Women Don't Know About Birth Control is Frightening (Infographic)

    October 9, 2013, Huffington Post   By: Katy Hall and Jan Diehm

    This article has an excellent infographic worth seeing. Visit the link in the headline to see it.

    The vast majority of women say that abstinence is most effective method of birth control, according to a new survey from The American College of Nurse Midwives, but any method of birth control must be used consistently for it to work, and abstinence has a way of being tricky to implement full-time. When Texas lawmakers replaced a more comprehensive sex education program with "abstinence only" education, teens just started having more sex, and more babies. Texas spends more than a billion dollars a year on unintended births, and the U.S. leads the industrialized world in unintended pregnancies.

    If women knew more about birth control options, they might not be getting pregnant by accident so often. Less than half of the women surveyed knew much about birth control pills. Only a small fraction know their way around an intrauterine device (IUD) or birth control implant, recognized as the most effective methods by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with fewer than 1 in 100 pregnancies in women who use them. doclink

    The Contraceptive Choice Project

    October 14 , 2013, Choice Project

    The CHOICE website provides the most up-to-date information about the CHOICE Project, publications, research findings and dissemination efforts. Start by watching an overview of our research results in "Pathway to CHOICE", check out local and national resources or learn more about your contraceptive options. The CHOICE is yours!

    We started this research project to remove the financial barriers to contraception, promote the most effective methods of birth control, and reduce unintended pregnancy in the St. Louis area. This was an undertaking of nearly 10,000 St. Louis women, our community partners, private providers, and a dedicated staff of over 100 women and men.

    When our participants were counseled about all methods of birth control, 75% of the 9,256 women chose a Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive method (LARC: IUD or Implant).

    Young women under the age of 21 were also interested in the IUD and implant. Over 40% of young women 14-17 years chose the implant, and over 40% of young women 18-20 years chose an IUD.

    Among women who chose a LARC method, 86% were still using the method at 1 year. For women who chose a non-long-acting method, only 55% were still using their method at 1 year.

    Women using LARC methods had the highest satisfaction at their one-year follow-up. Women who stopped their method during the course of the study were considered not satisfied.

    Women using either LARC or the shot had the lowest unintended pregnancy rates during year 1, year 2, and year 3 of their follow-up. Pill, patch and ring users had much higher unintended pregnancy rates; they were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy compared to LARC users in Year 1. doclink

    What Do Women Really Want? Full Access to Family Planning

    September 4, 2013, Impatient Optimists   By: Elisabeth Epstein

    Do women abstain from using birth control due to religious or cultural values? Perhaps many do. But before we conclude that seeking lower birthrates in developing nations is doomed to fail, consider this: An estimated 222 million women and girls in developing countries say they want contraceptives but lack access to them. They would use birth control if it were available. That is more women and girls than the combined populations of Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Delhi, Shanghai, Manila, Karachi, New York City, Sao Pãulo, Mexico City, Cairo and Rio de Janeiro.

    According to the UNFPA, meeting the unmet need for family planning services could reduce unintended pregnancies among these women by more than two-thirds and unsafe abortions by more than 70%.

    For example, Ethiopia is 1/3 Muslim and nearly 2/3 Christian. Since 2003 the government has worked to improve access to family planning services in rural areas. By 2011, in areas affected by this outreach, contraception usage increased by 350% and average births per woman decreased by 12.7%. As the word spreads that affordable family planning services are available in those areas, usage should continue expanding. doclink

    Improving Access to Family Planning Can Promote Food Security in Ethiopia's Changing Climate

    March 2012, Futures Group

    Climate change is expected to reduce agricultural yields in Ethiopia. Already, 60% of Ethiopians have insufficient food consumption. Almost 30% of children under five years of age are underweight. Continued rapid population growth will add to the challenge of food insecurity. Climate change is resulting in rising temperatures and shifts in rainfall patterns that are expected to decrease agricultural productivity in Ethiopia. Currently, many part...
    . . . more at Futures Group doclink

    Can An American Sex Toy Magnate Persuade Pakistanis to Use a Condom? Phil Harvey Will Certainly Try, Even If it Means Making People Blush.

    August 28, 2013, Slate   By: Jeremy Stahl

    Ramadan was an especially bad time to launch an advertising campaign for strawberry-flavored condoms in Pakistan. So the Josh Condoms ad featuring a controversial supermodel did not last long. Pakistan's media regulatory agency called the ad "indecent, immoral, and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values." There was nothing at all sexually explicit about the ad, except maybe the suggestion that the condoms were being used for sex that was meant to be enjoyable rather than make babies.

    The boldness of running such an ad is typical of the non-profit NGO that produced it, DKT International. The publicity generated by censorship cases may even help boost DKT's cause by getting its ads replayed over and over again on national news programs.

    In addition to selling condoms, the group has been opening up mini clinics and training midwives in IUD insertion all over the country - outside of the cities and into rural Pakistan. DKT will spend $1.2 million on its operations in Pakistan this year and sell enough condoms to give 240,000 couples a year's worth of protection.

    DKT isn't above working with authoritarian governments or self-censoring its message if it succeeds in getting the contraceptives in the hands of the people and educating large parts of the developing world about family planning and STD prevention.

    DKT's Phil Harvey's program is to sell contraception in the developing world for pennies on the dollar rather than to donate them for free, creating a large distribution network that includes shopkeepers, along with a greater public awareness through advertising. Also people who spend hard-earned money for something are more likely to actually use that thing, even if the cost is trivial.

    This approach has made DKT the largest private provider of contraception and family planning in the developing world. Last year alone, DKT sold at least 600 million condoms, 76 million cycles of birth control pills, 16 million injectable contraceptives, and 1.5 million IUDs. In 2011, DKT estimated that its services and products prevented 7 million unwanted pregnancies and 11,000 maternal deaths.

    DKT's YouTube page has a section titled "Pushing the Boundaries: Using Sex to Sell Family Planning." “We don't want to be deliberately offensive, on the other hand we do want to be sexy," Harvey says.

    The most-viewed condom ads on DKT's YouTube site were Indian ads for “XXX flavored condoms," where an Indian actress suggestively fondles a batch of grapes and a spoonful of chocolate before asking, “What's your flavor of the night?"

    DKT also ran an unprecedented ad for medical abortion pills in India. “Those ads you could never, ever have run in the United States—wish we could," Harvey said.

    “The most sensitive places tend to be Islamic countries like Egypt and Pakistan, although that does not apply in Indonesia and Bangladesh, so it isn't religion as much as culture," Harvey says.

    Follow the link in the headline for a look at some of the ads. doclink

    Youth Involvement

    How to Empower Youth to Change the World (video)

    September 20 , 2013, Impatient Optimists   By: Elena Sonnino

    During UN Week world leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators gathered in New York City for events like the Social Good Summit, the Clinton Global Initiative and of course, the meetings of the UN General Assembly. Discussions were held on the Millenium Development Goals (or MDGs) with a heavy emphasis on addressing issues to achieve the goals we want to see in place by 2030, as a global community. The answer for reaching our goals by 2030 is easy: we need to empower youth to be change agents.

    What is a change agent you ask?


    BAVC Map Your World
    from Grainger-Monsen Newnham on Vimeo.

    The "how" of how to empower youth to be change agents is to let them be kids and develop their own ideas- wherever they are in the range of potential social good actions.

    The answer is simple- we simply let them "do." We let them dream and think. We give our youth the tools to collaborate and problem solve, brainstorm and reflect. We empower them to believe that their voice matters without judging or criticizing their ideas.

    A new study conducted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the United Nations Foundation found that 9 out of 10 American youth between the ages eight and 19 give money to organizations dedicated to charitable causes. Tweens and teens want to give, participate and have an impact- it is up to us to support and empower them.

    Our children need to know that we believe in their ideas and potential as change agents. doclink

    Considering that half the world's population is under 25, there is much to be done in involving young people.

    Islamabad Survey Finds Low Reproductive Rights Awareness Among Adolescents

    September 8, 2013, Express Tribune (Pakistan)   By: Sehrish Wasif

    According to the Express Tribune, a survey conducted in eight districts of the Islamabad Capital Territory by Hayat Life Line, found that, out of 5,670 adolescent respondents, only 23.4% of girls and 27.1% of boys understood their sexual and reproductive health rights. Results varied by district. Only 42% could identify some forms of gender-based violence in society. Of those, 73% identified forced marriages as the most common form. 42% could identify physical changes related to puberty, but only 8% could identify emotional changes linked with puberty.

    The author attributes this knowledge gap to parents not knowing or not discussing sexual rights information with their children. The report recommended parent counseling combined with gender separated peer programs in the schools, and additional support from the media. The objective is to raise awareness concerning the emotional aspects of puberty, the legal rights of adolescents, the social protections available to them, complications and other consequences of pregnancy during adolescence, and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

    The report also called for advocating that government policy include the addition of a culturally sensitive sexual and reproductive health and rights components in the school and college curricula, complete with teacher training, as needed. doclink

    Make Women Matter

    September 08, 2013

    A unique website aimed at educating young people about sex education and reproductive health. Lots of 'vodcasts' by young radio journalists. doclink

    Thanks to Better Sex Ed, California's Teen Birth Rate Has Plummeted by 60 Percent

    July 19, 2013, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler

    California's teen birth rate has dropped 60% since 1991, according to new data from the state's health department.

    Public health experts attribute this to the requirement that California's public schools to offer comprehensive sex ed classes with scientifically accurate information about birth control. Family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens were also credited with lowering rates.

    Overall, the United States' teen pregnancy rate has been plummeting due to teens gaining better access to contraceptive methods and opting to use birth control as soon as they become sexually active. Community-based youth programs are one of the most effective strategies of instilling teens with healthy attitudes and safe approaches toward sexuality.

    Teen pregnancy rates remain high in the South where adolescents there tend to receive ineffective abstinence education, and are more likely to lack access to birth control resources. doclink

    'i Have Seen My Friends Die': Why We Need to Talk Frankly About Girls' Reproductive Health

    July 09, 2013, Huffington Post

    Last year at the London Family Planning Summit a global movement was catalyzed to ensure that 120 million more women and girls have access to contraception by 2020. World Population Day 2013 focuses on adolescent pregnancy. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among adolescent girls ages 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries.

    One in three of girls under 18 in the developing world are married; many without their consent. 15% of all unsafe abortions in low- and middle-income countries are among adolescent girls aged 15-19 years.

    Because of these alarming numbers, we need to talk frankly and openly; we cannot shy away from tough conversations when girls are at risk.

    Young women face barriers when they seek contraception or access to information and commodities to practice safer sex. This must stop.

    A young woman in Ethiopia, Haregnesh, says girls she knows who were very young when they got married and starting having children and she has see some of them die. "I have seen educated people and I saw the difference in their lives. ... I watched as they had no food to eat or feed their children and they just kept getting pregnant and having babies. I could see that they were suffering and I wanted to go to school." A Pathfinder International program in Amhara, Ethiopia supports girls to continue their studies. Haregnesh's strength and resolve to stay in school, as well as talk openly about girls' education, early marriage, and childbirth, has shifted the approach to girls' education in her family and in her community.

    Haregnesh's father, who had not wanted her to attend school said. "Haregnesh is our third child and she made all the change happen in our family. My three younger children now attend school as well."

    We must commit to ensuring adolescent girls have the support and resources they need to delay marriage and childbirth, stay in school, and start their adult lives the way each of them want to. doclink

    Karen Gaia Pitts says: it is important to note that patriarchal attitudes can be changed. That is why I am such a fan of programs like PAI's or the Population Media Center soap operas.

    MPs Call for Attention to Adolescent Pregnancies on World Population Day

    May 07, 2013, UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductiv

    On Wednesday 10th July 2013, politicians and leaders in adolescent, maternal and reproductive health from around the world will meet at the Houses of Parliament for World Population Day. They will discuss progress on last year's London Summit on Family Planning (FP2020) and look at integrating recent research findings on improving access to contraceptives and family planning information.

    The focus this year is adolescent pregnancy, in recognition of the fact that there are 16 million adolescent pregnancies worldwide every year. The UK has the highest teen pregnancy rate in western Europe, with over 38,000 adolescent girls getting pregnant in England per year. Teen pregnancies carry greater risks of complications, including serious injuries and conditions such as obstetric fistula, as well as higher incidences of stillbirth, miscarriage and maternal death. In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls.

    Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development, has said: "The UK Government is committed to putting girls and women at the centre of international development. Delaying first pregnancy can be a game changer for adolescent girls - enabling them to have greater opportunities in life. However, this requires that we understand what it is to be a girl in society and tackle holistically the factors that affect her sexual and reproductive health and rights - including, for example, child marriage, coerced sex, girls' education and access to family planning."

    Professor Joy Lawn, Director of the Centre for Maternal, Reproductive Adolescent and Child Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Today's generation of 1.2 billion adolescents is more than ever before, facing more opportunities and yet still too often their lives are changed forever by early, risky pregnancies they did not choose to have - 16 million pregnancies a year, many unplanned. Programmes, funders and researchers need to deliberately include adolescents."

    Adolescents account for nearly one fifth of the world's population: 1.2 billion people are aged 10-19 years and 90% of adolescents live in developing countries

    About 16 million girls aged under 18 give birth each year and these young mothers are the most likely to experience disabilities such as obstetric fistula, die from complications or experience a stillbirth or newborn death.

    * 50,000 girls die of pregnancy related complications each year.

    * In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls.

    * Unsafe sex and lack of contraception are the main risk factors contributing to DALYs (disability-adjusted life year is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death) in young women aged 10-24 years.

    3.2 million girls aged under 18 undergo unsafe abortions each year. Adolescents are more likely than adults to delay abortion and hence have a later, riskier procedure.

    90% of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. For far too many of these girls, pregnancy is a consequence of discrimination, child marriage, inadequate education or sexual coercion.

    * Nearly one in every four girls aged 15-19 in the developing world (excluding China, where comparable data is not available) is currently married or in a union.

    * The South Asia (30%) and sub-Saharan Africa (24%) regions have the greatest proportion of girls aged 15-19 married or in a union. The percentage of boys the same age who are married or in a union is much lower (less than 5%) in these regions.

    An estimated 2.2 million adolescents, around 60 per cent of them girls, are living with HIV, and many do not know they are infected. New HIV infections in teenage girls are now also the major driver of the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa.

    Many adolescent girls aged 15−19 have experienced sexual violence and domestic (intimate partner) violence is common among adolescent girls who are in relationships.

    The event is jointly organised by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the MARCH Centre of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. doclink

    Egypt's Perilous Drift

    June 15, 2013, New York Times

    People are mad at bakers in Cairo because they makes only so many subsidized pita loaves and sell the rest of their government-subsidized flour on the black market to private bakers who charge five times the official price.

    Egypt is running out of hard currency and can't buy enough gasoline and diesel for power stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations, electricity cuts are common, and sewers are backing up. To make things worse, climate, water, food and population pressures are now interweaving with the political and economic ones in ways that would challenge even the best of leaders, and Egypt today has far from the best. In the last month, Cairo has seen temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees above the daily average high.

    With Ethiopia's construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa, the water supply to Egypt is likely to be reduced, and since Egypt's 85 million people get 97% of their fresh water from the Nile, this has become a huge issue, with sabre-rattling already occurring.

    Among non-Islamists voted for Morsi — it was the only way he got elected — there is a widespread feeling that the Brotherhood tricked them and the poor into voting for its members and now they have failed to either fix the country or share power, but are busy trying to impose religious norms. 10 million signatures have gathered so far calling on Morsi to resign and to call new elections.

    Egypt needs a revolution, but the truth is that any faction here — the youth, the army, the Muslim Brotherhood -- that thinks it can rule Egypt alone and make the others disappear is fooling itself. (Egyptians today desperately need a "peace process" -- not with Israel, but with one another.

    Everyone has to take responsibility for the commons, rather than just grabbing their own. Egypt's commons — its bridges, roads, parks, coral reefs — are crumbling.

    On the Red Sea overbuilding, overfishing and rising water temperatures have led to the bleaching of some of the Red Sea's spectacular coral reefs. Hotel owners, to expand their land or gain some beach, simply put landfill over the coral reefs on their shores. Marine activities were unregulated, stressing dolphins in their own resting areas, where they try to sleep safe from the sharks. Fishermen overfished — especially for sharks, which they sold for meat and for fins — and they used dynamite and mesh nets that killed the multicolored reef fish, along with the grouper they were trying to catch. As a result, the whole reef ecosystem became less resilient to global warming.

    In 2012, when water temperatures in the Red Sea rose by about two degrees Celsius above their average, the coral died, especially in the most tourist-filled and fished areas. Healthy coral are critical for fish spawning.

    Coral requires a healthy ecosystem, starting with the apex predator — the sharks. If too many sharks are killed, too many of the midlevel predators survive and they then eat too many of the smaller plant-eating fish that keep coral healthy by eating the algae off substrates to clear space for coral to colonize. A reef rich in herbivores will be more resilient.

    But for a long time the local government and fishermen were not interested and certainly could not grasp global warming's impact on the region. So Hepca, a Red Sea conservation group, estimated that every shark in the Red Sea was worth about $150,000 a year in business from tourists (who fly in to see or swim with the sharks) and lived for 30 years, while a shark killed for meat and fins for soup brought in about $150 one time. So if everyone worked together, if the government passed new zoning laws where people could fish, and dive-tour operators respected them and Hepca was empowered to enforce the regulation with its own speedboats -- the Egyptian coast guard has no boats -- everyone would be better off. It sounds simple, but it was a revolution here.

    It would be hard to bring this kind of "shared commons" thinking to the national level here, but the absence of it is what ails almost every one of these Arab Awakenings today, where one group or another thinks it can have it all and too few people are thinking about the common good and how it has the potential make them all better off. Syria is the most extreme version of this disease, but Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen are all struggling with the same issue.

    However, Egypt is bursting with talented young people who understand that Egypt needs an inclusive, long-term, sustainable plan for national renewal. And what they also understand is that those who say that the Arabs have tried everything — Nasserism, socialism, Communism, Baathism, liberalism and Islamism — but that nothing has worked, are wrong. There is one ism they haven't tried: environmentalism. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: if there is hope for environmentalism, there is hope for family planning. Not having so many children is another way to take care of the commons.

    Ethiopian Deputy PM Backs New Radio Drama - Yengna - for Girls

    April 29, 2013, Girl Effect

    Watch the following music video for 'Abet', the first Yegna single

    A new radio drama, Yegna (pronounced YEN-ya, which means "ours"), that reflects and encourages the potential of Ethiopia's girls, recently started broadcasting to millions of people across Ethiopia.

    It follows the story of five very different girls whose shared love of music creates an unlikely friendship that each character draws on as she faces different challenges. The girls go on to form a band, and each episode of the drama features a new song.

    The deputy prime minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen, said: "This will help to engage the talent of girls and create opportunities for them to be more active participants in school, society and in all economic and political aspects - which is the direct strategy of the Ethiopian government."

    The drama is designed to tackle some of the real challenges facing many girls in Ethiopia, including early marriage, violence and the lack of access to education, as well as to encourage and facilitate friendship among girls. Research by the Population Council and others has shown that without social connections girls lack the support, advice and role models they need to reach their potential.

    Each 30-minute weekly segment will be followed by a talk show to discuss the themes of the drama. The audience will be able to interact with the show via Facebook, call-in numbers and free SMS messaging. It is hoped the show will evoke conservations in Ethiopian households. The Yegna team is also piloting an approach to provide clubs based on the show, which will create a safe space for girls to come together and learn through games.

    Yegna is being aired in the Amharic language, in the capital Addis Ababa and the Amhara region - home to a combined population of some 20 million people, including an estimated 2.5 million girls.

    Billboards, bus signs, radio adverts, and national and local media coverage, as well as 500 university students recruited as Yegna ambassadors are spreading the word. doclink

    MicroCredit

    1998

    Micro Credit is small loans for low-income people to borrow to start income-generating projects. Part of a comprehensive approach to empowering women and ensuring a stable population level, it is channeled to the poorest citizens in a country. According to the 1997 United Nations Development Report, women comprise 2/3 of the poorest citizens in each country. Supporting women's efforts to achieve economic self-sufficiency also helps to slow population growth. Women who are earning an income often choose to have smaller families, have more ability to pay for their own family-planning needs, and choose to send their sons and daughters to school, which often leads to greater spacing between generations an important component of slowing population growth globally. doclink

    U.S.: Microfinance: How it Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor

    October 09, 2012, New York Times

    Microfinance was supposed to bring upward mobility to millions of people. Kiva and other organizations have let millions of people lend money to struggling entrepreneurs. But a new blockbuster book by a former industry insider is exposing the dark side of the micro-lending world. In a special co-production with KALW radio, Hugh Sinclair, the author of Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, tells the story of how he learned the dirty truths behind the banking sector that's creeping across the developing world.

    Follow the link in the headline to hear this provocative audio broadcast. I don't know whether to believe it or not, but the speaker, Hugh Sinclair, seems knowledgeable and sincere.

    A Response from CFI at ACCION to Hugh Sinclair's blog post http://www.microdinero.com/index.php/english/nota/5271/a-response-from-cfi-at-accion-to-hugh-sinclairs-blog-post

    More, from the New York Times, at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/world/14microfinance.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0 doclink

    Bangladesh: Women Hurting Women

    September 29, 2012, New York Times   By: Nicholas D. Kristof

    It would be nice to think that women who achieve power would want to help women at the bottom. But the acts of one female leader show that women in power can be every bit as contemptible as men.

    Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh driven Muhammad Yunus from his job as managing director of Grameen Bank. Yunus, is the founder of Grameen Bank and champion of the economic empowerment of women around the world. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work in microfinance, focused on helping women lift their families out of poverty.

    Since last month, her government has tried to seize control of the bank from its 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95% of the bank. The government has also started various investigations of Yunus and his finances and taxes

    We see a woman who has benefited from evolving gender norms using her government powers to destroy the life's work of a man who has done as much for the world's most vulnerable women as anybody on earth.

    Bangladesh is a prime example of the returns from investing in women. It invested in girls' education, and today more than half of its high school students are female -- an astonishing achievement for an impoverished Muslim country.

    The average Bangladeshi woman now has 2.2 children, down from 6 in 1980. Bringing women into the mainstream also seems to have soothed extremism, which is much less of a concern than in Pakistan (where female literacy in the tribal areas is only 3%).

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented: "I highly respect Muhammad Yunus, and I highly respect the work that he has done, and I am hoping to see it continue without being in any way undermined or affected by any government action." Former secretaries of state, George Shultz and Madeleine Albright, have asked Sheikh Hasina to back off.

    Sheikh Hasina has been disappointing in other ways, turning a blind eye to murders widely attributed to the security services, for example.

    Despite this bad example, we need more women in leadership posts at home and around the world, from presidential palaces to corporate boards. The evidence suggests that diverse leadership leads to better decision making, and I think future generations of female leaders may be more attentive to women's issues than the first. doclink

    Kenya: Microfinance: Women Pull Together Against Poverty

    April 14, 2011, InterPress Service

    39 women in the Kiambu District of Central Kenya joined together to form the Consolata Self Help Group, which was linked with a microfinance institution known as the Pamoja Women Development Program (PAWDEP).

    Each member of the Consolata group was to put the equivalent of $2.50 into a common kitty each month. Members presenting a workable business idea can then borrow money from the combined savings at an interest rate of 5%; the loan is repayable at the end of three months.

    Members' loans are limited to two and a half times the capital they have accumulated in savings with the group; for example, a member who has accumulated $100 in savings can take out a loan of $250. In this way 40% of the loan is guaranteed against money the borrower herself has put into the scheme if she defaults.

    Esther, a participant in the program, is the proprietor of a dairy project with 15 cows, delivering 100 litres of milk daily to the nearby milk collection centre in her home village.

    After starting with one cow, she repaid the first loan from the proceeds of selling milk and then borrowed 625 dollars to buy a second cow. Milk sales again covered repayment, and a series of larger loans from the Consolata group steadily built her operations.

    The other members of the Consolata group have experienced similar rapid growth, establishing small businesses or farming.

    PAWDEP currently works with savings schemes whose combined membership totals 48,000 women in the Central, Eastern, Rift Valley and Nairobi provinces of Kenya. There are several similar institutions in Kenya, helping women and youth with enhanced access to credit.

    A 2010 report published by international development charity ActionAid - "Fertile Ground: How Governments and Donors Can Halve Hunger" - based on data gathered in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi - suggests that this kind of support for women small-scale farmers could halve hunger on the African continent by 2015.

    While many African women would find the benefits of enhanced access to credit limited by legal and traditional patterns of land tenure, domestic power relations; rural men and women alike also struggle to overcome weak infrastructure that denies them water, access to markets, or even sound advice and agricultural technologies -- microfinance still contributes powerfully to making the most of resources available to rural people. doclink

    Microfinance Institutions Prefer Lending to Women

    April 08, 2011, The New Times

    Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) prefer to give loans to women and their cooperatives because they are trustworthy in loan repayments compared to men, enabling them to do business better.

    With their increasing responsibilities in their families, women have exhibited a culture of trustworthy and diversification of doing multi businesses to raise enough income, says the MFI Vision Finance Company, which provides financial and non-financial services to the economically productive poor Rwandans especially women.

    "Women are trustworthy clients; they know how to use the loans effectively by investing in many businesses. When they are in cooperatives the trust is much stronger that you don't get worried of defaulters." doclink

    Kudos to Muhammad Yunus, Instigator of Micro Credit

    August 16, 2009, Times of Trenton

    Muhammad Yunus worked for over thirty years giving micro-credit loans that bring a better quality of life to the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh. He founded the Grameen Bank which loans as makes loans for as little as $9, without collateral, to start small businesses such as selling candy or toys, buying cellular phones and charging for calls, or purchasing weaving materials.

    He has recently received the Medal of Freedom. In 2006 the Nobel Peace Prize Committee awarded him and Grameen Bank its 2006 prize and said: "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty." The Grameen Bank model has been duplicated in more than 100 countries, from Uganda to Malaysia to Chicago's South Side.

    Women make up 97% of the 6.83 million borrowers because they were found to be the best risk. In a Muslim-dominated country where rural women are often not allowed to touch money or work outside the home, this was a ground-breaking movement. Guidelines for borrowers to follow include discipline, unity, courage and hard work; repair houses; grow vegetables; educate children; and keep families small.

    The link between lower fertility and reduced poverty has long been recognized. The Independent UK news, citing a report from Parliament, noted, "The earth's population will approach an unsustainable total of 10.5 billion unless contraception is put back at the top of the agenda for international efforts to alleviate global poverty...and even help to avert global warming."

    from an LTE by Bonnie Tillery, volunteer population issues coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club doclink

    Karen Gaia says: it has been shown that, when women are able to raise money themselves, they feel they have more control over their destiny and find ways to have smaller, healthier families.

    Banking on Women

    January 16, 2009, AllAfrica.com

    We are not waiting. We are moving," says Pilda Modjadji, a founding member of the Pankop Women Farmers Forum. "We mean business."

    The Pankop group, in Mpumalanga, South Africa started with the goal of growing fruit collectively and using the proceeds to supplement family diets, raise incomes and pay school tuition fees. But the village offered few job prospects and their children were going off to the cities.

    Determined to create an alternative source of employment, the women, with the support of traditional chiefs and municipal authorities, set up a fruit and vegetable dehydration plant. The Pankop group needed the equivalent of $100,000 and got the funds from local commercial banks because a South African organization created in 1996 by the US non-profit Shared Interest and the Swiss-based Recherches et Applications de Financements Alternatifs au Developpement (RAFAD), put up $70,000 in loan guarantees.

    With the first loan, the women converted an old school dormitory into a functioning plant and hired 65 young people .

    With a second loan of $120,000, they increased the number of employees to 200, working in shifts.

    Their latest loan is worth about $1 mn, and with those funds, the women plan to meet European Union health and safety standards and start exporting their produce.

    Increasingly, private equity funds and philanthropic groups and individuals are making it possible to leverage significantly larger loans.

    Donna Katzin, president of Thembani's parent organization, Shared Interest, told Africa Renewal that her group does more than create access to financing but identifies projects and partners, helps develop business proposals and hooks them up with banks to provide the credit.

    We are helping to change the way the banks operate. We are introducing them to a new set of people who need their capital."

    Women own about 48% of all enterprises in Africa.

    Non-governmental organizations like Shared Interest are not the only ones using guarantees to improve women's access to credit. The International Labour Organization and the African Development Bank (ADB) have jointly created a $10 million guarantee scheme called Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs (GOWE), with the ADB and IFC managing the operation.

    GOWE is intended to help about 400 women entrepreneurs across Africa to secure access to financing by 2011.

    To qualify, their businesses must be at least two years old and show potential for growth. Those who are approved can borrow between $20,000 and $400,000, but are expected to raise 20% of the expansion costs on their own.

    In Kenya, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with Equity Bank to provide $81 million in loans exclusively to women.

    In Nigeria, until recently, enterprising women with solid businesses could not get loans because they lacked collateral requirements or credit histories.

    But Access Bank, approached the IFC, which provided it with a $15 million line of credit for lending to businesses owned by women.

    The loans were accompanied by business development advice and training. In Kenya, 61% of household entrepreneurs are women, and in 1981, a group formed the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT), a microfinance lender dedicated to women.

    But as commercial banks have realized that lending to women can be profitable, loans to organizations like KWFT have become cheaper, enabling it to expand its reach.

    Today it is the largest microfinance institution for women in East and Central Africa.

    KWFT realized that emergency health costs often forced women to raid their business capital to pay for health care. In response, the trust launched a medical insurance programme for its clients and their families.

    For a yearly payment of about $60, KWFT clients get policies to cover expenses and also draw weekly allowances during hospital admissions. If they become disabled, they receive a lump-sum payout.

    Once Equity Bank took on that administrative cost and collected the tiny amounts, the sums totalled over $20 million annually. Equity Bank not only saved the insurance companies the costs of collecting small premiums and earned a commission in the process, but also ensured that its clients got the insurance they needed. doclink

    Zimbabwe;: State Embarks on Women Empowerment Programme

    September 25, 2007, Africa News Service

    Minister of Women Affairs, said Government had embarked on a project to empower and promote women for sustainable development.

    Speaking in Harare, Cde Muchinguri said this was being done through community development and poverty alleviation initiatives. Government, she said, had established a fund for women's clubs aimed at empowering women to alleviate poverty.

    She urged women to access the funds. There are over 5 000 women's clubs which provide opportunities for women to develop their potential through the acquisition of life skills. Nestle Zimbabwe was launching the Maggi cooking competition, which complements Government's efforts to uplift the living standards of women. The competition seeks to promote hygiene, creativity and cooking skills among women. doclink

    Education

    November 2010

    Ethiopia poster advocating that girls should be allowed to go to school

    Ethiopian poster showing a little girl who is sad that she cannot go to school while some of her friends are allowed. She is taking care of her brother or sister, while others must gather firewood or tend the sheep. doclink

    Iran's Birth Control Policy Sent Birthrate Tumbling

    Plunging birthrates helped usher in changes concerning the role of women
    July 22 , 2012   By: Kenneth R. Weiss

    Since the 1980s, Iran has experienced the largest and one of the fastest drops in fertility ever recorded — from about seven births per woman to fewer than two (or, by year, from a high of 3.2% in 1986 to just 1.2% at its lowest point). It confounded all conventional wisdom that this could happen in an Islamic republic, said Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, a demographer at the University of Tehran. But it happened largely because of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's supreme leader. Khomeini had earlier encouraged large families, but after the war with Iraq he decided the economy could no longer support a rapidly growing population. In the late 1980s he issued fatwas making birth control available and encouraged conservative Muslims to use them.

    With his backing, Iran's Health Ministry launched a nationwide campaign introducing contraceptives - pills, condoms, IUDs, implants, tubal ligations, and vasectomies and providing them free at government clinics, including thousands of new rural health centers. An Iranian factory produced more than 70 million condoms a year. Throughout the country clinics supported the changes. Dozens of mobile teams offered free vasectomies and tubal ligations in remote parts of the country, promoting contraception as a way to leave more time between births and help reduce maternal and child mortality. At a center in Tehran, brides-to-be, some covered head to toe in black chadors, filed into a room with their bearded bridegrooms where they confronted packaged samples of condoms, birth control pills and intrauterine devices pinned to a bulletin board.

    In 1993, Parliament passed further legislation withdrawing food coupons, paid maternity leave, and social welfare subsidies after the third child. Hour-long birth control classes and counseling in family planning were required before a couple could marry. "Our aim is to help you know how to avoid an unwanted child," said a government-trained midwife. "The trend among "modern Iranians," she said, "is to have one child, two at most." Her no-nonsense PowerPoint presentation covered male and female anatomy, menstrual cycles, fertility and birth control.

    Plunging birthrates led to social changes. With smaller families, parents could invest more in their children's education. Khomeini had resegregated schools by gender, so that even the most conservative families could send girls to school without worrying that having their daughters mix with males would place family honor at risk. Female students soon outnumber males 65% to 35% in public universities, leading to calls in parliament for affirmative action for men. As women became better educated, their influence within the family grew. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an Iran expert at Virginia Tech. said, "Without intending to, Iran's clerical leadership helped to foster "the empowerment of Iranian women." Woman still have fewer legal rights than men and are limited in the jobs they can hold and what they can wear, but more of them now attend universities and delay childbirth.

    Later, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to reverse the trend toward smaller families through speeches and economic sanctions, but he was widely ignored. "Iranian women are not going back," said Sussan Tahmasebi, an Iranian women's rights leader now living in the United States. doclink

    Art says: By demonstrating how a population problem can be reversed so quickly, Iran now serves as a model for other nations. But not all Islamic nations would start from such a supportive baseline. The reversal occurred because: 1) the idea came from nation's most powerful cleric, and 2) advanced systems of public schools and public health services already existed, allowing for millions of Iranian women to complete high school or college and quickly obtain family planning advice. This empowerment allowed them to continue practicing birth control even after support for the policy waned. Turkey, another advanced Islamic nation with a similar baseline, had similar success. Since many Islamic clerics distrust western influences, it would be difficult for the UN or any NGO to get them to support family planning as fervently as Khomeini did. Also, few girls attend school at all in several Muslim nations, so female empowerment remains unlikely in the near future. None-the-less, this article makes clear that winning genuine clerical and government support can be key to success.

    Karen Gaia says: there is also the example of Bangladesh, another Muslim country, whose government had the help of USAID to develop its family planning program. But it had to start almost 'from scratch' in order to educate girls, and also 'from scratch' to employ women as health care workers, which turned out to be another way to empower women.

    Pakistan: We Need to Apply the Brakes

    February 08 , 2014, Pakistan Today

    Pakistan, the world's sixth-most populous country, plans to ensure sustainable economic expansion by slowing its birth rate through enhanced education for women.

    According to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan will try to reduce its population growth rate to 1.2% a year (1.6 children per woman) by 2025 from its current rate of about 2.96 per woman. Each year this nation of about 196 million people adds some 4.4 million more people, the equivalent of New Zealand's population, he said. Pakistan's birth rate is exceeded in South Asia only by Afghanistan's rate of 5.54 children per woman.

    Iqbal said that the current growth rate will strain natural resources, hinder growth, and make it very difficult to sustain development. "If we can give our young population the right education and right skills, it is a big demographic dividend for the next 10 to 15 years. If it doesn't happen it becomes a demographic disaster. . . . The government will focus on making planning programs available to married couples and prioritizing education for women."

    According to a finance ministry economic survey published last year, only about 30% of married Pakistanis use contraceptives, compared with 55% in India and 73% in Iran. Pakistan's population grows about 4.4 million (2.21% - adjusted by editor) per year, compared with 1.3 % in India and 1% in Iran.

    A middle class of 55 million to 70 million people is helping to drive the $225 billion economy, according to Sakib Sherani, a former finance ministry adviser and now chief executive officer at Macroeconomic Insights, an Islamabad-based research firm. But Sakib calls Pakistan's population growth rate "out of control." doclink

    3 Unexpected Ways to Improve Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

    July 31, 2013, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Tim Searchinger and Craig Hanson

    Sub-Saharan Africa would need to increase crop production by 260% by 2050 in order to feed its projected population.

    The UNs' new population growth projections say that the world will reach nearly 9.6 billion by 2050. Unless we control dietary shifts to more meat and reduce food loss and waste, the world will need to produce about 70% more food by 2050 to meet global demands. Plus we would need to do this without converting millions more hectares of forests into farmland if we don't wish to contribute to more climate change.

    The population of Sub Saharan Africa is expected to more than double by 2050 and quadruple to 3.9 billion people by 2100. Even today FAO says that over 25% of Sub-Saharan Africa's people are undernourished, and the region already imports roughly 20%of its staple calories. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's lowest grain yields and extensive areas of degraded soils.

    One way to help meet the food challenge would be to hold down population growth.

    Most of the world's regions have already achieved or are close to replacement level fertility, but Sub-Saharan Africa has a total fertility rate was 5.4 children per woman - double the fertility rate of any other region. While the regions fertility rate is projected to decline to 3.2 by 2050, this is not enough to avoid the large projections of population growth.

    Go to the link in the headline to see the interactive maps.

    What can be done?

    *Increase educational opportunities for girls. In general, the longer girls stay in school, the later they start bearing children, and the fewer children they ultimately have. In countries where 80-100% of the women have attained at least a lower secondary education level, total fertility rates are around 2.1

    *Increase access to reproductive health services, including family planning. Millions of women want to space and limit their births, but do not have adequate access to reproductive health services. The World Health Organization (WHO) found that 53% of women in Africa who wish to control their fertility lack access to birth control, compared with 21-22 percent in Asia and Latin America.

    *Reduce infant and child mortality. Reducing infant and child mortality assures parents that they do not need to conceive a high number of children in order to assure survival of a desired number. Better health care, sanitation, and food will accomplish this.

    Botswana has a country-wide, free system of health facilities that integrates maternal and child healthcare, family planning, and HIV/AIDS services. Mortality rates for children under five declined from 81 per 1,000 in 2000 to 26 per 1,000 in 2011. Contraceptive use increased from 28% in 1984 to 53% in 2007. Botswana has long provided free education to all, and still exempts the poorest from school fees, resulting in an 85% literacy rate and a rate of 88% of girls enrolled in lower secondary education. Botswana's fertility rate has fallen from 6.1 in 1981 to 2.8 by 2010.

    Advantages to achieving replacement level fertility in Sub Saharan Africa:

    *Gender equity will be advanced, giving people more control over life decisions, and save millions of lives.

    *About 9% of the gap between food available in 2006 and the amount needed in 2050 would be closed and and the projected growth in food demand in Sub-Saharan Africa would be reduced by 25% in the same period.

    *A "demographic dividend" could be achieved. During and after a rapid decline in fertility, a country simultaneously has fewer children to care for and a greater share of its population in the most economically productive age bracket. Researchers estimate that this type of demographic shift was responsible for up to one third of the economic growth of the East Asian "Tigers" between 1965 and 1990.

    *Agriculture's impact on the environment would be reduced since, according to FAO projections for yield gains in the region, Sub-Saharan Africa will need to add more than 125 million hectares of cropland from 2006 levels to meet the region's projected food needs in 2050. Achieving replacement level fertility would cut that needed cropland expansion in half, sparing from conversion an area of forest and savannah equivalent to the size of Germany. doclink

    Education: Northeast India's Shifting Climate Means More Girls Drop Out of School

    July 23, 2013, ClimateWire (subscription)

    Droughts and floods resulting from climate change are pushing families away from their farming in the northeastern India state of Assam. Thousands of hectares of agricultural land were destroyed.

    Families have had to seek temporary jobs which pay less, and girls are needed to help out at home and have to leave school.

    "In several areas in the state, the income of families who are solely dependent on agriculture for their livelihood has declined several-fold; as with climate change there has been a change in the rainfall pattern and also there has been a decrease in the average rainfall," said Sabita Devi, co-convener and senior researcher of the Assam-based Centre for Environment, Social and Policy Research, which found that women and girls are the most vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. doclink

    Water Hauling and Girls' Education

    June 28, 2013, Council on Foreign Relations

    Girls' education has come to be seen as one of the most potent vaccines against poverty and disease. The most recent UN Human Development Report found that "a mother's education level is more important to child survival than is household income. Shifting the emphasis from efforts to boost household income to measures to improve girls' education was found to have a far greater positive impact. "Educated women tend to have fewer, healthier and better educated children; in many countries educated women also enjoy higher salaries than do uneducated workers."

    However, 35 million girls remain out of school worldwide, with nearly half of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, says the World Bank.

    A World Bank study in Ghana found that the time a girl has to spend fetching and hauling water is directly connected to her school attendance especially in rural areas where distances to water sources are usually longer than they are in cities.

    Reducing the time to haul water by half would increase the proportion of girls aged 5-15 who attend school by 2.4% points on average, especially in rural communities, the report said. Another paper finds that both boys and girls go to school in higher numbers when it is easier to access water. For every hour less spent to walking to the water source increases girls' school enrollment rates by about 10% in Yemen, and by about 12% in Pakistan." Similar results have been found when it comes to the gathering of firewood. doclink

    Taking Hope and Inspiration from Amazing Women

    March 07, 2013, PopulationGrowth.org   By: Suzanne York, www.howmany.org

    Investing in women - namely providing education, healthcare, economic opportunities, sustainable livelihoods, and empowerment -, while good for population stabilization, is something the global community should be supporting anyway for the good of society. Numbers are important, such as the 222 million women around the world that want access to voluntary family planning services but do not have it. But population numbers should not be the main topic of discussion, especially when talking about women's rights and reproductive rights.

    Last year, Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani teenage advocate for girls education,was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban, bringing attention to the challenges of supporting education for girls. The Taliban fighters boarded her school bus, and severely injured her and two other students. Malala has made a spectacular recovery and last month, in her first public statement since the incident,said "I want every girl, every child, to be educated." Malala has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Should she receive it, it would help her cause immensely, and improve the plight of girls around the world.

    According to the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in the region, Pakistan has the second-highest number of girls who are not enrolled in school. Its education budget is less than 2.3% of GDP.

    The UN Special Envoy for Global Education (Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown) wrote that "Indeed, the new superpower that cannot be ignored is the power that girls are rightly seizing for themselves."

    In India, Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad founded the GREEN Foundation that is trying to protect agricultural livelihoods, promote women's empowerment, and share best practices based on local and traditional knowledge. Nearly 80% of Indian women work in agriculture, yet less than 7% of women have land tenure. Dr. Ramprasad has worked tirelessly in the face of the green revolution and the industrial agriculture system to protect biodiversity and empower small-scale farmers. She and her foundation are promoting women's innovations, much of it based on ancestral knowledge and farmer-to-farmer exchanges, including seed banks, multi-cropping, the use of natural pesticides, water harvesting, and other natural farming practices. All this has resulted in a positive and lasting effect on women's food and economic security, and has empowered women farmers across India.

    As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's keep the Dr. Ramprasads and Malala's of the world in our hearts and minds. When society empowers and values women and girls, it gives them the freedom to make positive choices for themselves and their families, which is good for the entire world. doclink

    Pakistan: Malala Yousafzai is Grateful for Her 'Second Life,' Creates Malala Fund for Girls' Education

    February 4, 2013, ABCNews.com

    15 year-old Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl from Pakistan known as an impassioned advocate for education, was shot in the head by the Taliban in October because she believed girls should have the right to go to school.

    She was transported to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, and has undergone several surgeries. Recently she made a video statement.

    "I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone and today I can speak and I'm getting better day by day. It's just because of the prayers of people, and because of these prayers, God has given me this new life, and this is a second life. This is the new life and I want to serve the people."

    Doctors expect that she will need anywhere from nine to 18 months to fully recover.

    As Malala gains strength, so too does her cause. Malala's father, Ziauddin, said: "When she fell, Pakistan stood and the whole world stood and the world supported her."

    In her statement released today, she announced the creation of a new charitable fund to support the cause she has championed. I want every girl, every child to be educated," she said in her video statement. "And for that reason, we have organized the Malala Fund."

    Vital Voices - a global non-governmental organization advancing girls' and women's leadership through training and mentoring - established the fund on behalf of Malala and her family.

    Click here https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/440/t/13433/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY'35 for information on the Malala Fund and how to donate. doclink

    Karen Gaia says. Girls' education is so very important to making a better world. Girls who go to school are less likely to marry early and start their families later; having the number of children that is best for the health and well-being of the family.

    Media, Soap Operas, Sex Education

    TV Lowers Birthrate

    March 19, 2014   By: Nicholas Kristof

    A remarkably effective tool has emerged in the search to lower America's teen birthrates. The MTV reality show called "16 and Pregnant" is a huge hit, spawning spinoffs like the "Teen Mom" franchise. These shows remind kids that babies cry and vomit, scream during the night and poop with abandon.

    Economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine have studied why we have the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country ̶ almost 10 times that of Switzerland and more than twice that of Canada. Kearney and Levine found that teen births reflect poverty and carry it on to the next generation, but they also found that teen births dropped in regions with large audiences for “16 and Pregnant" and the “Teen Mom" franchise. Tweets containing the words “birth control" increased by 23% the day after each episode of “16 and Pregnant," and there were more Google searches concerning how to get birth control pills. (To ensure the success of these searches, we need clinics that offer free, long-acting contraception to teenage girls.) The study concluded that the shows reduced teenage births by 5.7% (20,000 fewer births per year or one less birth each half-hour). Since abortion rates also fell, the reduced birthrate appears to mostly result from more contraception use.

    Even as inequality and family breakdown grew worse, teen birthrates plunged by 52% since 1991. One factor Kearney and Levine credit for this decline is women having better job opportunities. For example, girls who were randomly assigned to attend Promise Academy, a middle school in Harlem Children's Zone, became pregnant less often if they had a good shot at college. But the decline greatly accelerated when MTV began airing “16 and Pregnant in 2009. “It's another reminder that great storytelling can be a powerful catalyst for change," says MTV President Stephen Friedman. These shows worked because they focused on compelling stories, not on lecturing or wagging fingers. “If the government tried this, it would have a good message, but three people would watch it," Levine said. The shows portray a better life for girls who delay childbearing.

    Another study found that before television arrived in Indian villages, 62% of women said wife beating was acceptable and men had to grant women permission to leave the house. These norms changed after women began watching soap operas showing middle-class urban families in which women weren't beaten and could leave home at will. The studies estimated that these shows nurtured as many egalitarian attitudes as five years of female education.

    The master of injecting causes into storytelling is Neal Baer, the television producer behind “ER" and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." Baer, a doctor who helps lead the Global Media Center for Social Impact at U.C.L.A.'s School of Public Health, wove issues like vaccination and rape-kit testing into his shows, raising awareness in ways that no news program could. Polling showed that one “ER" episode about cervical cancer doubled audience awareness of the links between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. doclink

    Access to Family Planning Alone Won't Stop the Population Boom

    November 27 , 2013, TheStar (Kenya)   By: Moses Wasamu

    Last year at an International Conference on Family Planning in London, global leaders agreed to provide 120 million more of the world's poorest women with access to modern contraceptive services and supplies by 2020. This year a follow-up meeting in Addis Ababa released its plan for 2012 - 2016. Experts again spoke of the need to expand access to family planning options, and Prof Fred Segor, Principal Secretary for Health, told the forum that the government was on course to achieve its target of 56% usage rate by 2015. He said that the government had committed $9 million to family planning programs for this year, - a big improvement over previous years. What's more, Merck Sharp & Dohme have cut and Bayer HealthCare plans to cut the prices their long-acting and reversible contraceptive implants.

    But access is not the only problem. Many women who said they wanted to delay their next pregnancy for several years were not using any modern method of contraception. Policy makers assume that improving access to contraceptives would close the gap between what women say they want and what they do. But, according to Charles Westoff of Princeton University's Office of Population Research, surveys indicate that even if contraceptives were freely available, about half the women who want fewer children would spurn them. 31% of these women rejected modern contraception due to fear of medical side effects, although Kenyan researchers said that objection is based on myths and misconceptions. Other reasons were religious prohibition (9%) and personal opposition (8%). Less than 1% cited lack of contraceptive access. 6% cited opposition from their husbands. Community Health Worker Beatrice Khalayi Shibunga, who goes door-to-door to offer family planning information in the slums of Korogocho, Nairobi says "Some women are forced to use contraceptives without the knowledge of their husbands," and Elizabeth Lule, Director of Family Planning at the Gates Foundation, says that women often choose injectable contraceptives because they can use them covertly. The Kenyan government acknowledges this concern and is developing a strategy for increasing male involvement.

    The Heraf report found that 90% of reproductive health funds go to procuring contraceptives, and most of the remaining 10% goes to distribution. Very little goes to advocacy and communication. Abraham Rugo from the Institute of Economic Affairs agrees. He thinks many people have large families to care for them when they get old. They don't realize the connection between family size and prosperity, and programs do little to change these attitudes. Donors want to pay for contraceptives and think that is enough. We "need to spend more money on focal areas of attitude change, but that would mean that the Kenyan government will have to spend its own money. . . The government should come up with programs to motivate people to have small families." His suggestions called for financial incentives - though it was unclear where the money would come from.

    Bill Ryerson, president of the Population Media Centre in the US, agrees that poor access is not causing the discrepancy between women's stated wishes and their behavior. He noted other factors that hinder the use of contraceptives. According to the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 97% of husbands and wives know about modern contraceptives, but 40% don't use them. He says that information and motivational talks can address these issues better than focusing only on access. People must understand the benefits in health and wealth that their families can enjoy by limiting and spacing births. He suggests role modeling family planning use, overcoming fear that contraceptives are dangerous, and getting husbands and wives to talk to each other more openly. Where you measure progress by access to contraceptives, but people want five or more children, you will not stabilize the population.

    Successful nations emphasize changing people's attitudes about the role of women, ideal family size, age of first pregnancy, and the benefits of using modern contraceptives. They explain how reduced family size enables couples and nations to save more and invest in education, infrastructure, health and industry. The wider strategy could include raising women's status by providing mandatory and free education for children, especially girls. If more young women stay in school, they can later join the workforce and provide a better future for their families. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Other strategies include providing maternal and infant health care (which can be integrated with family planning), educating girls, sex education, promoting birth spacing, and involving communities and men.

    Faced with Stubbornly High Teen Pregnancy Rates, Oklahoma Starts Expanding Comprehensive Sex Ed

    September 04, 2013, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler

    In Tulsa, three outside organizations will offer comprehensive sex ed courses to 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students at four different public schools. The course is optional, and parents must give their consent in order for their children to participate. If the pilot program is successful, it will be expanded to other schools in the area, and the outside educators will eventually pass off the curriculum to public school teachers.

    "This is really going to help students stay in school, finish school, go onto college, get good jobs, make Tulsa a better place to live," Kim Schutz, the director of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, explained.

    Oklahoma has the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the country. Some areas in Tulsa have teen birth rates that are over twice the national average. Teen birth rates in the country have been steadily declining, however some conservative states aren't seeing much decline — partly because they still lack adequate sexual education requirements.

    "I think ignoring the issue is something we don't have the luxury of doing any longer," Schutz noted. The new course balances information about delaying sex with accurate information about how to practice safe sex.The first priority is abstinence but it also shows students the HIV and disease rates. Most Americans, even parents in the deep South, agree that sex ed classes can strike a balance between encouraging teens to make responsible choices and giving them information about birth control. California, after it expanded comprehensive sex ed and teen pregnancy prevention programs, saw its teen birth rate plummeted by 60%. doclink

    Segal Family Foundation Announces Major New Commitment in Burundi at Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

    September 24, 2013, PR Newswire

    The Segal Family Foundation announced today that it is making a $1.6 million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to fund a radio soap opera in Burundi aimed at improving the lives of women and children through behavior change messaging. The radio soap opera will address key health areas including family planning, increasing the prevention and treatment of lethal childhood diseases and HIV/AIDS. The goal of the broadcasts is to affect change by normalizing use of health services in both rural and urban areas of Burundi. The 208-episode story arc will be broadcast twice a week over two years and address current topics related to maternal and child health in Burundi. doclink

    Can An American Sex Toy Magnate Persuade Pakistanis to Use a Condom? Phil Harvey Will Certainly Try, Even If it Means Making People Blush.

    August 28, 2013, Slate   By: Jeremy Stahl

    Ramadan was an especially bad time to launch an advertising campaign for strawberry-flavored condoms in Pakistan. So the Josh Condoms ad featuring a controversial supermodel did not last long. Pakistan's media regulatory agency called the ad "indecent, immoral, and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values." There was nothing at all sexually explicit about the ad, except maybe the suggestion that the condoms were being used for sex that was meant to be enjoyable rather than make babies.

    The boldness of running such an ad is typical of the non-profit NGO that produced it, DKT International. The publicity generated by censorship cases may even help boost DKT's cause by getting its ads replayed over and over again on national news programs.

    In addition to selling condoms, the group has been opening up mini clinics and training midwives in IUD insertion all over the country - outside of the cities and into rural Pakistan. DKT will spend $1.2 million on its operations in Pakistan this year and sell enough condoms to give 240,000 couples a year's worth of protection.

    DKT isn't above working with authoritarian governments or self-censoring its message if it succeeds in getting the contraceptives in the hands of the people and educating large parts of the developing world about family planning and STD prevention.

    DKT's Phil Harvey's program is to sell contraception in the developing world for pennies on the dollar rather than to donate them for free, creating a large distribution network that includes shopkeepers, along with a greater public awareness through advertising. Also people who spend hard-earned money for something are more likely to actually use that thing, even if the cost is trivial.

    This approach has made DKT the largest private provider of contraception and family planning in the developing world. Last year alone, DKT sold at least 600 million condoms, 76 million cycles of birth control pills, 16 million injectable contraceptives, and 1.5 million IUDs. In 2011, DKT estimated that its services and products prevented 7 million unwanted pregnancies and 11,000 maternal deaths.

    DKT's YouTube page has a section titled "Pushing the Boundaries: Using Sex to Sell Family Planning." “We don't want to be deliberately offensive, on the other hand we do want to be sexy," Harvey says.

    The most-viewed condom ads on DKT's YouTube site were Indian ads for “XXX flavored condoms," where an Indian actress suggestively fondles a batch of grapes and a spoonful of chocolate before asking, “What's your flavor of the night?"

    DKT also ran an unprecedented ad for medical abortion pills in India. “Those ads you could never, ever have run in the United States—wish we could," Harvey said.

    “The most sensitive places tend to be Islamic countries like Egypt and Pakistan, although that does not apply in Indonesia and Bangladesh, so it isn't religion as much as culture," Harvey says.

    Follow the link in the headline for a look at some of the ads. doclink

    U.S.: This School Year, Sex Ed Classes in Illinois Will Include Information About Birth Control

    August 12, 2013, Think Progress   By: Tara Culp-ressler

    When Illinois students go back to school this fall, they can expect to receive more comprehensive sexual health information in their health classes. Since state lawmakers recently banned abstinence-only education, public school districts that provide sex ed will need to update their curricula to include comprehensive information about preventing pregnancy and STDs. HB 2675, which Gov. Pat Quinn (D) plans to sign into law, will take effect on Jan...
    . . . more at Think Progress doclink

    Make Women Matter

    September 08, 2013

    A unique website aimed at educating young people about sex education and reproductive health. Lots of 'vodcasts' by young radio journalists. doclink

    Soap Operas as "Edutainment"

    July 11, 2013, Council on Foreign Relations

    Education-entertainment, which weaves important information about health, safety, and cultural issues into an enticing plot line, can be highly effective in combating cultural prejudices and encouraging positive behavior, sometimes even upending societal preconceptions. A study showed that, a year after cable television was introduced into several rural Indian communities, there was a reduction in those that said it would be acceptable for a husband to beat his wife. There was also a reduced preference for male children.

    In 2008 a study found that after Brazilian soap operas began portraying families that were smaller than the national average, the fertility rate dropped in the regions where these shows aired. The shows in combination with greater access to contraception led to a declining fertility rate and an increase in women's independence and ability to pursue educational and career opportunities.

    Other programs have encouraged entrepreneurship. Simplemente María (Simply Maria), a Peruvian soap opera that aired in 1969, followed the fictional story of a young woman who moved to the city, learned to read and sew, and eventually became a famous fashion designer. The show was wildly popular, airing five days a week for two years. The show led to a substantial spike in enrollment in literacy classes throughout the country.

    In Pakistan the Aurat Foundation uses radio-based soap operas to reach rural women with important social and health messages. Bol, the highest-grossing Pakistani film of 2011, tells the story of the strained relationship between a father and his transgendered son. Another show, Taan, tackles issues related to homosexuality, Islamic extremism, and interfaith relationships.

    The Population Media Center has already taken advantage of the power of popular media to effect social change.

    Several producers and governments have enhanced their television programs with educational content. Apwe Plezi, a Saint Lucian radio program aired in the 1990s addressed HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, and domestic abuse. It was found that the program "influenced listeners to increase their awareness of contraceptives, improve important attitudes about fidelity and family relations, and adopt family planning methods." Soul City, a South African soap opera, educates viewers about the dangers of unprotected sex and HIV/AIDS. The show is as popular as Coca-Cola and viewers are nearly four times more likely to use a condom than non-viewers are. doclink

    Employment, Public Office, and Land Ownership

    Malaysia Says Women Must Hold 30 Percent of Top Corporate Posts for Gender Equality

    June 27, 2011, Associated Press

    A landmark decision by the Malaysia Cabinet says women must hold 30% of top corporate posts by 2016 to bolster the role of women in Malaysia, a mainly Muslim country.

    Prime Minister Najib Razak says says the government will help companies develop programs to train women for decision-making roles.

    A similar policy instituted in 2004 for the public sector has raised women's participation from 19% to 32%. Women already hold some top government posts in Malaysia. doclink

    Karen Gaia: There are many other countries that can benefit from Malaysia's example, including the U.S.

    Ghana: Country May Miss MDG If Less Than 80 Women Win

    May 18, 2011, All Africa (Ghana)

    Twenty-three out of the 64 women who contested the New Patriotic Party (NPP) primaries were elected as parliamentary candidates and would contest on the ticket of the NPP in the 2012 general elections.

    Women's rights advocates who called for reduced filing fees for all female hopefuls, and are happy that they have been successful.

    Nevertheless, if the other parties, particularly the CPP and NDC do not field more women then Ghana will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. doclink

    In a Land of Few Rights, Saudi Women Fight to Vote

    May 04, 2011, NPR

    Saudi women feel they have the least freedom or fewest rights of any women in the world. They have no right to vote, are not allowed to drive, have little say in matters of marriage and divorce, and cannot travel without a letter of permission from their male guardian.

    They must wear a black robe and veil whenever they leave the house.

    The government recently reneged on a promise to grant them the vote in municipal elections this fall.

    The president of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association thinks the government is using it to make concessions to the hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in the kingdom, who, among other things, run the much feared religious police here and oppose giving women more rights. They also keep Saudi citizens in check at a time when political dissent in the kingdom is growing.

    Small groups of women are going to the voting places and asking for a voting card. Others have tried to defy the ban against females driving. But then they are described as whores and their husbands as pimps and they suffer reprisals at work and have their passports confiscated by the government. doclink

    Saudi Women Sore Over Men-only Polls

    March 31, 2011, Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)

    In Saudi Arabia, women have been banned from voting in this year's municipal elections. The first municipal elections were held in 2005, but they were men only. Dr Mohammad Al Zulfa, former member of the Shura Council and woman's rights advocate said that not having women take part in the first municipal elections could be justified but after five years of the experiment, depriving women from the elections is unjustifiable.

    The elections will be held on September 22. The reform process was initiated by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Lack of readiness at the polls will make it impossible for women to participate this year, the voting commission said. Also foreign organisations would not be allowed to monitor the elections.

    "Women will be allowed to take part at the appropriate time," Election Commissioner Abdul Rahman Al Dahmash said.

    A number of Saudi women activists and men advocating women rights described the decision as "unjustifiable and unacceptable". Saudi women have realized significant achievements at the local and international levels and so they are capable in being candidates and voters in the upcoming municipal elections. "We are looking for a political decision from King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to have women, who constitute 49% of the Kingdom's population, take part in the forthcoming municipal elections," said Suhaila Zain Abdeen, a Saudi woman and human rights activist. doclink

    UN: Women Farmers Could Slash Number of Hungry by Up to 17 Per Cent

    March 08, 2011, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that women in rural areas could help reduce by up to 17% the number of the world's hungry - currently at almost 1-billion people

    "The report makes a powerful business case for promoting gender equality in agriculture," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said. "Gender equality is not just a lofty ideal, it is also crucial for agricultural development and food security. We must promote gender equality and empower women in agriculture to win, sustainably, the fight against hunger and extreme poverty."

    The 2010-11 State of Food and Agriculture report says if women were given the same access as men to agricultural resources, this could increase crops yields on women's farms in developing countries by 20% to 30% and raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12% to 17%, or 100 to 150 million people.

    Women make up on average 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. However, where rural women are employed, they tend to be segregated into lower paid occupations and are more likely to be in less secure forms of employment, such as seasonal, part-time or low-wage jobs. Jobs in high-value export-oriented agricultural industries offer better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture, the report said.

    "In many countries women do not have the same rights as men to buy, sell or inherit land, to open a savings account or borrow money, to sign a contract or sell their produce. Where legal rights exist on paper, they often are not honored in practice." Government officials must be held accountable for upholding the law and women must be aware of their rights and empowered to claim them. doclink

    Africa: Call to Put Women's Rights at Centre of Development Plans

    June 08, 2005, The Herald (UK)

    Womens' rights should be at the heart of future development plans for Africa, MPs from around the world told the G8 leaders. 80 international parliamentarians said improving women's health, education and pay were vital to the continent's wellbeing and gender equality should be integral to the process. The declaration urged the G8 leaders to act on aid to Africa, fair trade, debt relief, health and HIV, as without change Africa would miss its Millennium Development Goals. A keynote speaker at the event said participation in primary education among girls is only 80% of the level for boys in sub-Saharan Africa. But by improving the education of women, their rights generally improved, and so did their maternal and sexual health which were vital to Africa's future. doclink

    India: Kashmiri Women Lift Veil, Eye Career in the Skies

    July 8, 2009, Reuters

    Far from the capital of disputed Kashmir, a group of young women swap their burqas for smart suits and stilettos and dream of a career in the skies.

    The inauguration of an international airport in Srinagar, Kashmir's main city provided an alternative to careers in medicine and teaching, and the valley's first aviation academy is now grooming them for the skies.

    "We now have the opportunity to show the world that we can also become something in life", a trainee cabin said.

    The year-long training is no different from that offered by hundreds of similar institutes that mushroomed across India. But in Kashmir, where thousands of people have been killed since a rebellion in 1989, the institute is, a god-send.

    With protests and violence almost a daily occurrence in Srinagar, the institute chose to maintain a low- profile, picking an out-of-town location so the women, who often come in wearing burqas, are safe.

    I was apprehensive and reluctant because I was worried she would go away from me," said Ayub's mother Mehfuza. "But then I realized that if she does some professional training, it will make her life better."

    In the early 1990s, Islamist militants began imposing their own strict version of Islam, shooting at women who did not cover themselves in a burqa, and flinging acid in their faces.

    Now, the militants' hold over daily life in the valley has eased, with violence ebbing since India and Pakistan, began a peace process in 2004.

    A single cinema has reopened, traditional theater and music are being revived and young Kashmiri women are abandoning their veils and considering careers like aviation.

    Youngsters like Ayub were keen to make up for lost time and hold out hope for better times.

    "The present generation realizes that we must go forward, and see what opportunities are available and take them with both hands." doclink

    Investing in Women to Advance Economic Growth

    June 4, 2009, CEDPA

    Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke said in a Congressional briefing: "Despite the significant progress, there is still a wealth of untapped potential in women."

    Economic growth for women has an important multiplier effect, which is why the World Bank calls investing in women .smart economics. Women tend to share their economic gains with their families and communities. One study concluded that investing in women's education and leadership in Africa can increase agricultural yields by more than 20%.

    Women own only 1% of the world's wealth, have only a 10% share in global income, and occupy just 14% of leadership positions in the private and public sector. Women produce half of the world's food, but own a only 1% of its land.

    ExxonMobil Foundation's Lorie Jackson said that "investment in women is not philanthropic, it's just smart business." Equipping women from all backgrounds with the education, skills and support systems necessary to be successful managers, business leaders and entrepreneurs is one of the most important means to ensuring economic growth in the developing world.

    Evelyn Omawumi Urhobo of Nigeria's Morgan Smart Development Foundation her community bank gives loans to "rural poor women who did not have access to credit to start businesses that would enable them to lift themselves out of poverty. To date, the bank has given loans to over 15,000 people mostly poor women in the region." They have a 85% pay back rate on loans given to the women.

    The Global Women in Management program is CEDPA's longest running training program, with thousands of graduate in almost every country worldwide. doclink

    Gender Equality

    Faster-Than-Expected Population Growth in Many 'Feed the Future' Countries

    August 1, 2013, NewSecurityBeat

    Feed the Future, President Obama's global hunger and food security initiative, started implementation in 19 focus countries in 2010. In that year, projections for population growth by 2050 were: Cambodia by nearly one-third; Kenya more than double; Mali to triple.

    The goals of Feed the Future are to reduce both the prevalence of poverty and the prevalence of stunted children by 20%. Interventions include developing new seed varieties, training smallholder farmers in new management techniques, and strengthening delivery systems for maternal and child health and nutrition services.

    Recently the UN Population Division revised its population projections upward, with populations in these countries expected to grow even faster than anticipated. Seven of the Feed the Future focus countries - Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Tajikistan, and Uganda - are projected to grow at least 20% more between 2010 and 2050 than projected just two years ago. Fertility is not falling as quickly as previously expected, particularly in many sub-Saharan African countries.

    A greater-than-anticipated boost in population is likely to amplify the struggle for enough food. What else can be done for food security?

    Access to quality reproductive health and family planning information and services is required for families to avoid unintended pregnancy and actualize their fertility preferences. More than 220 million worldwide women would like to avoid pregnancy but lack family planning.

    34% of women in Uganda, 30% of women in Senegal, 28% of women in Mali, and 26% of women in Ethiopia lack have this unmet need for family planning. Many see meeting this need for family planning as a basic human right, and its importance for women and child health, community health, and overall development is reflected in the Millennium Development Goals and likely in whatever will replace them.

    There is a correlation between the ability to determine the number, timing, and spacing of children and women's empowerment, which Feed the Future considers a critical component of strengthening prospects for food security, and why it is piloting the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index which measures gender parity within households, and extent to which women are empowered across five key domains: production, resources, income, leadership, and time. Having a measure of these forms of empowerment will facilitate informed interventions that can strengthen women's empowerment in ways that support food security outcomes. A woman's ability to plan her pregnancies is a relevant factor in each of these areas.

    With population expected to increase even faster, there is a need to redouble efforts in promoting women's empowerment and expanding access to reproductive health and family planning services. In Malawi where population, land, and climate dynamics threaten food security, there have been faster-than-anticipated drops in fertility. The emphasis placed on girls' education, access to family planning, and women's economic empowerment by President Joyce Banda has likely contributed to these changes. doclink

    Empowering Women to Improve Food Security - What Works and Why

    March 12, 2013, Guardian Professional

    The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India guarantees 100 days of minimum wage employment - or equivalent unemployment payments - to poor rural households. The program benefited 52.5m households in 2009-2010, and put people to work building productive assets or providing environmental services, such as water harvesting and conservation and the digging of irrigation canals.

    Tens of millions are beneficiaries of the program, which aims to reduce poverty build infrastructure, as well as the empowerment of women, and which has resulted in the reduction the unemployment rate for women which was reduced from 141 days per year in 2005 (compared with 76 for men) to 48% in 2009-2010, spurred on, probably, by the promise of wage parity with men and the relative regularity and safety of the work.

    As a result, women were empowered by allowing them to contribute to household income and decision-making, notably on food, consumer goods, children's education, healthcare and debt management; and they were allowed to take a more active role in the rural public sphere.

    However many women are constrained by household responsibilities, looking after the young, sick or elderly or fetching water and firewood; in India this work is equivalent to 182% of total tax revenue.

    Under the act, there should be a female worker who looks after her co-workers' children (and paid the same wage as others), but 70% of the women interviewed had no access to childcare facilities at work, while 65% were unaware of this provision.

    In Bangladesh, its Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction - Targeting the Ultra Poor - is an asset transfer program. Launched in 2002 by the NGO BRAC and later expanded to cover up to 300,000 ultra-poor women and their households. The program provides women with assets such as poultry that require less labor to be maintained, while providing them with extensive asset management training as well as subsidized health and legal services, social development training, and water and sanitation.

    A daily stipend is paid until the assets were able to generate sufficient income for the household, which alleviates the need for the women to work in other peoples' houses as maids which made it more difficult for them to focus on working on the assets transferred by the program.

    Food security and anti-poverty strategies must be transformative and make the redistribution of roles between women and men a priority so that they not only sustain the poor but also avoid sustaining the gender divisions that characterize poverty and keep it locked in place. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Empowering women goes a long way toward making women aware that working mothers can do more for their families by providing for them rather than just producing more babies. And when womens' worth goes up, male preference is no longer a major factor in determining family size. When a woman wants only two children, but one of them must be a boy, she has three children, on average.

    Taking Hope and Inspiration from Amazing Women

    March 07, 2013, PopulationGrowth.org   By: Suzanne York, www.howmany.org

    Investing in women - namely providing education, healthcare, economic opportunities, sustainable livelihoods, and empowerment -, while good for population stabilization, is something the global community should be supporting anyway for the good of society. Numbers are important, such as the 222 million women around the world that want access to voluntary family planning services but do not have it. But population numbers should not be the main topic of discussion, especially when talking about women's rights and reproductive rights.

    Last year, Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani teenage advocate for girls education,was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban, bringing attention to the challenges of supporting education for girls. The Taliban fighters boarded her school bus, and severely injured her and two other students. Malala has made a spectacular recovery and last month, in her first public statement since the incident,said "I want every girl, every child, to be educated." Malala has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Should she receive it, it would help her cause immensely, and improve the plight of girls around the world.

    According to the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools in the region, Pakistan has the second-highest number of girls who are not enrolled in school. Its education budget is less than 2.3% of GDP.

    The UN Special Envoy for Global Education (Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown) wrote that "Indeed, the new superpower that cannot be ignored is the power that girls are rightly seizing for themselves."

    In India, Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad founded the GREEN Foundation that is trying to protect agricultural livelihoods, promote women's empowerment, and share best practices based on local and traditional knowledge. Nearly 80% of Indian women work in agriculture, yet less than 7% of women have land tenure. Dr. Ramprasad has worked tirelessly in the face of the green revolution and the industrial agriculture system to protect biodiversity and empower small-scale farmers. She and her foundation are promoting women's innovations, much of it based on ancestral knowledge and farmer-to-farmer exchanges, including seed banks, multi-cropping, the use of natural pesticides, water harvesting, and other natural farming practices. All this has resulted in a positive and lasting effect on women's food and economic security, and has empowered women farmers across India.

    As we celebrate International Women's Day, let's keep the Dr. Ramprasads and Malala's of the world in our hearts and minds. When society empowers and values women and girls, it gives them the freedom to make positive choices for themselves and their families, which is good for the entire world. doclink

    Women's Empowerment is a Fundamental Requirement for Sustainability and a Prosperous Future

    March 08 , 2013, Population Matters

    International Women's Day 2013 - Women's empowerment is a requirement for sustainability and is in the interests of all, men and women. Only when women are fully empowered can they make independent choices, with their partners, about the timing and number of their children.

    This ability to choose is key to reducing global birth rates to replacement level, which itself is necessary to achieve long term sustainability, protect the environment and biodiversity, slow climate change and ensure that there are sufficient resources for everyone. Only by ending and then reversing human population growth will there be sufficient resources to raise the living standards of the world's poor.

    Women's empowerment requires:

    *An acceptance that women should play a full role in social, political and economic life

    *Universal access to modern family planning and maternal health services

    *Equal access to education

    *Equal access to employment

    *Equal property, legal and other rights

    *Legal and social protection from violence, inside and outside the home

    *An end to female genital mutilation and child marriage

    *Poverty alleviation

    *Peace and security

    Commented Simon Ross "Women and couples, given the ability to choose and the right circumstances, typically choose to have smaller families. Smaller families are a precondition for sustainability. Consequently, women's empowerment should be included in all strategies with the goals of sustainability, environmental protection and poverty alleviation." doclink

    Religions and Babies

    May 2012, Gapminder World

    Is there a relation between religion, sex and the number of babies per woman? In this TED talk from Doha, Qatar, Hans Rosling discusses this delicate topic and explains the main reason why the world population will increase with another 3 billion people.

    It's not religion; it's not income. What is it?

    . http to see and explore the interactive map shown in the video.


    Image from Qatar government website


    Image from Gapminder World website at http://www.ted.com/talks/view/lang///id/1455 doclink

    Why Women Are a Foreign Policy Issue; the Most Pressing Global Problems Simply Won't Be Solved Without the Participation of Women

    May 2012, Foreign Policy

    Melanne Verveer is the U.S. State Department's ambassador at large for global women's issues. In meeting with a group of Afghan women activists in Kabul, one of the women requested: "Please don't see us as victims, but look to us as the leaders we are."

    For generations, the United States too often viewed the world's women as victims of poverty and illiteracy, of violence and seemingly unbreakable cultural traditions -- essentially, as beneficiaries of aid. Now that there has been a transformative change -- from the rise of new economic powers to a growing chorus of voices against repressive regimes in the Arab world -- promoting the status of women is not just a moral imperative but a strategic one; it's essential to economic prosperity and to global peace and security. In other words, it is a strategy for a smarter foreign policy.

    Peace talks took place which left women out of negotiating rooms and treaty documents, an omission that weakened the chances of forging durable peace agreements. Development programs were designed without consulting women or considering the crucial role they played, whether it was agricultural training initiatives that targeted men even though women often represented the majority of small farmers, or building wells in areas where women could not go, never mind that women were the ones responsible for fetching water.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is working to ensure that advancing the status of women and girls around the world is fully integrated into every aspect of U.S. foreign policy. Advancing the status of women and girls worldwide is now officially a requirement in every U.S. diplomat's job description.

    Those countries that deny women basic human rights are some of the poorest and least stable. Countries where men and women are closer to enjoying equal rights are far more economically competitive than those where the gender gap has left women and girls with limited or no access to medical care, education, elected office, and the marketplace, according to the World Economic Forum.

    Goldman Sachs researchers found that closing the gender gap between male and female employment would be a powerful engine for global growth, even in the United States and the eurozone, where it could boost GDP by billions of dollars. The Economist has reported that the increase in employment among women in developed countries contributed more to global GDP growth than China as a whole in recent years.

    Many women still lack access to capital, credit, and training and are prevented from inheriting or owning land. Cultural traditions inhibit women's participation in the formal economy. FAO estimates that if women farmers were provided the same access to seeds, fertilizer, and technology as men, they could improve their yields by 20 - 30% and reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100 million to 150 million.

    In the 1990s, nearly half of all peace agreements failed within the first five years, according to the Human Security Report Project. Women, meanwhile, endure much of the residual violence and poverty caused by armed conflicts, and they bear much of the burden of rebuilding families and communities. Less than 8% of the hundreds of peace treaties signed in the last 20 years were negotiated by delegations that included women, and according to the World Economic Forum, women hold less than 20%of all national decision-making positions.

    In 1994 the Lusaka Protocol ended two decades of civil war in Angola. The commission established to implement the protocol consisted of 40 men -- and no women. While there were demobilization programs for ex-combatants, there were no programs for the thousands of women who had been kidnapped and forced to work as military cooks, messengers, or sex slaves. Efforts were focused on roads and failed to target the fields, wells, and forests where women grew crops, fetched water, and gathered firewood.

    In Egypt last year, women marched on the front lines of the protests, often leading their fathers, brothers, and husbands into Tahrir Square. A year later, the courageous women of the Arab Spring fear not just that progress on women's rights will halt, but that the rights they currently enjoy will be rolled back.

    In Afghanistan the number of women attending school and serving in parliament and on local peace councils has increased dramatically over the past decade, but the country still remains the world's most dangerous for women in terms of health, violence, and lack of economic resources.

    Give a small-businesswoman access to capital and training, and she can become a powerful contributor to GDP growth. Include women in governments and peace talks, and they can help ensure that ministries are better run and peace agreements are sustained. Educate a girl, and she will be more likely to raise healthier and more educated children -- and end the cycle of poverty.

    Secretary Clinton has championed the use of "smart power": deploying all the tools at America's disposal to advance national interests -- not just military might, but also diplomacy, development, and America's enduring values. Advocating for women's full economic, social, and political participation around the world is one of the most potent weapons in America's smart-power arsenal. doclink

    Pakistan Senate Unanimously Passed the Bill of Women Rights

    January 19, 2012

    President Asif Ali Zardari, on the International Day for Women, signed the National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) Bill 2012 into law. The NCSW Bill was unanimously approved by the National Assembly and Senate earlier this year.

    Zardari said that the National Commission on the Status of Women has been made independent and autonomous. It has been empowered to protect the social, economic, political and legal rights of women, he said.

    Protecting women from harassment at workplace, preventing acid attacks, discouraging anti women practices, creation of a Fund for women in distress and detention and legislation to punish several offenses against women including depriving them from inheritance and forced marriage were among the prominent measures taken by the Government, the President said. doclink

    Listen to Women in Times of War

    February 2, 2012, Prospect

    Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel peace prize co-laureate and Liberian peace activist, called for recognition of the crucial role and valuable experience of women during times of conflict.

    It is women who provide basic services, in the form of food and shelter, to those internally displaced by civil war. It is also women who negotiate and secure safe passage through checkpoints set up by rival factions. And, thirdly, women negotiate peace on behalf of their communities by identifying and validating those that are members of the community. Women carry out these roles in the face of the constant threats of kidnapping, rape and murder.

    Yet it is a paradox that women find themselves empowered during times of conflict to the same degree that they are disempowered in times of peace. When conflicts end, women are dismissed as underqualified and so excluded from formal peace negotiations.

    Gbowe's efforts as an activist involve encouraging female participation in elections. The fact that conflict affects men and women differently has only recently begun to influence the peacekeeping and development efforts of foreign governments and NGOs. The constant threat of rape directly inhibits the ability of women to carry out their peace-facilitating roles.

    Gry Larsen, the Norwegian state secretary for Foreign Affairs, spoke of the importance of gender-appropriate post-conflict development and aid project strategies. It is often a simple considerations of logistics, management and communication. Placing food stores, medical tents and toilets, for example, closer to communities, along well-travelled routes or in open spaces significantly reduces the risk of rape. And information relating to when and where fresh aid supplies will be delivered allow women, who most often collect the aid, to arrange safe travel. doclink

    Self Esteem

    Women in the World Summit: Fearless Women Taking on the World

    March 11, 2009

    Newsweek/The Daily Beast's third annual Women in the World summit showcased the stories of the globe's most fearless femalesState Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, Oscar-winning actresses Meryl Streep and Angelina Jolie, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, legendary feminist Gloria Steinem, and IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, and sparked a rousing discussion on the urgent challenges and tremendous opportunities facing women today.

    Other speakers included politicians, CEOs, philanthropists, educators, lawmakers, and activists from around the globe—including a provincial council member from Afghanistan, a Burmese democracy activist, a groundbreaking investigative journalist from Guatemala, and Egyptian veterans of Tahrir Square.

    The summit produced a weekend of unforgettable discussions and deep connections between women of different generations and backgrounds, all bound by the conviction that "women's rights are human rights" and that women have a moral obligation to work on each other's behalf.

    Leymah Gbowee recounted her life in Liberia during Charles Taylor's brutal reign and the events that led her to assemble the country's mothers to demand an end to civil war—culminating in a chain of women, arm in arm, taking a group of unmotivated negotiators hostage until they hammered out a peace accord. "If we want the rape to end, the violence to end, we have to stand up." .. "We have to be our own Gandhis. We have to be our own Kings. We have to be our own Mandelas," she said.

    Gbowee also expressed shock that American women were not more outraged over the way certain politicians and pundits were trying to shut them out of the reproductive-rights debate.

    Kah Walla, former presidential candidate of Cameroon's People's Party said "We cannot accept that having 19 percent of women in [the U.S.] Congress is OK." ... "It's politics that defines the economy; it's politics that defines social norms. And until we get political power, we are not going to be able to make giant strides."

    16-year-old Suma Tharu from Nepal, opened the Women in the World summit with a poignant song about being sold into slavery by her parents—who were disappointed to have a daughter. Suma, when she grows up, wants to work for an organization that helps other women.

    "We have a lot of work to do now of behalf of women in Egypt," said Dalia Ziada, Egypt director of the American Islamic Congress, who also said "There is no spring without flowers and there is no Arab Spring without women."

    .. http to read the entire, very inspiring, story. doclink

    Liberia: Leymah Gbowee: African Feminism Vs. Western Feminism: Pray the Devil Back to Hell

    March 7, 2012

    Leymah Gbowee's father protected her and her four sisters from the secret cutting ritual that would serve to bind them to their village. FGM plagues over 100 million women and girls around the world..

    "My upbringing defied what the typical African setting would say I went through," said Gbowee.

    Growing up in a poor, middle-class - she calls it - village in Liberia, her upbringing was different, molding her into a feminist, an activist, a peace-builder and the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

    When a bloody civil war ravaged her country from 1980 to 2003, Gbowee realized it was women who would have to bear the greatest burden in ending the conflict. She began organizing Christian and Muslim women to demonstrate together, founding Liberian Mass Action for Peace. They used non-violent protests and a sex strike.

    She wrote a book and held peace-building workshops in and around her country, teaching women to understand the great power they held - in both mind and body.

    Pray the Devil Back to Hell is an inspiring documentary film about Gbowee's part in helping to oust Liberian president Charles Taylor. Gbowee is a single mother of six, including one adopted daughter, and is based in Accra, Ghana, where she is the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN-Africa).

    \Women living in conflict regions of the world are victims of rape, sex trafficking, disease, infant mortality and other atrocities. Yet, these issues are many times swept under the proverbial rug as heads of state or humanitarian groups take great pains in dealing with other facets of a country's rehabilitation.

    "Liberia has 994 deaths per every 100,000 births. Sierra Leone is even worse. 1200 to every 100,000. In this day and age, we shouldn't have these numbers," said Gbowee. "It was because when we started rehabilitating our countries, we did not make maternal health a priority."

    "For us, the fight is to dignify what the African woman does, not to try to get her to do what the African man does," said Dr. Hildra Tadria of Uganda, co-founder of African Women's Development Fund. doclink

    Birth Rate Plummets in Brazil

    December 30, 2011, Washington Post

    Across Latin America fertility rates plummeted, even though abortion is illegal, the Catholic Church opposes birth control and government-run family planning is rare.

    Migration to the cities, the expansion of the female workforce, better health care and the example of the small, affluent families portrayed on the region's popular soap operas have contributed to such a fast demographic shift that it caught social scientists by surprise. The number of children per woman when from 6 in 1960 to 2.3 by 2010.

    Brazil has been particularly fascinating for demographers, it's fertility rate falling lower than in any other Latin American country except Cuba, which has state-sponsored family planning and legalized abortion. With a population of almost 200 million, there is a great gap between rich and poor, although millions have joined the middle class during Brazil's recent economic expansion.

    The country's fertility rate has fallen from 6.15 children per woman in 1960 to less than 1.9 today. That is lower than the United States, which at 2 per woman is just enough for the population to replace itself.

    Brazil's fertility rate took a big drop uniformly across the country. Suzana Cavenaghi, a Brazilian census bureau demographer. "We wouldn't expect that in a country that's so diverse, with a lot of poverty in so many places and so unequal, economically speaking."

    Women were empowered by a pro-democracy movement that rose up against a 1970s-era military dictatorship. That dictatorship, which wanted to populate Brazil's remote areas, inadvertently contributed to fewer births by promoting industrialization. That led rural families to crowd into cities, where a brood of children could be a financial drain.

    Women began to look for means of birth control, easily obtained without a prescription. Doctors in the public health service provided sterilizations, which became common, and women sought out pills that induced abortions long before those pills became the subject of controversy in the United States.

    A report, "The Battle for Female Talent in Brazil," says that 59% of Brazilian women consider themselves “very ambitious" and that 80% of college-educated women aspire to upper-echelon positions. U.S. women are far less likely to give those responses.

    The country's elaborate soaps, or telenovelas, have been an important factor in the drop in Brazilian fertility, researchers say. The protagonists inhabit an appealing, affluent, highflying world, whose distinguishing features include the small family. doclink

    U.S.: Colorado's Poorest Counties Have High Teen Pregnancy Rates

    April 11, 2011, The Denver Post

    The Colorado Children's Campaign has found that there is a wide and growing gulf between the state's affluent and its poor when it comes to how they choose to create and maintain families.

    The poorest counties have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, while, in affluent counties, new moms are more likely to be in their 30s.

    Many close to the issue are convinced that teenage pregnancy is less a matter of morals or sex education or access to birth control than it is a matter of a girl or boy feeling that they have a future. Or not. Girls with prospects do not have babies. Teen pregnancy is well established as a cause of poverty, but it may also be a result of poverty.

    Lisa Piscopo, a Colorado Children's Campaign researcher, said "I believe girls choose to have babies when they don't have a vision of any other options."

    The answer is neither handing out condoms nor preaching abstinence, but to offer more of a vision for other options. Debbie Channel made a grant-funded attempt to curtail teen pregnancies by convincing young girls that there was a big world out there and they could claim a place in it.

    In Huerfano County the average annual income just over half the statewide average and an unemployment rate that rose to over 10% last year. It has the state's highest rate of births to girls ages 15 through 17, and 54% of babies born in Huerfano County were to unmarried women.

    Nationwide five of the wealthiest states had the lowest teen pregnancy rates. But Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada had the highest teen birth rates. All but Arizona and Nevada are among the poorest states.

    In 2009, a University of Chicago study reported that by age 17, one-third of young women in foster care reported having been pregnant, and by age 19 the number was nearly half. As many as one third of girls interviewed for the study said they wanted to become pregnant, perhaps "to create the family they don't have or fill an emotional void." doclink

    China Urges Int'l Community to Promote Gender Equality Legislation

    February 25, 2011, Xinhua

    The 55th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women, was held from Feb. 22 to March 4 at the UN headquarters in New York.

    Song Xiuyan, vice chair-person of the All China Women's Federation, said that the international community should continue to strengthen its efforts to enhance women's economic situation and political status, improve women's participation in society, education and labor market, eliminate violence against women, and guarantee women's rights and interests.

    Song said the launching of UN Women, formally known as the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, clearly indicates the great importance that different parties have attached to, and the broad consensus reached on women issues.

    She proposed that the UN Women should be committed to the realization of women's full development, with more input being made to alleviate poverty among women and to improve their education and health. doclink

    Jordan: Study Reveals Forced Pregnancies, Abuse in Southern Rural Areas

    January 16, 2009, Jordan Times

    Seven per cent of married women from rural communities in Jordon's southern region were forced to get pregnant, while 46% had no say in the timing of their pregnancies.

    The study targeted 918 women, 807 of whom filled out the questionnaire. Thirty seven per cent said they used at contraception with the intrauterine device and pills being the most common.

    Ninety five per cent of the women agreed that family planning has positive health advantages, while 29% did not give high priority to their health and do not seek medical treatment when they get sick.

    In light of these figures, there should be more focus when drawing up health policies to raise awareness and empower women. Strategies should provide education and training to enhance access to health centres and help them make appropriate decisions related to their reproductive health.

    The southern governorates cover a vast area, so there should also be a focus on outreach programmes. Forty two per cent of the respondents believe that married women's work was confined to their households.

    More than 30% said they were psychologically abused, being cursed for example, while 20% reported being physically abused and subjected to some form of economic and social abuse.

    A project is designed to improve women's reproductive health by enhancing health services in health centres, and also seeks to empower local communities as well as increasing awareness among men, women and young people on issues related to reproductive health. doclink

    Philippines Making Significant Progress in Empowering Women

    December 23, 2008, Thai Press Reports

    The Philippine is making headway in addressing gender issues and laws promoting participation of women in productive and income-generating activities and laws addressing violence against women and children.

    A Gender and Development (GAD) Budget Policy provides allocation of 5% of national and local government budgets for gender and development. The Philippine government is dedicated to addressing all forms of discrimination against women and is taking initiative in addressing violence against women, reducing women's vulnerability to trafficking and unsafe migration, accelerating women's participation, particularly Muslim and indigenous, in political life and decision, addressing high unemployment rate, enhancing access to health care and capability building and providing access to resources and security. All institutions may nominate any person who embodies all the qualifications of the proposed champion. The first MDG champion will be awarded an Orlina glass sculpture, scholarship grant, study tour abroad to United Nations General Headquarters (UNGH) in New York, United States and Geneva, Switzerland, free travel around the Philippines and designation by 2015 as Ambassador of Goodwill. doclink

    Pakistan: Population Welfare Department Motivating People to Keep Their Family Small

    February 19, 2008, Daily Times

    The Provincial Minister said the Population Welfare Department (PWD) is of great importance to motivate people to keep their family small and methods of population welfare.

    The minister said all steps were being taken to provide facilities and improve the structure of the department's employees.

    If the population was not controlled, serious problems could be created due to the population growth. People should keep their family to their economic resources. Scholars and people in the media could play an important role in informing couples about family planning.

    Abdul Aleem said family welfare centres had been set up at all hospitals of the Water and Power Development Authority and its Ferozepur Road Hospital had given the best performance. He said 94 welfare centres of the PWD were operating in Lahore. doclink

    Political Will, Government Involvement

    The Gulabi Gang - India (video)

    October 30, 2013, Journeyman Pictures



    In Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest and most feudal areas of India, there is a long history of patriarchy, abuse and corruption. Now, an aggressive and outspoken gang of women are fighting the system. Sampat Pal is the leader of the Gulabi, or 'Pink', Gang. This feisty crusader is making headlines with her vigilante tactics; when she isnt attacking police, she is teaching women how to wield the 'lathi' - a long, wooden staff - to protect themselves against domestic violence. With over 40,000 members, the Gulabi Gang has quickly become a mass movement. Why do we have to take the law in our hands? I'll tell you. The government doesn't obey its own laws. They're making fools of everyone. The gang are on a mission to ensure that those born into the lowest caste have an education, avoid child marriages, and earn a decent wage. Mahatma Gandhi famously preached non-violence. Sampat Pal says times have changed. I salute Gandhi. He was the father of our nation. But my style is different. doclink

    U.S.: First Trimester Abortion: It's a Good Day to Be a Woman in California

    October 09 , 2013, ACLU of Northern California

    Governor Brown recently signed AB 154, a bill authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins that expands access to abortion care by authorizing trained health professionals to provide early abortions. The legislation addresses a current shortage in the state -- 52% of California counties don't have an accessible abortion provider -- and allows women to receive care in their own communities from providers they already know and trust.

    AB 154 is not just a California victory, it's a national one.

    It's not enough to protect what we already have. Even though we are fortunate not to be suffering the harsh political attacks felt elsewhere, there is still much hard work to be done to make reproductive rights a reality for all. This law is necessary for rural women, who often have to travel long distances and make arrangements at work and for child care in order to obtain an abortion. It is also necessary for urban women, many of whom face long delays in getting medical appointments. By expanding the types of health professionals who can provide early abortions to include nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants, AB 154 significantly reduces these barriers and improves access to care for Californians.

    A 16,000-patient study has already shown that trained health professionals can safely provide early abortions and that women appreciated receiving care in their own communities. Other states have seen restrictive bills pthat rely heavily on junk science - like the Kansas law requiring that, among other things, women be told by their doctors that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.

    Other reproductive justice bills recently signed include a bill to protect patient privacy for sensitive services by closing a health insurance loophole, another ensuring that abortion-providing clinics are not subjected to different licensing and building standards than other primary care clinics, and one that expands paid family leave, and another that improves access to child care and reproductive health education for foster youth. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: California has reason to be cautious. The city council in Bakersfield wanted to pass an anti-abortion 'human-life' ordinance last July. When they found out they would be illegal, they decided to make it a resolution, which will be voted on this Wednesday night. See http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/Opponents-proponents-speak-out-on-proposed-human-life-ordinance-215945051.html?tab=video&c=y

    Ethiopia: Rethinking the Model Family

    August 26 , 2013

    In Ethiopia the government has been organizing "community conversations". In one meeting, for example, a priest with Ethiopia's Orthodox Christian church says "Christianity is not opposed to contraception. It's opposed to killing and lying - not to birth control," and a female government health worker says that having too many kids, and not spacing pregnancies, increases the risk of illness and death for mother and child.

    While in rural areas lots of children - to herd cows and plow fields - has been the norm, a health worker says she targets women who are having a lot of children. "We approach them as sisters, and we say, ‘Look, you are pregnant and you already have two babies - look at how you are struggling.'"

    A farming woman says when she first got married, she wanted a lot of children. "We wanted at least five. But then we met with the health workers, and they changed our mind," she said. She and her husband decided to have just two kids. She began using a contraceptive injection, which she gets from the government for free. The couple was publicly praised by the government and received a certificate, which hangs on the wall of their hut, recognizing them as a “model family."

    “Large families used to be admired," she said. “Now, it's people who use birth control and only have a few children who are respected. Families with a lot of children are criticized."

    Ethiopia's foreign minister, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, says the country has an unhealthy age structure - too many kids, and not enough breadwinners, which puts a big financial strain on the country, and it needs to change.

    Tedros says the government never tells couples how many kids they should have because that is, ultimately, a personal choice. “We don't put a number, saying, this number is good," Tedros says. Instead, the government teaches families about the benefits of having fewer children, and it lets parents decide for themselves.

    Over the past decade, the country's fertility rate has fallen, at least a little. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: another reason Ethiopia's age structure is skewed is too many deaths of adults from AIDs.

    U.S.: State Facts About Unintended Pregnancy

    December 19, 2012, Guttmacher Institute

    There are 6.7 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year About half of these are unintended. Births resulting from unintended pregnancies have been linked to adverse maternal and child health outcomes and myriad social and economic challenges, including costs to the federal and state governments of $11 billion (2006).

    The Guttmacher Institute has launched a new tool that gives the incidence and outcomes of unintended pregnancy in each state, including the proportion of all pregnancies that are unintended; the rates of unintended pregnancy; the proportions of unintended pregnancies that result in births and abortions; and the proportion of all births resulting from unintended pregnancy;

    Also given is the public cost of unintended pregnancy in each state, and the impact in each state of publicly funded family planning services.

    Adam Sonfield, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher, said of the fact sheets: "They are a comprehensive resource that documents the significant state-level benefits of investing in publicly funded family planning services, both in helping women avert unintended pregnancies, births and abortions, and generating considerable savings to the federal and state governments." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Sounds like a very useful tool for activists to use when having a conversation with their legislators.

    World Contraception Day: Crossing the Borders of Tradition and Religion

    September 19, 2012, Women Deliver   By: Dr. Shibilu Shamsudeen

    The topics of contraception and sexual education are largely avoided in many Muslim countries. And many countries in the Middle East have laws against the purchase of oral contraceptive pills.

    However, the Holy Quran does permit contraception as long as both partners consent, it's not permanent, and it doesn't cause bodily harm. Education is needed in order to change the perception of policy makers, and this education needs to be respectful of their traditional values while reassuring them of the benefits of making contraception available to young people.

    Middle Eastern traditions and Shariah (Islamic) law dictate that pre-marital sex (even between consenting adults above the age of 18) is punishable by law. This often brands all contraceptive methods as instruments for having sex out of marriage. The uses, risks, and contraindications are not discussed and are unknown to adult women. The general view is that these topics promote sexual behavior among unmarried men and women.

    Doctors are an exception and can provide contraceptive advice to married couples. Unmarried men and women have no access to contraceptive knowledge and are at risk of unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Unmarried pregnant women may even attempt suicide when they feel they have no options.

    Also, emergency contraception is not widely available, which has led to an alarming rise in cases of fake and often dangerous pills that are purchased online.

    Progress in introducing the topics of contraception and sex education may be slow, but every step forward is significant.The significance of providing contraception and improving overall healthcare must be linked. Experts will impart knowledge and train peer educators, to construct policies and to negotiate with government agencies.

    Basic awareness-raising can begin through the Friday Islamic congregational prayer and the sermons, while keeping the Islamic law according to the Quran and Hadith in the forefront.

    Peer educators also need to be selected on the basis of sex, nationality, language, and communication skills so they can be specifically tailored for specific groups, particularly with the men and women separately.

    Feedback from participants is also important to help educators improve their teaching, answer the relevant questions, and dispel the common myths and misconceptions about contraception. Social media and the internet can also serve this purpose.

    Information must be freely available to empower youth about making responsible decisions to avoid unwanted pregnancies. doclink

    U.K.: London Summit: a Compilation of Commitments

    September 17 , 2012, International Planned Parenthood Federation

    The London Summit on Family Planning held in July harvested commitments from organisations and nations which enabled it to easily overshoot that $2.3 billion target. The Summary of Commitments from the UK Department of International Development reported that commitments came from 10 donor countries, 6 foundations, 19 developing countries, 21 civil society groups, 3 multi-lateral partnerships, and 1 private sector company.

    The goal of the summit was to raise sufficient donor funds to meet the unmet need for contraception of 120 million women worldwide by 2020. This would require an extra $4.3 billion injected into family planning programs over the next 8 years. Of that $4.3 billion, $2.3 billion would be provided by donors.

    In summary, the world is putting its money where its mouth is, taking Sexual and Reproductive Health seriously, and placing it at the center of the development agenda.

    The Summary of Commitments incorporates International Planned Parenthood Federation's (IPPF) own commitment to treble the number of women's and girls' lives saved each year by 2020.

    With increased capacity, increased funding, and strengthened service delivery systems, IPPF aims to save the lives of 54,000 women and girls, avert 46 million unintended pregnancies, and prevent 12.4 million unsafe abortions by 2020. The federation will also triple its services to young people by 2020, and make commodities more affordable. doclink

    Africa: Presidents Pledge to Fund Family Planning

    September 03 , 2012, AllAfrica.com

    Speech by H. E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda at the London Summit, July 11, 2012

    The issue of population in Africa must be put in a proper context. Africa is the origin of man (five million years ago) and is also the cradle of civilization (Egypt). About 100,000 years ago, the population in Africa was one million people while that out of Africa was just a few hundreds. However, by 1500 the out of Africa population was 300 million people while the population in Africa was only 47 million people.

    Africa is a huge continent of 11 million square miles of land. You can fit the US, China, India, Brazil and the whole of Western Europe in Africa - with some space to spare.

    Today the population of Africa is one billion people, less than the population of India which, in land area, is a mere 1/11 of the area of Africa.

    Some of the African countries such as DRC, CAR, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Zambia, Angola and many others seem to suffer from under population rather than over population.

    Africa's population is now about 70 million people. Therefore, the problem is not population per se. The problems are under-development and lack of socio-economic transformation on the one hand and child spacing for the good health of the babies to be born and for the health of the mother.

    Africa needs to metamorphose from a pre-capitalist, quasi-feudal society to a middle class, skilled working class society. That social metamorphosis will, inevitably, bring down the population growth rate. Middle class societies and industrial working class societies do not have time or space (in urban areas) to generate children.

    The economy of Uganda has been growing at the rate of 6.5% per annum for the last 25 years in spite of inadequate supply of electricity and high transport costs.

    This summit gives us the chance to reflect on our efforts to improve adolescents' and women's needs in order to empower them, improve their health and welfare. Young people should be better able to make informed choices for healthy sexual and reproductive health lifestyles.

    Uganda has reduced poverty and promoted universal primary and secondary education for both girls and boys thereby increasing literacy rate. Life expectancy in Uganda has increased to 52 years. We have promoted women involvement in all spheres of our national development.

    Infant mortality in Uganda has reduced very considerably. However, our progress on MDG 5, improving maternal health, is still not on target.

    In developing countries, women continue to die during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet the causes are well known and largely preventable. The use of relatively cheap and available technologies will lead to significant improvement in the living conditions of women. With women lacking access to family planning facilities, concerted efforts must be made to ensure their access, equitable distribution and affordability.

    Natural methods should also not be forgotten taking advantage of the fact that days for ovulation are limited in the monthly cycle of a woman.

    Nobody should administer family control drugs to rural illiterate women without explaining fully the implications of such an act. Family planning should be out of informed choice not out of manipulation.

    In Uganda, we have scaled reproductive health, including antenatal care, youth-friendly services, emergency obstetric care as well as family planning particularly encouraging birth spacing.

    Government will increase the government allocation for Family Planning supplies from $3.3m per year currently to $5m per year for the next 5 years and will mobilise an additional $5m from external partners.

    Khumbo Kachali, vice president-Malawi - The Malawi government declared its commitment to raise Malawi's Contraceptive Prevalence Rate) to 60% by 2020 with a targeted increase in young people aged 15 to 24 years. It pledged to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 and strengthen institutional arrangements to deliver effective policy leadership for population and family planning.

    Nigeria Health minister, Muhammad Ali Pate - His country targeted a Contraceptive Prevalence Rate of 36% by 2018 to avert 31,000 maternal deaths.

    Senegal promised to more than double the number of women using contraception to 27% by 2015. The government will also increase its spending on procurement of reproductive health supplies by 100%, and double the budget for its family planning programme, investing in awareness campaigns. The country's minister of health claimed the support of the religious leaders.

    Tanzania's president Jakaya Kikwete also pledged to double the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate to 60% by 2015.

    Ethiopia recognized that early childbearing is a major contributor to maternal mortality, and put emphasis is on adolescent girls who have the highest unmet need for family planning.

    The Zambian government committed to expand its budget for family planning by 100% as well as reaching out to religious leaders opposing contraception initiatives, said Joseph Katema, Zambia's minister of community development and mother and child health. doclink

    Executive Order -- Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women and Girls Globally

    August 2012, White House

    President of the United States Barack Obama signed an executive order on August 10 recognizing that gender-based violence undermines not only the safety, dignity, and human rights of the millions of individuals who experience it, but also the public health, economic stability, and security of nations; and making gender equality and women's empowerment a core focus of US foreign policy.

    Evidence demonstrates that women's empowerment is critical to building stable, democratic societies; to supporting open and accountable governance; to furthering international peace and security; to growing vibrant market economies; and to addressing pressing health and education challenges.

    Such violence significantly hinders the ability of individuals to fully participate in, and contribute to, their communities -- economically, politically, and socially. It is a human rights violation or abuse; a public health challenge; and a barrier to civic, social, political, and economic participation. It is associated with adverse health outcomes, limited access to education, increased costs relating to medical and legal services, lost household productivity, and reduced income, and there is evidence it is exacerbated in times of crisis, such as emergencies, natural disasters, and violent conflicts.

    There is established an Interagency Working Group (Working Group) to address gender-based violence, which shall be co-chaired by the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (Co-Chairs). doclink

    Unintended Pregnancy

    Pregnancy Politics

    July 30, 2006, Tulsa World

    About two-thirds of Oklahoma women who became pregnant between 2000 and 2003 did not intend to, and many Oklahoma women and men aren't getting family planning information. Attitudes and social restraints keep too many from getting it. Two-thirds of the unintended pregnancies were paid for using tax money.

    37% of women surveyed during that three-year span did not want to become pregnant. 38% indicated their pregnancies were simply "mistimed."

    But women in both categories are at higher risk for poor pregnancy outcomes, because they are less likely to get prenatal care, more likely to use alcohol, drugs or tobacco, and more likely to become victims of violence.

    Only 35% said they intended to get pregnant.

    Teenagers reported the highest rate of unintended pregnancies, with nearly 64%. Rates of unintended pregnancies were also high among African-Americans, at more than 55% and American Indians, at nearly 45%.

    Women with lower levels of education and those living in poverty reported higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

    The survey recommends: expansion of adolescent health services, especially in low-income communities; routine counseling; awareness of family planning available to low-income women; better access to more effective contraceptive methods; a focus on men's roles in family planning.

    Advocates argue there should be more emphasis on the male role in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

    Research shows that women who carry unintended pregnancies to term are less likely to pursue more education and to get good jobs. They also tend to have more health problems. Taxpayers usually foot the bill for the pregnancy. For every $1 invested in publicly funded planning services, $3 in Medicaid are saved.

    In the last legislative session, measures did not even generate debate.

    County health departments and family-planning contractors provide education and outreach. doclink

    Philippines: Responsible Parenthood is Pure Common Sense

    April 20, 2006, Business World

    An average of 10 families lose a parent daily, or more than 4,000 families yearly.

    Most maternal deaths are due to prolonged labor, hemorrhage or excessive bleeding, hypertension, and complications from infection, obstructed labor, and complications from abortion. These causes are preventable with proper nutrition, adequate prenatal care, and access to services by trained physicians or midwives.

    The cost effective solution is responsible parenthood that means not having more children than you can afford to support. If you cannot afford nutritious food and prenatal care for the pregnant mother, then it is the height of irresponsibility to indulge in sex that will lead to pregnancy.

    There are natural and artificial methods to help couples avoid unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. They have to consult their doctors in government or private clinics for the best method. When a woman gets pregnant and she and her husband are financially unprepared, then the possibility of dying during childbirth becomes very high due to malnutrition and lack of prenatal care. doclink

    India Drops Plan to Limit Lawmakers to Two Children

    November 23, 2004, Reuters

    India has dropped a plan to bar politicians with more than two children from running in elections for parliament or state legislatures, saying it does not want to use force to control the population. The thinking in the government is that family planning should be voluntary. doclink

    US New York: City's Infant Mortality Rate Jumped by 8 Percent in 2003

    August 28, 2004, New York Times*

    The infant mortality rate in New York City jumped to 8% in 2003 after several years of declining and was caused by a rise in deaths in New York's poorest communities. The overall infant mortality rate is 6.5 deaths for every 1,000 newborns, below the national average of 7 per 1,000. Some neighborhoods are worse than others: the Tremont section of the Bronx averaged 10.2 for every 1,000 children. Other neighborhoods with poor ratios included Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and Jamaica East, Queens. Manhattan had the lowest rate, 4.8, while the Bronx had the highest, 8.6. Factors including the use of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy, access to medical care and the mother's economic status. The increase was due in part to the number of babies born prematurely and weighing very little. The overall rate is based on the deaths of 807 infants and 124,345 live births in 2003. City health officials aim to reduce the infant mortality rate to 5.0 by 2008. The Health Department is urging women to control their reproductive health and educating women about the methods of birth control. The campaign concentrates on the city's poorer communities and will include ads in the subways and on buses. Teenage pregnancy in New York has dropped in recent years but is still well above the national average. However, the majority of pregnancies in the city, of any age group, were unplanned. doclink

    Education-Africa: Breaking the Link Between Pregnancy and Dropping Out

    June 24, 2004, InterPress Service

    A conference in Nairobi is focussing on improving girls' education in sub-Saharan Africa especially to provide for the girl-child to go back to school after pregnancy. In Zambia 2,230 girls had dropped out of school last year because they became pregnant. Only a handful of countries in Africa have laws that make it compulsory for schools to re-admit young mothers. Where such laws exist, authorities must make sure they are enforced. Of the 42 million children who do not attend school in Africa, about 60% are girls. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region which is in danger of not fulfilling a target to eliminating gender disparities in education by 2015. Poverty prompts parents to keep children at home to assist with chores or be sent out to earn money. More than 200 million children are engaged in child labour, 68 million in Africa. When money is available it is the sons who receive preference. Parents believe daughters are destined for marriage and have no need of education. The provision of free primary education has traditionally been viewed as the best way of overcoming this hurdle. But delegates to the conference warned once again that simply passing the relevant legislation would not do the trick. Free education needs monitoring to ensure that girls enroll. Although Kenya introduced free primary education last year, 1.5 million children remain out of school including many disabled children. A study found that poor sanitation facilities discouraged attendance by girls who had started menstruating and led to them dropping out of school. Under a new project, girls are provided with sanitary towels, while teachers have been trained to discuss menstruation and related issues. An effort had been made to improve sanitation and build separate toilets for girls and boys. This has increased the retention of girls in school. doclink

    Joy of Sex Education

    May 11, 2004, Guardian (London)

    A US evangelical group will recruite British teenagers to its campaign against sex before marriage. The abstinence campaign has received $700,000 from George Bush, to replace sex education with Victorian values. Teenage pregnancies are concentrated at the bottom of the social scale. Women born into poverty are more likely to be unemployed, depressed and become dependent on alcohol or drugs. Teenage pregnancy and venereal disease is generally blamed on lax morals and a permissive welfare state. Teenagers are in trouble conservatives insist, because of the sexual liberation and the state support of single mothers. The US is the only rich nation with 53 births per 1,000 teenagers - worse than India, the Philippines and Rwanda. The UK comes next with 20. Germany and Norway produce 11 babies per 1,000 teenagers, Finland 8, Sweden and Denmark 7 and the Netherlands 5. Sweden, changed its sex education policies in 1975 when abstinence and sex only within marriage were dropped, contraceptive education was explicit, and youth clinics established to provide advice and free contraceptives. Sweden saw its teenage birth rate fall by 80% and sexually transmitted diseases declined by 40%. The Dutch experience concluded that the success has been from a society with open attitudes towards sex and sex education. Contraceptives are not associated with shame or embarrassment. America and the UK have an atmosphere of embarrassment and secrecy. The UK has a higher teenage pregnancy rate because of lower rates of contraceptive use. The catastrophe afflicting so teenagers in Britain and America has been caused by those who campaign against sex education. Abstinence campaigns such as the Silver Ring Thing delay sexual activity, but participants are one-third less likely to use contraceptives as they are not "prepared for an experience that they have promised to forgo".

    Abstinence programmes are associated with an increase in pregnancies among partners of young males. doclink

    Reassessing the Level of Unintended Pregnancy and Its Correlates in Vietnam

    March 2004, Blackwell-Synergy: Studies in Family Planning

    Despite increasing contraceptive use and declining fertility, unintended pregnancy and abortion remain common in Vietnam. 40% of pregnancies during 1994-97 have been unintended. With concealed pregnancies ending in induced abortions, the unintended pregnancy rate approaches levels found in developing countries. Unintended pregnancy was associated with age, early marriage, spousal age difference, number of living sons, past unintended pregnancy, geographic region, contraceptive use, and family planning. The findings suggest that broadening the method mix at the community level, targeting high-risk and underserved groups, and expanding postabortion counseling are likely to have an impact on the unintended pregnancy rate in Vietnam. doclink

    Male Involvement and Responsibility

    'i Have Seen My Friends Die': Why We Need to Talk Frankly About Girls' Reproductive Health

    July 09, 2013, Huffington Post

    Last year at the London Family Planning Summit a global movement was catalyzed to ensure that 120 million more women and girls have access to contraception by 2020. World Population Day 2013 focuses on adolescent pregnancy. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among adolescent girls ages 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries.

    One in three of girls under 18 in the developing world are married; many without their consent. 15% of all unsafe abortions in low- and middle-income countries are among adolescent girls aged 15-19 years.

    Because of these alarming numbers, we need to talk frankly and openly; we cannot shy away from tough conversations when girls are at risk.

    Young women face barriers when they seek contraception or access to information and commodities to practice safer sex. This must stop.

    A young woman in Ethiopia, Haregnesh, says girls she knows who were very young when they got married and starting having children and she has see some of them die. "I have seen educated people and I saw the difference in their lives. ... I watched as they had no food to eat or feed their children and they just kept getting pregnant and having babies. I could see that they were suffering and I wanted to go to school." A Pathfinder International program in Amhara, Ethiopia supports girls to continue their studies. Haregnesh's strength and resolve to stay in school, as well as talk openly about girls' education, early marriage, and childbirth, has shifted the approach to girls' education in her family and in her community.

    Haregnesh's father, who had not wanted her to attend school said. "Haregnesh is our third child and she made all the change happen in our family. My three younger children now attend school as well."

    We must commit to ensuring adolescent girls have the support and resources they need to delay marriage and childbirth, stay in school, and start their adult lives the way each of them want to. doclink

    Karen Gaia Pitts says: it is important to note that patriarchal attitudes can be changed. That is why I am such a fan of programs like PAI's or the Population Media Center soap operas.

    Reproductive Health 101 for Adolescent Girls

    March 08, 2012, EngenderHealth News Blog

    Lesson #1: Information Is Power In many parts of India, teenagers lack access to quality reproductive health services, including counseling about contraception and HIV prevention. Read more. "http://www.engenderhealth.org/our-work/success-stories/arsh-story.php

    Lesson #2: Protect Yourself against HIV and STIs In many urban areas of Ethiopia, adolescents find themselves in situations that jeopardize their health. Read more about our Most At Risk Populations (MARPs) program "http://www.engenderhealth.org/our-work/success-stories/ethiopia-marps-ayenalem.php

    Lesson #3: Make Smart Choices to Inspire Your Future. Harmful gender norms can undermine the health of girls and women. That's why we engage boys and men around the world and encourage them to help support their partners' health. Read more about our Gender Matters program. http://www.engenderhealth.org/our-work/success-stories/genm-story.php doclink

    Involving Men in Family Planning

    December 10, 2011, Philippine Daily Inquirer

    At the Second International Conference on Family Planning,held in December in Dakar, Senegal, at a workshop on "Men Behind Family Planning," a speaker from Nigeria explained that while men have "high awareness" of the need for and importance of family planning, they have "poor knowledge" of the various modern methods of family planning and how these work. Men are “unwilling to use family planning" mainly because they were apprehensive and insecure, and didn't know how exactly they fit in the scenario, he said.

    The project intervention among village families included training in spousal communications, encouraging spouses to discuss health issues and engage in “joint decision-making" in choosing the method that best worked for them.

    One male workshop participant said “there are not enough options for men." “We can only choose between using condoms or having a vasectomy, and I tell you, both options are not attractive to me," he said. “But if only they would come up with a pill for men, I would take it at once."

    Another presentor told of research that found that 72% of those surveyed would be “very comfortable" with being counseled on family planning with their partners; while 75% stated that it was “very important" for men to be part of family planning. “The more a man believed in gender equality, the more likely it was for him to believe in taking part in family planning," the researcher said. But two out of every five respondents said they “believed that health facilities do not welcome men," with some reporting that health workers were unaccommodating, if not hostile, to the men among their women and children clients.

    This is unfortunate, given the generally positive results seen when men are actually encouraged to take active part in promoting the health of family members.

    Bangladesh, has a high contraceptive prevalence rate of 56%, but only 5% of method users are men. Studies have shown that “husbands play an important role in family planning decisions," since a disapproving or indifferent husband can actually discourage a woman from using a family planning method.

    An Engenderhealth researcher gathered “satisfied clients" and found what made them satisfied: a skilled surgeon, prompt and effective management of side effects, and effective client follow-up. The “champions" turned out to be excellent promoters of vasectomy, using themselves as examples, and engaging men in the neighborhood or in community centers in discussions about their family planning needs and health concerns. The “champions" were able to refer an average of two or three clients a month to undergo a vasectomy.

    In the area of female genital, after undergoing training in human rights, including women's rights, men have come around to the idea of banning FMG cutting. At the health center midwives explain the injury done by cutting and the health risks a scarred or wounded cervix posed to a woman during delivery.

    "After being educated on the right to health of women, and of the dangers posed by cutting, I could no longer support the practice," one man said. doclink

    Talking Their Way Out of a Population Crisis: by Emboldening Women, Evangelical Churches in Africa Help Them Overcome Traditional Resistance to Family Planning.

    October 22, 2011, New York Times

    The world is soon to reach 7 billion people and cound see 10 billion by the end of the century, according to the U.N. Most of these additional people will be born in Africa, where women in some countries bear seven children each on average, and only 1 in 10 uses contraception. With mortality rates from disease falling, the population of some countries could increase eightfold in the next century.

    In many parts of Africa, people already scramble to obtain food, land and water, and discontent provides fertile ground for extremism. So it is important to think carefully about the response to Africa's exploding population.

    Researchers have found that relaxed, trusting and frank conversations between men and women may be the most effective contraceptive of all.

    We learned this lesson from Western history. In Europe and the United States, birthrates plummeted between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. This had nothing to do with modern contraceptives, which had not yet been invented, or with government policies, a research team led by Ansley J. Coale of Princeton University found in the 1980s. Australian demographer John Caldwell speculated that is was due to the idea that childbearing was something couples could discuss openly and decide for themselves.

    Many researchers have more recently found that spousal communication is a powerful predictor of both contraceptive use and smaller family size. On the other hand, wherever such discussions are silenced by churches, governments, patriarchy or puritanism, birthrates remain high.

    Such a "cure" might work in Africa, as seen in what is happening in Africa's evangelical churches, long seen as the bane of family planning programs everywhere.

    10 years ago a Columbia University demographer, James F. Phillips, discovered this when he and a group of Ghanaian colleagues had spent a decade trying to encourage contraceptive use in the Kassena-Nankana district of northern Ghana, with little success. When they started on the project, the people were among the poorest in the world and losing one child in four to disease and malnutrition. Large families were considered an asset.

    Women who refused to have sex with their husbands, or who tried to use contraception secretly, were beaten. When asked about family planning, another woman said, "If you talk about such issues, you are a fool."

    A program where nurses went from hut to hut on motorized scooters treating sick children and pregnant women and offering contraceptive pills and injections resulted in a decrease in child mortality by 70%, but most women were still afraid to even discuss family planning.

    They organized all-male political gatherings presided over by the village chief to help explain to men that family planning would make their women and children healthier and stronger. These efforts weren't very successful.

    But suddenly data showed that large numbers of women were having fewer children, whether or not they lived near the experimental family planning programs. And at the same time large numbers of evangelical preachers were establishing churches in the Ghanaian hinterlands to which, every Sunday, Kassena-Nankana women dressed in Western-style finery headed in droves.

    Dr. Phillips and his team found that female Christian converts were three times as likely to use family planning as women who retained their traditional African faith, and had significantly smaller families, even though the churches didn't promote family planning. It turned out that many churches were giving women a voice denied them by their own culture.

    The born-again women were forming committees, making speeches and organizing outings, fund-raisers and other activities. Traditional religion forbids women to communicate with ancestors and other spiritual beings, but the Christian women were speaking directly to Jesus about their problems. He was, many of them may have felt, the first man ever to listen. This may have given them a language for speaking to mortal men as well, even about such sensitive matters as contraception.

    Then Dr. Phillips and his colleagues urged elders there to admit women to the traditionally male-only health and family planning meetings.

    At one of the first events, a woman spoke of the burden placed on women by men who demanded that they produce so many children. The local women in the crowd went wild with enthusiasm.

    Men who beat their wives were urged to stop. Since the start of the program wife beating has declined and the fertility rate has fallen to 3.5 children per woman, a drop of more than one birth.

    Being able to express oneself and exchange ideas without fear of reprisal may be the very essence of empowerment, and potentially more important to lowering birthrates than money or access to health services, or even education. This ability for self-expression may be a path to Africa's broader political and economic development as well. doclink

    Karen Gaia: another reason to put more funding into such programs. Now, not tomorrow.

    In Nigeria, Selling Men on Birth Control is An Uphill Battle

    August 9, 2011, NPR

    Nigeria, with about 155 million people, is the most populous nation in Africa and the fertility rate has changed little, still at about five kids on average.

    Although various types of contraceptive methods are available, about 20% of Nigerian women say they're not able to access them. Often their husbands stand in the way.

    For six years the Society for Family Health, or SFH, an affiliate of the international non-profit PSI, has been trying to promote long-term birth control, such as intrauterine devices or contraceptive implants. Women who came and expressed interest in birth control went home to tell their husbands, but never came back.

    So on family planning posters around the community, they started portraying men as caring and supportive. Men started accompanying their wives to the clinic. "Men felt ownership. The men felt that, 'this was about me and my family,' " said Dr. Anthony Nwala, with SFH.

    SFH also identified men who were pro-family planning and trained them to educate other men.

    Today families are moving away from the farms and moving to an urban area where providing for a large family in is more of an economic burden.

    Daniel Smith, associate professor at Brown University, disagrees, saying "Women are more educated and liberated today, and yet they still want to have five or six children." He thinks Nigerians favor large extended families as a way to stay socially connected.

    But Nwala still believes women - and men - are slowly learning that having fewer children will help them economically. doclink

    Family Planning: It's Time to Welcome Men Into the Discussion

    July 12, 2011, Huffington Post

    Every year on July 11 is World Population Day, but this year, July 11 2011 was particularly important because this year somewhere around October 31, the world's population will reach 7 billion. In response to this, the United Nations launched a campaign entitled 7 Billion Actions to educate, raise awareness and encourage action around the growth of the world's population. As Ashley Judd puts it "the campaign is a wake-up call to the health, environmental, and social challenges associated with rapid population growth. It is also a wake-up call to the importance of voluntary family planning." Judd claims that, "in 2011, more than 200 million women worldwide are still denied access to desired family planning services due to unavailable resources or lack of support from their husbands and communities." It is her sense that it is time to make universal access to family planning a global priority, and that it is essential to welcome men into the conversation.

    Judd's service as Global Ambassador to Population Services International(PSI) has given her the opportunity to witness first hand the unnecessary dangers that women face in developing countries due to childbirth and pregnancy. Judd cites World Health Organization statistics stating that world wide 1000 women die every day from complications of childbirth and pregnancy, and that over 99% of these maternal deaths occur in the developing world, in countries where a mother's death can leave children -- and entire families -- in a perilous scenario. Many of these women would choose to have smaller families but do not know how to prevent pregnancies. Some choose to use toxic, poisonous herbs and risk their lives to attempt to prevent or terminate pregnancies while husbands and partners are relegated to worriedly and helplessly watching their wives struggle with these poisons. Judd's point is that family planning education and methods must be more accessible to these families, and must include the men.

    It turns out that men in these countries are worth including in the family planning decision making process, because research suggests that when they are included they are more likely to support their partner's family planning choices. Unfortunately though, few of the family planning programs used in developing countries include men in their educational models. But a program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is working to change this model. To do this, it is incorporating the use of cell phones to increase communication to both men and women of the DRC.

    Because in 2011, 70 percent of world-wide cellular phone users live in developing countries, the World Bank has recommended contacting cell phones to deliver health services, particularly in remote areas like the Democratic Republic of the Congo .

    Recognizing these statistics as well as the fact that 24% of the women of reproductive age in the DRC have unmet family planning needs, the Population Services International (PSI) and its local partner, Association de Sante Familiale, have moved to use cell phone technology to launch a "family planning hot line in the DRC called La Ligne Verte" (Judd)

    Ligne Verte is open 5 days a week for 8.5 hours and offers no-cost, accurate information on family planning. Moreover it refers callers to family planning clinics across a wide geographic area.

    But probably the most significant offering of the Ligne Verte is that it supplies a "safe, confidential zone for Congolese men and women to ask sensitive questions about family planning, as well as other sexual health concerns such as HIV."

    Apparently to date, 84% of Ligne Verte callers have been men. Similar PSI hotlines in other countries reflect corresponding statistics. More that three quarters of the callers to national PSI family planning hotlines in Benin and Pakistan were men.

    These are significant statistics. Men, as well as women, are asking questions about family planning and seek answers about how to keep their families physically and economically healthy. To continue listening to questions and to continue finding ways to answer questions helpfully, The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Ministry of Health and Prevention in Senegal will co-host with over thirty other co- sponsors, the second International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices November 29-December 2, 2011 in Dakar, Senegal. doclink

    Counselling Key to Success of Male Cut

    November 2, 2010, PlusNews (Johannesburg)

    When Kenya launched its national voluntary male circumcision campaign in 2008, critics worried that it could lead to greater sexual risk-taking - but men in the western Nyanza Province seem to be disproving this theory.

    For example, a 23-year-old said: "When I heard people say male circumcision helps in reducing HIV infection, I went there with the sole purpose that it would lessen the burden of having to use a condom. But after that, I have known a lot through the counselling I received; I use a condom every time with anybody ... I am not married so I am not going to trust anybody."

    Kenya's programme aims to circumcise more than one million men by 2013, while doing HIV testing and compulsory counselling on HIV prevention, including messages about the importance of continued condom use, since circumcision does not offer full protection from the virus.

    A small 2010 study by the University of Illinois in Kisumu found that most respondents - whether circumcised traditionally or in health facilities - reported either no behaviour change or improved protective behaviour, such as increased condom use and fewer sexual partners. Respondents understood that that male circumcision only provided partial protection against HIV.

    Another study found that circumcised men did not engage in more risky sexual behaviours than uncircumcised men in the first year after the operation.

    Most men in Kenya are circumcised as teenagers during rites of passage into adulthood that do not generally feature HIV education. One young man told the story about how, after he was circumcised during the traditional ceremony of western Kenya's Bukusu community, he was told that he was man enough to have sex with as many girls as he chose. But he heard it being talked about on the radio and everywhere that "circumcision cannot prevent you from HIV unless you use a condom or are faithful." Studies show that not all traditionally circumcised men heed the message about the HIV risk with unprotected sex. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: It might be a good idea to investigate whether clinical circumcisions are a culturally acceptable alternative to ritual circumcisions, and, if the use of a condoms might be curtailed by the culturally inspired desire to father many children.

    Bangladesh: Involvement of Men in Reproductive Healthcare Services

    March 20, 2009, New Nation

    Reproductive health programmmes have focused almost exclusively on women. Involvement of men implies responsible parenthood, family planning; prenatal, maternal and child health; prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; prevention of unwanted and high risk pregnancies; shared control and contribution of family income and empowerment of women.

    In Bangladesh, men are not involved, but could do much to ensure the success of population and reproductive health programs, gender equity, girls' education, sharing of household chores and child-rearing. In Bangladesh, family planning is woman-focused and, it does not address the reproductive health problems of men. Most men need to know more about preventing pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STIs. doclink

    Male Preference

    Empowering Women to Improve Food Security - What Works and Why

    March 12, 2013, Guardian Professional

    The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India guarantees 100 days of minimum wage employment - or equivalent unemployment payments - to poor rural households. The program benefited 52.5m households in 2009-2010, and put people to work building productive assets or providing environmental services, such as water harvesting and conservation and the digging of irrigation canals.

    Tens of millions are beneficiaries of the program, which aims to reduce poverty build infrastructure, as well as the empowerment of women, and which has resulted in the reduction the unemployment rate for women which was reduced from 141 days per year in 2005 (compared with 76 for men) to 48% in 2009-2010, spurred on, probably, by the promise of wage parity with men and the relative regularity and safety of the work.

    As a result, women were empowered by allowing them to contribute to household income and decision-making, notably on food, consumer goods, children's education, healthcare and debt management; and they were allowed to take a more active role in the rural public sphere.

    However many women are constrained by household responsibilities, looking after the young, sick or elderly or fetching water and firewood; in India this work is equivalent to 182% of total tax revenue.

    Under the act, there should be a female worker who looks after her co-workers' children (and paid the same wage as others), but 70% of the women interviewed had no access to childcare facilities at work, while 65% were unaware of this provision.

    In Bangladesh, its Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction - Targeting the Ultra Poor - is an asset transfer program. Launched in 2002 by the NGO BRAC and later expanded to cover up to 300,000 ultra-poor women and their households. The program provides women with assets such as poultry that require less labor to be maintained, while providing them with extensive asset management training as well as subsidized health and legal services, social development training, and water and sanitation.

    A daily stipend is paid until the assets were able to generate sufficient income for the household, which alleviates the need for the women to work in other peoples' houses as maids which made it more difficult for them to focus on working on the assets transferred by the program.

    Food security and anti-poverty strategies must be transformative and make the redistribution of roles between women and men a priority so that they not only sustain the poor but also avoid sustaining the gender divisions that characterize poverty and keep it locked in place. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Empowering women goes a long way toward making women aware that working mothers can do more for their families by providing for them rather than just producing more babies. And when womens' worth goes up, male preference is no longer a major factor in determining family size. When a woman wants only two children, but one of them must be a boy, she has three children, on average.

    One-Child Policy a Surprising Boon for China Girls

    September 04, 2011, The Associated Press

    In 1978, women made up only 24.2% of the student population at Chinese colleges and universities. By 2009, that number rose to nearly half, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

    In contrast, women in India make up 37.6% of those enrolled at institutes of higher education, according to government statistics.

    Since 1979, China's family planning rules have barred nearly all urban families from having a second child in a bid to stem population growth. With no male heir competing for resources, parents have spent more on their daughters' education and well-being, a groundbreaking shift after centuries of discrimination.

    "They've basically gotten everything that used to only go to the boys," said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China's family planning policy.

    "In the past, girls were raised to be good wives and mothers," said Vanessa Fong, a Harvard University professor and expert on China's family planning policy. "They were going to marry out anyway, so it wasn't a big deal if they didn't want to study."

    Today's urban Chinese parents "perceive their daughters as the family's sole hope for the future," and try to help them to outperform their classmates, regardless of gender.

    Some demographers argue that China's fertility rate would have fallen sharply even without the one-child policy because economic growth tends to reduce family size. In that scenario, Chinese girls may have gotten more access to education anyway, though the gains may have been more gradual.

    Crediting the one-child policy with improving the lives of women is jarring, given its history and how it's harmed women in other ways. Facing pressure to stay under population quotas, overzealous family planning officials have resorted to forced sterilizations and late-term abortions, sometimes within weeks of delivery, although such practices are illegal.

    When sonogram technology arrived in the 1980's, some families were able to engineer a male heir by terminating pregnancies when the fetus was a girl. Chinese traditionally prefer boys because they carry on the family name and are considered better earners. 43 million girls have "disappeared" in China due to gender-selective abortion as well as neglect and inadequate access to health care and nutrition, according to a recent UN report.

    "It is gendercide," said Therese Hesketh, a University College London professor who has studied China's skewed sex ratio. To combat the problem, China allows families in rural areas, where son preference is strongest, to have a second child if their first is a girl. The government has also launched education campaigns promoting girls and gives cash subsidies to rural families with daughters.

    Beijing-based population expert Yang Juhua has determined that single children in China tend to be the best educated, while those with elder brothers get shortchanged. China has many loopholes to the one-child rule, including a few cities that have experimented with a two-child policy for decades.

    While women have reached gender parity in education, they remain woefully underrepresented in government, have higher suicide rates than males, often face domestic violence and workplace discrimination and by law must retire at a younger age than men.

    It remains to be seen whether the new generation of degree-wielding women can alter the balance outside the classroom. doclink

    Gender Imbalance, Bias Worldwide Phenomenon

    April 04, 2011, The Pioneer (India)

    If one goes by the sex ratio of six out of the 10 most populous countries in the world, gender imbalance seems to be becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

    The 2011 global sex ratio is 984 females against 1,000 males. India's is lower, at 940 females to 1,000 males, and China, Indonesia, Nigeria and even the USA have all shown a decline in the sex ratio in 2011.

    Despite all its prosperity, better living and educational standards, the USA has failed to sensitize the society towards the girl child.

    The decline has been particularly sharp in Nigeria and Indonesia.

    On the other hand, the sex ratio in Japan, Brazil and the Russian Federation has increased impressively in 2011, while the population of these countries (except Russian Federation where it has declined) accounting for nearly three-fifth of the world population, has grown over the last decade.

    India (940), Pakistan (943), Bangladesh (978) and Afghanistan (931) all show a preference for sons, although showing a light increase. All these countries have banned pre-natal tests. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Male preference in developing countries usually results in a higher fertility rate. If the average desired family size is two, but a woman or family don't stop until a male is born, the the average will be three.

    China: And Why Not a Baby Girl

    November 3, 2010, InterPress Service

    Affluent urban couples in China are starting to think about having a second baby, hoping it is a girl.

    Some are concerned that their first child will move away when he grows up, and a daughter can stay and take care of them.

    An example given of such a couple are a woman and her husband who own a software company in Beijing that earns the couple about 500,000 yuan (74,828 U.S. dollars) a year - enough to afford circumventing the one-child policy. Under this policy, couples need to pay a fine, based on families' annual income, that has been reported to range from 45,000 dollars to more than 100,000 dollars.

    The couple thought it was too expensive to raise a boy, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. "We have to buy him an apartment at least. Otherwise it will be difficult for him to find a girlfriend."

    In China, where a historical preference for boys has led to a dramatic gender imbalance, attitudes about having girls are beginning to change in urban areas. According to a 2009 survey of 3,500 prospective parents in Shanghai, 15 percent of those interviewed wanted a baby daughter compared to 12 percent who wanted a baby boy. The rest had no preference.

    China's gender imbalance has reached dangerous levels. The attitude that girls cannot accomplish as much as boys is becoming outdated. "Girls can also inherit a family business." "They can be as able as men."

    A booming economy in the last decade has created more opportunities for woman, particularly in the cities. Rising incomes have rendered moot the traditional reasons for wanting a boy - namely that a boy will earn more money to support his parents in old age.

    In 2005, the last year for which data is available, there were 119 boys born for every 100 girls. In some areas, the ratio was as high as 130 males for every 100 females.

    In rural areas preference for boys has led to a number of selective abortion, prostitution and human trafficking. China has a surplus of some 32 million boys.

    South Korea has had a shift in gender preference in the last 20 years. In 2006, Korea's gender ratio was 107.4 boys born for every 100 girls, down from a peak of 116.5 boys to every 100 girls in 1990, according to a 2007 World Bank study. (Demographers consider a 105 to 100 ratio normal).

    Major shifts in Korea's economy created opportunities for women in the work force, changing long- held attitudes toward women?s role in society.

    A study in 2010 by the government-supported Chinese Academy of Social Sciences named the gender imbalance among newborns - not overpopulation - the country's most serious demographic problem.

    The study attributed the gender imbalance to China's three-decade-old one-child policy and to a poor social security system.

    "The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside. They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on," another researcher said. Abductions and trafficking of women were "rampant" in areas with too many men.

    China has made great strides in terms of gender equality. There are a growing number of women in government administrative positions, legislation on gender equality continues to rise and there are more women receiving education at high levels. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: While I am not denying that the couple should have a second child, if they want, it would be cheaper, and less strain on the environment, to instead save the money they would spend on the second child and invest it in their future.

    September 2010

    When you survey young women in developing countries, and ask them how many children would they like to have, often the answer is: "two". However, when the answer is "two children", but where there is sufficient male preference that a woman will keep trying until she has a son, then the average fertility rate of that area is 3.0.

    Male preference can slow, or even freeze, gains in fertility reduction until women establish a higher standing. This can be done with education, women's empowerment, jobs for women, and others, but these all take time.

    Birth spacing, menstrual regulation, and popular soap operas are three quicker ways that may help nudge fertility reduction towards faster progress. doclink

    India: Matrubhoomi - Futuristic Drama About Gender Imbalance

    2003, Netflix movie review

    Manish Jha's disturbing - and controversial - futuristic drama envisions a barbaric society of gross gender imbalance. The story centers on Kalki, the only female in her village. Married off to five brothers, Kalki is routinely raped and eventually tries to escape from her life of brutal exploitation. But the wretched woman's life grows even more complicated when she becomes pregnant. doclink

    Karen Gaia: Of course the problem is male preference, which leads to a fertility rate of 3 children per woman. Women must be given gender equality via education and employment opportunities before these problems can be resolved.

    Sex Selection Skews Sex Ratio

    August 21, 2009, InterPress Service

    In Vietnam there are laws against domestic violence and discrimination, and very high female literacy, yet its sex ratio is skewed: 100 girls to 112 boys at birth. The "average" is 105 boys to 100 girls.

    People prefer sons. "If you have sons and they have children, they will carry on the family name." People who want boys do abortion when they are pregnant with girls.

    Families in Vietnam are restricted to two children. This ordinance was reinstated in November 2008, after being rescinded in 2003, originating in the 1980s thanks to government fears of a population boom and strains on resources.

    The highest skews gender ratio is 120:100, in the northeast.

    "Confucian values" which prize sons over daughters and men over women have been blamed in part. Vietnam traditionally has been a patrilineal society, with sons responsible for caring for parents in old age. Daughters, who marry and leave, are considered "outsiders". "In the household, the decision making process is very traditional. Nothing has changed."

    The authorities seized 30,000 sex-selection books in early July and shut down seven websites that were advising couples how to have sons.

    Revealing the sex of the foetus is illegal but doctors find creative ways around direct statements.

    The abortion rate in Vietnam is one of the highest in the world.

    Vietnam's gender imbalance "holds the potential for increased levels of antisocial behaviour ultimately presenting a threat to stability and social order," a 2007 UNFPA report has warned. Some experts have worried that this may lead to an increase in the trafficking of women. doclink

    China's Birth Limits Create Dangerous Gender Gap

    April 10, 2009, Associated Press

    China has 32 million more young men than young women which could lead to increasing crime, because parents face birth limits and abort female fetuses to have a son.

    The imbalance is expected to worsen over the next two decades and could trigger a spike in crime by men unable to find female partners. Males under 20 exceeded females by 32 million.

    The biggest boy-girl gaps are in the 1 to 4-year-old group. China imposed birth controls to limit growth of its population, noting that resources were strained and changes were needed in its new push to modernize. The controls have prevented an additional 400 million births.

    But families cling to traditional preferences for a male heir, and infanticide of baby girls became a problem. In response, some parts of China allow couples to have a second child if the first is a girl.

    The prevalence of sonograms has allowed parents to learn the gender of their fetus about 20 weeks into pregnancy, leading to a rise in abortions based on sex. China bans tests to determine the gender for non-medical reasons but they are still commonly done. China's laws do not prohibit or define late-term termination.

    Some families hide the births of daughters, so they can legally try for a son.

    Sex-selective abortion does contribute to these high sex ratios, but so do other things such as non-reporting of girl births, abandonment, infanticide.

    China has launched subsidy programs and education campaigns encouraging families to have girls, but with limited impact.

    Enforcing the existing ban on sex-selective abortion could lead to normalization of the ratios. doclink

    Community Development and Conservation

    How the 'Avon' Model is Empowering Women to 'Inspire Change' in Madagascar

    March 07 , 2014   By: Laura Robon

    Safidy means "the freedom to choose" in Malagasy, and is the name and ethos of a reproductive health programme run by a British charity, Blue Ventures, in Madagascar. The project enables women in a remote area to choose the number and spacing of their births. Before the Sadify programme began, women had to walk up to the length of a marathon to reach the nearest family planning clinic.

    Blue Ventures was already working on marine conservation projects in the region when local women approached us, asking if we could support them to get easier access to reproductive health services. With strong community relations and infrastructure already in place, we were ideally positioned to respond by developing a scheme with the women.

    Through the resulting Sadify programme, local women are trained as 'Avon-like' entrepreneurs to offer a range of affordable contraceptive options in their villages. This sustainable social enterprise model allows them to generate a small income for their otherwise voluntary work. In addition to providing voluntary family planning services, they teach semi-nomadic fishing families along Madagascar's south west coast how to improve their health.

    Since the project began in 2007, the proportion of women in the project using contraceptives went from 10%, to 55% in 2013.

    Integrating voluntary family planning services into Blue Ventures environmental work has generated positive spin-offs, improving food security and empowering women to engage with these conservation initiatives, as they gain access to the information and means to make their own reproductive health choices.

    Our vision is to see this integrated model replicated across Madagascar and beyond, so that we can reach the most isolated with vital health services, and support the long-term sustainability of their conservation efforts.

    We also hope that this project will inspire a fundamental shift in the way that people think about environmental and social challenges; not as distinct but interlinked. We want these issues to be tackled in the way that people and ecosystems actually experience them - as a whole.

    The Safidy programme is supported by the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Marie Stopes Madagascar, Population Services International, the MacArthur Foundation and UNFPA Madagascar. doclink

    More Than Local: How PHE Can Help Solve Humanity's Biggest Problems

    December 2 , 2013, NewSecurityBeat   By: William Pan

    In an era of globalization, where products often travel thousands of miles before reaching our hands, there exists the dangerous perception that supplies are limitless. There's a disconnect too between our consumption choices and how their production and processing impacts the environment. All too often, the result is humans falling prey to the simple idea that more is better, which is dangerous when "more" is easy to obtain.

    Figuring out how to clothe, feed, and please all seven billion of us is a task that will require looking at systems as part of a whole, and, in that respect, the population, health, and environment (PHE) community has much to offer.

    Our generation faces unprecedented challenges: imminent climate change resulting in rising temperatures, more frequent violent storms, and altered rainfall patterns; land and water scarcity; quite possibly the peak of human population; true globalization of world markets, driving maximal consumption among both developed and many fast-developing countries; a rapid transition to urban living, with the global urban population rising to around 70 percent by 2050; and a shift in the leading causes of death worldwide from infectious diseases (1970s and 80s), to chronic diseases (now), to neurodegenerative diseases (projected for the future).

    PHE intervention programs do a laudable job meeting local demand for family planning in vulnerable environments, improving food security, and encouraging environmentally sustainable livelihoods. However, monitoring and evaluation, a strength of research organizations, is still being developed.

    But their short time-frames often mean it's not yet possible to scale-up potential interventions and engage communities to evaluate long-term sustainability.

    Making sense of increasingly linked and globalized relationships will require an interdisciplinary approach to training and research, which only a handful of universities have truly embraced. The PHE community's head-start on the challenge, including years of experience working on the complexity of measuring cross-sectoral results, gives it a chance to become much more than it is today. The future of PHE could be in addressing the biggest challenges facing mankind.

    Monitoring and evaluation must continue to be a priority for programs working in the field, while research efforts identify synergies and make policy recommendations that maximize impact. Partnerships between academia, government, non-government, industry, and local communities will be needed for large-scale implementation and rapid response.

    We can no longer measure the benefits obtained for one large population without considering the impact it has on another. Interdisciplinary and cross-scale approaches need to be utilized to more thoroughly vet the interactions between human population dynamics and the environment in order to secure our future on the planet. PHE has a role to play in leading the way. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The video and the article don't seem to be very related, but both address solutions that work.

    PHE: Mythbusting at the International Conference on Family Planning

    November 21, 2013, NewSecurityBeat   By: Roger-Mark De Souza

    At the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Ethiopia, integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) programs had a strong showing. More than 16 sessions at the conference incorporated PHE themes, including panels on communicating complexity around family planning, conservation and human rights; how PHE helps accelerate the fertility transition in rural Ethiopia; and meaningful ways of linking population and family planning to climate change and sustainable development in Africa. Blue Ventures, one of PHE's strongest voices, was given one of the first ever Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning awards.

    However there are still myths that persist regarding the PHE approach and the PHE community should not forget them and should continue to combat these misconceptions.

    Myth 1 is that PHE is simplistic and Malthusian. In reality PHE is rights-based, community-driven, and embraces complexity.

    PHE focuses on voluntary family planning and preserving individuals' right to choose the number and spacing of their children; responding to community needs and priorities as identified by the community itself; and taking into account the complexity of on-the-ground realities.

    Myth 2 is that PHE Is difficult, if not impossible, to implement in some places. In reality PHE integration is possible, and the energy and commitment needed to meet challenges are fully evident.

    Blue Ventures reported that by working across sectors, its project has empowered women, supported active engagement in natural resource management, and greatly improved access to family planning. In six years, the contraceptive prevalence rate in the project's remote areas of Madagascar has increased more than 500%, from 10% in 2007 to 55% in 2013.

    A third myth is that PHE isn't really taking root. PHE projects implemented by Path Foundation Philippines, Inc., the Guraghe People's Self-Help Development Organization, and Blue Ventures are achieving important results in countries of high significance - Madagascar, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. More organizations like FHI360 and Conservation Through Public Health are examining these issues and seeing value in adjusting their own programming as a result. Some, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, Population Action International, and the Population Reference Bureau have adopted PHE as one of their signature approaches. And regional partners like the Lake Victoria Basin Commission are contributing too. PHE is clearly getting a good start. A very young field, with limited funding, it is achieving excellent results at the level and scale at which it is being implemented.

    There are three critical questions to be answered that will help address concerns:

    1.What is the collective impact of PHE? The PHE field needs to continue documenting the collective impact of their work in order to demonstrate its aggregated impact.

    2.Where is PHE not taking root and why not? For places where the PHE approach would make sense but is not being considered, do we know why?

    3.What is the intentionality of PHE? Should PHE be reshaped according to each program's focus? Does the community need to move beyond the label to get at the heart of meaningful integrated and transformational development programming?

    There is a great deal of evidence that PHE is reaping benefits for many rural and under-served communities around the world. Let's make sure everyone knows it. doclink

    Population-Environment Program Wins Recognition: Blue Ventures Honored at International Conference on Family Planning

    November 14 , 2013, NewSecurityBeat



    London-based NGO Blue Ventures was presented with an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning (EXCELL) award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health for their work integrating community-based reproductive health education and services into their marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives in Madagascar.

    "Blue Ventures demonstrates how environment agencies working in highly diverse areas can address reproductive health needs within a rights-based framework," said José Rimon, deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, in presenting the award.

    "We are all so grateful for this recognition that integration of voluntary family planning services into community-based conservation, food security, and other environmental programs provides an effective way to reach some of the world's most remote and under-served communities with the reproductive health services they need," said Blue Ventures' Caroline Savitzky at the conference hall in Addis Ababa.

    Recognition at this scale is a major boon for the population, health, and environment (PHE) community, which supports similar integrated environment and health programming in biodiversity hotspots and rural areas around the world. doclink

    PHE - Putting Women and Reproductive Health at the Core of Global Development

    October 21 , 2013, Impatient Optimists   By: Vicky Markham

    An integrated "un-siloed" approach where population, health and environment (PHE) intersect can help solve key international development issues. And the UN's Post 2015 Agenda is the perfect opportunity to affect a broad set of development policies.

    At the Women Delivering Development meeting, organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center, Aspen Institute, Sierra Club and Center for Environment and Population (CEP), a diverse group of influential leaders agreed: put women and reproductive health at the core of development where it belongs. In women's everyday lives on the ground, around the world, these components are very much integrated. The meeting was an effort to work towards development policies and advocacy that reflect that reality.

    The Woodrow Wilson Center's (WWC) compelling new short film, Healthy People, Healthy Environment, grounded us in the issues from the village perspective - first hand voices from three Tanzanian village women who relayed how climatic change, energy, food or water challenges play out in their everyday lives. They represented the on-the-ground, real life embodiment of our global policies and advocacy work; the reality behind funds allocated, negotiations deliberated, and policies on paper.

    Empowering women has a ripple effect, enabling families to be healthier and achieving a balance between people and the air, land, water we depend on to sustain a good quality of life.

    Within the climate change debate, insufficient attention has been given to RH as simple, inexpensive way to meet the unmet need for family planning while at the same time significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

    Field programs on tree conservation in Africa were better received by villagers when their reproductive health and education issues were on the table, too.

    The FP2020 process is providing new visibility and excitement around the UN's Post 2015 Agenda, as well as being a new ally in promoting RH and sustainable development linkages, in shaping the way forward post-MDGs.

    The momentum of this meeting is also continued with two major international PHE meetings held this week in Ethiopia. doclink

    Coastal Resource Management, Family Planning Integration Build Resilience in Madagascar and The Gambia

    August 26, 2013, NewSecurityBeat

    The awareness of the connected challenges of natural resource management, economic growth, and human health has encouraged more integrated models of international development. The TRY Oyster Women's Association, based in The Gambia, and Blue Ventures, based in Madagascar are examples of a successful community-based approach to building resilience, enabling communities to bounce back from adversity and establish a long-term basis for development.

    Since its foundation in 2007, TRY's exclusively female membership has grown to include women from 15 villages in the Greater Banjul area of The Gambia. TRY members oversee the Tanbi Wetlands National Park, a critical 6,300-hectare wetlands area at the mouth of the Gambia River, which is a vital habitat for oysters - many of the local women's primary source of income. This represents the "the first time in Africa" that women have been given exclusive ownership of such an important national resource, said Executive Director Fatou Janha. Organization members restrict the harvest of oysters to four months a year, allowing oysters to grow larger over an extended closed season and bringing harvesters 30% higher market prices. Further, TRY members have begun a mangrove replanting campaign to increase the sustainability of the fishery.

    TRY's members also face significant health challenges. Only 18% of women use contraceptives in The Gambia, and the TFR is 5.79 children per women. Marine resource management can only go so far towards improving the lives of TRY's 500 female members.

    "We talk about the sustainable stewardship of the environment…but we can't afford to have this if we don't have healthy people, so that was how we tried to integrate health into our program," Janha said.

    TRY offered family planning, maternal, and reproductive health programs very soon after starting its resource management initiatives. Now more than 80% of TRY members have attended clinic appointments for health screenings. TRY also established a microfinance program in 2010, which has been an “unmitigated success," with only 2 of 256 women defaulting on their loans, according to a report by the UNDP Equator Initiative.

    Blue Ventures, operating in Southwestern Madagascar, was originally a marine conservation and ecotourism outfit, but after finding that short-term closures of octopus stocks - the local cash crop - could allow diminished fisheries to replenish, they began to work increasingly with communities to implement sustainable models of fishing. “Blue Ventures…now manages the largest network of locally managed marine areas in the Indian Ocean, all designed to enable communities to live and manage their marine resources in a sustainable way," said Dr. Vik Mohan.

    Blue Ventures also found a large unmet need for health care, health education, and family planning. Mmost girls were having a child before their 16th birthday, and 1 in 20 women died during pregnancy or childbirth while high fertility rates threatened to undermine Blue Venture's efforts to increase fishery sustainability.

    “Fishermen were working harder and harder to catch fish to provide for their growing families…catching smaller and smaller fish," Mohan explained. “Despite our best efforts, this was not a sustainable model."

    In 2009, they began offering free family planning services and post-natal care, including contraceptives and infant immunizations. On the first day they opened their clinic, 20% of all women of reproductive age came asking for contraception," said Mohan. In six years Blue Ventures observed a five-fold increase in contraceptive usage and a 40% decrease in birth rates.

    Though TRY and Blue Ventures both began as marine conservation organizations, their community-based approaches positioned them to react effectively to the broader needs of the people they worked with and increase their resilience to shocks.

    “Now the community sees better than ever the link between family size, population growth, food security, and biodiversity conservation," said Mohan. “It means that when women come to hear about family planning, they also get to hear about fisheries. It means that when men come to learn about fisheries, they hear about contraception, probably for the first time in their lives."

    Video: http://www.flickr.com//photos/ecsp/sets/72157634851989280/show/ doclink

    Scratch-Card Solar Brings Clean Energy to Kenya's Poor

    July 01, 2013, Thomson Reuters Foundation

    For an initial payment of about US$12, one can buy a kit that will generate solar energy at one's rural home in western Kenya. Since 2011 more than 3,000 in the Kitale area of Kenya have switched to solar power instead of using kerosene lamps to light their homes.

    The solar kits are sold on an installment plan which puts the $120 kit within reach of people with modest incomes. Scratch cards with codes enable the purchaser to make their payments securely from home via SMS - using their mobile phone that can be kept charged with the solar kit. The battery charging system contains a microchip that links it to a central server: if a weekly payment is missed, the system can be automatically disabled.

    The kit contains of a 3-watt solar panel, a battery, two LED lamps, a phone charging unit and connection cables.

    Azuri Technologies, a UK-based company that developed and manufactures the IndiGo solar kits, was named a winner of the 2013 Ashden Awards, considered the world's leading green energy prize.

    Health experts say kerosene lamps produce fumes that are hazardous to breath and cause eye irritation.

    Nyongesa, a recent purchaser of the kit, who has three wives, says that 11 of his 15 children go to school and use lamps at home for at least two hours a day to study. The new solar lighting system is the second Nyongesa has bought for his family in three months. He gave the first to his first wife to provide light for studying and other domestic needs.

    Many people prefer buying the kits, which will be owned outright once payments are made, compared to the high cost of purchasing kerosene and charging mobile phones. The battery charging system contains a microchip that links it to a central server: if a weekly payment is missed, the system can be automatically disabled.

    Each ton of kerosene burned produces 3.15 tons of carbon dioxide, which contributes to climate change, says the British Air Transport Association. 500 million households globally still rely on kerosene or other liquid fuels for lighting and consume 7.6 billion litres annually, accoding to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

    The kit is also marketed in Malawi, South Sudan and Zambia. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: another step toward education of children, including girls; another step toward fertility reduction.

    UN Human Development Index 2013 - Get the Data

    March 14, 2013, Mail and Guardian

    The UN's 2013 human development t index (HDI) from the UN Development Programme has been released. Its figures and rankings include life expectancy, education and income.

    Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, Burma and seven sub-Saharan African countries had the fastest average growth in human development over the past 12 years.

    Norway was on top again, while Burkina Faso, Chad, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger were at the bottom.

    But the report also includes a table on trends in the HDI over the past three decades - which makes more favourable reading for poorer African nations.

    In terms of annual average HDI growth in the 2000s, sub-Saharan Africa (1.47%) surprisingly outstripped the Arab states (1.07%), east Asia (1.43%), Europe and central Asia (0.77%), and Latin America (0.74%).

    And although Niger has the lowest human development score in the world, it had the 10th fastest average human development growth between 2000 and 2012 (2.2%), behind Afghanistan (3.91%), Sierra Leone (3.29%), Ethiopia (3.09%), Rwanda (2.73%), Timor-Leste (2.71%), Angola (2.56%), Mozambique (2.37%), Burundi (2.31%) and Burma (2.23%).

    North Korea, Somalia, and South Sudan were not included in the HDI scores.

    The inequality HDI (IHDI) measures the level of human development of people, taking into account inequality.

    The US fell 13 places in the UN's human development index (HDI) once inequality was taken into account, South Korea fell furthest in the rankings, while the US fell 13 places, and Latin America made up most of the rest of the worst performers.

    The countries that climbed the most once inequality is taken into account were mostly former communist states.

    Then there is the gender inequality index (GII), which seeks to expose differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men - in areas such as health, empowerment and the labour market.

    The Netherlands ranked top, followed by Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. Yemen scored lowest on the GII, followed by Afghanistan, Niger, Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. doclink

    Delaying Marriage, Early Marriage

    Wedding Photos Are Supposed To Be Happy. And, Oh Yeah, Not Have A 14-Year-Old Bride In Them

    As disturbing as forcing little girls to get married is, it's almost as appalling how little the global community is doing to stop it.
    March 2014   By: Adam Albright-Hanna

    5 million girls a year are married under the age of 15. Child marriages exist in South Asia, South-Saharan Africa, the Middle East to North Africa.

    Nice Nailantei Leng'ete, anti-FGM advocate in Masai community said: When I was 8 years old and my sister was 10 years old, my uncle came to our grandfather's place. And he told him "I think now these girls are big enough for circumcision". So you know, you first have to be circumcised for you to get married. We managed to escape for the first time, and then my uncle came. We were beaten and we had to tell him "Uncle, we promise that next time we are not going to run away".

    Desmond Tutu said: These children went to sleep with old men, don't even know what they are going to be doing in bed. It is vicious."

    Hooria Mashhour, Minister of Human Rights, Yemen, said: "Poverty is the main reason for early marriage. When the family is very poor and they have many children, boys and girls, they prefer to send some of the female from the house to another family."

    Isobel Coleman, Director, Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative said: "When girls are marrying below the age of 15, they are interrupting their education, too soon, they are reducing their economic potential in perpetuity, they are at much greater risk of dying, in child birth, of their infant dying in the first year of life; and are going to experience higher lifetime fertility, greater rates of poverty. And that really perpetuates a cycle of poverty for these countries."

    Donald Steinberg, CEO, World Learning said that these "are issues that can affect the stability of countries, they are issues that can affect the economics development of these countries. They are every bit as dangerous as wars over natural resources or wars that result from cultural differences."

    Donald Steinberg: "What we've found all around the world, is that empowering those individuals within their own societies, has been by far the most affective approach."

    Nice Nailantei Leng'ete: "We need to enroll the young men because they are the future husbands of these girls, they're the ones who are marrying them." doclink

    Young brides have no say in the number of children they have.

    Child Brides -- We Cannot Afford to Ignore Their Plight

    September 18, 2013, Huffington Post   By: Jeffrey Edmeades, Senior Social Demographer, International Center for Research on Women

    Genet was 13, about the size of an American 7 year old, and had been married for 2 years. She had dropped out of school shortly before she wed her now-husband, whom she met on the day of her marriage ceremony.

    One in nine child brides today are married before age15. And over the next decade, an estimated 142 million girls worldwide will become child brides.

    In a program called TESFA that is run by CARE and evaluated by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) married girls in the remote Amhara region of Ethiopia are taught the important life skills they missed out on in part because of their marriage.

    It is imperative that global policy makers determining the next generation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) keep young married girls -- and those at risk of becoming child brides -- at the forefront of their agenda. Eradicating and addressing the effects of child marriage has the potential to influence the success of every single goal identified in a UN Secretary-General's high-level panel report as being crucial to success of the post-2015 development agenda.

    Child marriage perpetuates poverty. It hinders economic growth in emerging nations. It contributes to maternal and child mortality and illness. It guarantees that fewer girls are educated and that fewer women participate in the labor force. It ensures a less inclusive and less sustainable development process.

    Little girls like Genet are robbed of their childhoods when they are forced to wed. Children of child brides are more likely to have a limited education and to be poor and unhealthy, thereby further contributing to the intergenerational continuation of poverty. Traditionally, many child brides remain mostly invisible in government statistics. They are not in school, they're not officially registered as being married, they use very few government services and they have not accessed health services. doclink

    Meet the Wedding Busters: Stopping Child Marriage in Bangladesh

    September 06 , 2013, Girls Not Brides Campaign



    In Bangladesh, 66% of girls are married before they reach the age of 18, often depriving them of a chance for an education and condemning them to ill health and economic hardship.

    A group of children is challenging this harsh reality.

    With the support of Plan Bangladesh, they are committed to turning their communities into child marriage free-zones. They call themselves "the wedding busters".

    Watch them in action.

    We would also like to extend our congratulations to Keshob, a member of the group, who was recently awarded the UN Special Envoy's "Youth Courage Award" for his efforts to end child marriage. He's leading the way for youth-driven change!

    More on the subject:

    • Getting Girls to School -- and Keeping Them There

      When girls are educated, their own prospects -- and those of their families and nations -- improve. Contraception is an important tool to help them achieve their dreams. Photo caption: Children attend school in the Laini Sapa district in Nairobi, Kenya. It's back to school time! Book bags are packed with fresh crayons, first-day outfits worthy of impressing new teachers (or friends, for the post-elementary set) are chosen, and yellow school b... September 06, 2013, Population Connection


    • (video) The Indestructible Spirit of Child Brides in Afghanistan

      Zakia was 19 when she turned down the marriage proposal her father had arranged. As punishment, Zakia's father and brother attacked her and left her for dead. She was taken in at a shelter run by Women for Afghan Women, a member of Girls Not Brides in Afghanistan, to recover from her injuries. This is the story of Zakia and the... September 04, 2013, Girls Not Brides Campaign


    • Child Marriage in the Arab World

      I always thought that child marriage was something that took place only in poor and ignorant communities. But recently, an Egyptian TV serial brought the topic out into the open. It shed light on the problem by showing how an old rich man would marry young girls by taking advantage of the family's poverty and ignorance. The series tells a gripping story which cannot be ignored. This series has in fact, made child marriage the main topic of disc... September 04, 2013, Kuwait Times

    doclink

    ‘Girls Are the World's Forgotten Population': Nine Facts About Child Brides

    August 1, 2013, Washington Post   By: Max Fisher, August 1, 2013

    An 11-year-old Yemeni girl named Nada al-Ahdal made a video explaining why she'd fled her parents to avoid the marriage they'd arranged for her, and so has attracted much of the world's attention to the plight of child brides.

    Losing more than just the right to choose their own spouse, "The problem with underage marriage is that it poses great risks to the girls involved," said Lauren Wolfe, who directs the Women Under Siege project at the Women's Media Center. ... Human Rights Watch has compiled this list:

    1. Child brides often die from pregnancy or childbirth. ... They often get pregnant before their bodies are ready. In developing countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the No. 1 cause of death for girls age 15 to 19, killing more girls in the developing world than war, AIDS, tuberculosis or any other cause. These girls are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth than those in their 20s. Girls under the age of 15 are five times as likely to die.

    2. Child brides are typically far from equal partners in their marriage ... their husbands are typically adults and may have often paid her parents for the privilege, akin to human trafficking. Some activists argue that sex in such marriages should not be considered consensual.

    3. The conditions of child marriage make marital rape more likely. Marital rape can be tough to define in places where a girl grows up learning that she's expected to do her "marital duty."

    4. Girls are often forced out of school when they marry, often leaving them totally reliant on their husbands, and with little future except as a housewife and mother, a life they never have the opportunity to choose willingly as an adult. This leaves them with little means to provide for themselves, to leave their marriage if their husband is abusive.

    5. Every year, 14 million girls become child brides, and that number is going up because child marriages are most common in countries where the population is growing.

    6. Child marriages are more common in poorer, rural regions. Child brides in poorer regions have even fewer economic and political opportunities.

    7. There are eight countries where more than half of girls marry before turning 18: Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Nepal.

    8. One in seven girls in the developing world is married before turning 15, often in West and Central Africa as well as South Asia. There are 40 countries, mostly in Africa and South Asia, where at least 30% of girls marry before turning 18.

    9. The issue is controversial in some countries, more accepted in others

    “Girls are the world's forgotten population," said Lauren Wolfe, of the Women Under Siege project,. doclink

    Ending Child Marriage in the Arab Region

    June 2013, Population Reference Bureau blog

    One out of 7 girls marry before age 18 in the Arab region. Families believe it is in the girls' best interest, not realizing that they are violating their daughters' human rights. Girls who marry early usually have to quit school, endure unwanted sexual relations, and have children soon after marriage, even if their bodies are not ready for it. They are generally more vulnerable to spousal violence and end up in a cycle of poverty, low education, high fertility, and poor health. These conditions hinder societies' economic and social development. Sub-Saharan Africa, and South and Southeast Asia are the regions with the highest rate of child marriage.

    It has become a global commitment to end child marriage. The International Day of the Girl Child was inaugurated on Oct. 11, 2012 to put girls' rights at the center of development efforts.

    In the Arab region, the highest rates occur in Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and South Sudan. In these same countries the annual per capita incomes in 2011 was less than US$2,000. Over one-third of the girls marry in these countries marry before age 18. In contrast, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya seldom see child marriages. Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has the most child brides.

    The numbers of child marriages has declined, but in Iraq, 25% of girls marry before age 18 and 6% do so before age 15. doclink

    'i Have Seen My Friends Die': Why We Need to Talk Frankly About Girls' Reproductive Health

    July 09, 2013, Huffington Post

    Last year at the London Family Planning Summit a global movement was catalyzed to ensure that 120 million more women and girls have access to contraception by 2020. World Population Day 2013 focuses on adolescent pregnancy. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among adolescent girls ages 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries.

    One in three of girls under 18 in the developing world are married; many without their consent. 15% of all unsafe abortions in low- and middle-income countries are among adolescent girls aged 15-19 years.

    Because of these alarming numbers, we need to talk frankly and openly; we cannot shy away from tough conversations when girls are at risk.

    Young women face barriers when they seek contraception or access to information and commodities to practice safer sex. This must stop.

    A young woman in Ethiopia, Haregnesh, says girls she knows who were very young when they got married and starting having children and she has see some of them die. "I have seen educated people and I saw the difference in their lives. ... I watched as they had no food to eat or feed their children and they just kept getting pregnant and having babies. I could see that they were suffering and I wanted to go to school." A Pathfinder International program in Amhara, Ethiopia supports girls to continue their studies. Haregnesh's strength and resolve to stay in school, as well as talk openly about girls' education, early marriage, and childbirth, has shifted the approach to girls' education in her family and in her community.

    Haregnesh's father, who had not wanted her to attend school said. "Haregnesh is our third child and she made all the change happen in our family. My three younger children now attend school as well."

    We must commit to ensuring adolescent girls have the support and resources they need to delay marriage and childbirth, stay in school, and start their adult lives the way each of them want to. doclink

    Karen Gaia Pitts says: it is important to note that patriarchal attitudes can be changed. That is why I am such a fan of programs like PAI's or the Population Media Center soap operas.

    MPs Call for Attention to Adolescent Pregnancies on World Population Day

    May 07, 2013, UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductiv

    On Wednesday 10th July 2013, politicians and leaders in adolescent, maternal and reproductive health from around the world will meet at the Houses of Parliament for World Population Day. They will discuss progress on last year's London Summit on Family Planning (FP2020) and look at integrating recent research findings on improving access to contraceptives and family planning information.

    The focus this year is adolescent pregnancy, in recognition of the fact that there are 16 million adolescent pregnancies worldwide every year. The UK has the highest teen pregnancy rate in western Europe, with over 38,000 adolescent girls getting pregnant in England per year. Teen pregnancies carry greater risks of complications, including serious injuries and conditions such as obstetric fistula, as well as higher incidences of stillbirth, miscarriage and maternal death. In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls.

    Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development, has said: "The UK Government is committed to putting girls and women at the centre of international development. Delaying first pregnancy can be a game changer for adolescent girls - enabling them to have greater opportunities in life. However, this requires that we understand what it is to be a girl in society and tackle holistically the factors that affect her sexual and reproductive health and rights - including, for example, child marriage, coerced sex, girls' education and access to family planning."

    Professor Joy Lawn, Director of the Centre for Maternal, Reproductive Adolescent and Child Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Today's generation of 1.2 billion adolescents is more than ever before, facing more opportunities and yet still too often their lives are changed forever by early, risky pregnancies they did not choose to have - 16 million pregnancies a year, many unplanned. Programmes, funders and researchers need to deliberately include adolescents."

    Adolescents account for nearly one fifth of the world's population: 1.2 billion people are aged 10-19 years and 90% of adolescents live in developing countries

    About 16 million girls aged under 18 give birth each year and these young mothers are the most likely to experience disabilities such as obstetric fistula, die from complications or experience a stillbirth or newborn death.

    * 50,000 girls die of pregnancy related complications each year.

    * In Africa, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading killer of adolescent girls.

    * Unsafe sex and lack of contraception are the main risk factors contributing to DALYs (disability-adjusted life year is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death) in young women aged 10-24 years.

    3.2 million girls aged under 18 undergo unsafe abortions each year. Adolescents are more likely than adults to delay abortion and hence have a later, riskier procedure.

    90% of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. For far too many of these girls, pregnancy is a consequence of discrimination, child marriage, inadequate education or sexual coercion.

    * Nearly one in every four girls aged 15-19 in the developing world (excluding China, where comparable data is not available) is currently married or in a union.

    * The South Asia (30%) and sub-Saharan Africa (24%) regions have the greatest proportion of girls aged 15-19 married or in a union. The percentage of boys the same age who are married or in a union is much lower (less than 5%) in these regions.

    An estimated 2.2 million adolescents, around 60 per cent of them girls, are living with HIV, and many do not know they are infected. New HIV infections in teenage girls are now also the major driver of the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa.

    Many adolescent girls aged 15−19 have experienced sexual violence and domestic (intimate partner) violence is common among adolescent girls who are in relationships.

    The event is jointly organised by the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, the International Planned Parenthood Federation and the MARCH Centre of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. doclink

    In Ethiopia, Most Girls Who Marry Before 18 Have Never Been to School

    New Study Finds Girls Younger than 15 Especially Vulnerable to Arranged and Unwanted Marriage
    April 11 , 2013, Guttmacher Institute

    Lack of educational opportunities for girls is fueling the Ethiopia's high level of early marriage, according to Annabel Erulkar, of the Population Council in Ethiopia. Of the 20-24-year-old women that she studied, 79% of those who had married before age 15 had never been to school and only 3% had attained any secondary schooling. Unschooled women had 9 times the risk of marrying before age 15 as women who had some degree of formal education and five times the risk of marrying at ages 15-17.

    Of those married before age 15, 97% had a mother with no education and 91% had a father with no education, compared to those who had not married during adolescence, 76% and 64%.

    89% of girls married before age 15 had arranged marriages, compared with 52% of those married at ages 18-19. 71% of girls younger than 15 had not met their spouse until the wedding day. and only 33% had known about the marriage beforehand, and just 31% wanted to be married at the time.

    Those who had married before age 15 were far less likely to have wanted to have sex than were those who had married at ages 18-19 (49% vs. 85%). The youngest brides were more likely than older brides to have recently experienced intimate partner violence at the hands of their husbands.

    Girls in rural areas - with high rates of poverty and where cultural beliefs and social norms uphold the practice - were found to be four times as likely as urban girls to marry before the age of 15. In the Amhara region, the median age at marriage among females is 14.4.

    Community-based programs that get girls into school and keep them there may be more effective at combating early child marriage than strategies that address girls already in school or seek to change community attitudes toward early marriage. doclink

    Poverty and Hunger

    Ecological Access to Food and Water: a Major Environmental Challenge

    July 07, 2000, Hindu (The)

    "A hungry people listens not to reason nor cares for justice, nor is bent by
    any prayers" said Roman philosopher Seneca, 2,000 years ago, . There is
    little use in preaching ecology and inter-generational equity to the nearly
    billion children, women and men who will go to bed partially hungry tonight.
    Agricultural scientist Dr. M. S. Swaminathan advocates a four-point action
    plan to provide a community-led food security program that protects the
    ecological foundations essential for sustainable food and water security.
    The world's population was only 940 million in 1798 when Thomas Malthus
    expressed his apprehensions about human ability to produce food to match the
    needs of increasing human numbers. At that time, Marquis de Condorcet, a
    French mathematician, remarked that the population will stabilise itself if
    children are born not for mere existence, but for "happiness", meaning
    social, economic, educational and ecological "happiness". Even though the
    global population has now reached over six billion, Malthusian fears were
    not realized because of tehnological advances which kept the growth rate of
    food production above population growth rates. It has become apparent,
    however, that the very progress in agriculture has, in several areas of the
    world, eroded water security, owing to the unsustainable exploitation of
    groundwater and inadequate efforts in storing rainwater. In addition, food
    security challenge shifted from physical to economic access to food at the
    end of the 20th century. Due to a famine of jobs, at least 300 million in
    India suffer from poverty induced hunger and every third child born is
    underweight (below 2.5 kg) due to maternal and foetal undernutrition. Such
    low birth weight children suffer from handicaps in brain development, an
    irony since this century has been christened as "Knowledge and Innovations
    Century". Today in the developing world, annual imports less exports of
    cereal grains amounts to 88 million tonnes at a cost of US$14.5 billion, and
    the demand is expected to increase at least by 40% in the next twenty years.
    Milk and meat have been imported in large amounts since the early 1970s and
    this is expected to increase eight fold between 1995 and 2020. In the
    meantime, per capita arable land and irrigation water availability is
    shrinking while biotic and abiotic stresses are increasing. Food imports by
    countries have the same impact as importing poverty and unemployment. Modern
    industry promotes jobless economic growth. On the other hand, agriculture,
    agro-processing and agri-business foster job-led economic growth. The
    population supporting capacity of major ecosystems has already been exceeded
    in most developing countries. Population pressures are particularly high
    near megabiodiversity regions where land, water, flora, fauna and atmosphere
    support systems are all in distress. The challenges during this century will
    be both economic and ecological access to food. Swaminathan's four point
    action plan for food security includes an 1) Integrated Natural Resources
    Management (INM) through local level socio-demographic charters at the
    grassroots (village) level, 2) Integrated Gene Management, 3) Community Food
    and Water Security System, and 4) Restructuring global institutions. INM:
    The major purpose of a village level socio-demographic charter is to
    sensitise the local community on the population supporting capacity of their
    ecosystem, with components including a) Environment management to prevent
    loss of top soil, depletion of ground water, pollution of lakes and rivers,
    deforestation, loss of grazing lands, conversion of forests into
    agricultural land and air pollution, with water harvesting, watershed
    management and the efficient and economic use of water to receive highest
    priority; b) Hygiene and housing: safe disposal and recycling of garbage,
    sewage and human waste; c) Health security, which would include reproductive
    health issues like maternal and child health care services, reproductive
    health education, tuberculosis and AIDS prevention and care, provision of
    safe and affordable contraception, prevention of infant mortality; d)
    Education: higher enrolment in primary schools, and more education of the
    girl child; e) Nutrition security: balanced diets and safe drinking water.,
    including nutritional supplementation of pregnant mothers and children under
    five and to eliminating micro-nutrient deficiencies. f) Gender code: to end
    gender inequity and discrimination including adverse sex ratios, inequitable
    property rights, dowry, female foeticide and infanticide, higher female
    mortality and morbidity, higher female illiteracy, feminisation of poverty
    and food insecurity for women. The role of women in the conservation and
    improvement of agrobio-diversity will be given explicit recognition. India's
    national bio-diversity legislation, the Plant Variety Protection and
    Farmers' Rights Act, now before Parliament, provide for recognising and
    rewarding the contributions of tribal and rural families to genetic
    resources conservation (biodiversity) and improvement. Community seed banks,
    supported by microcredit, and grain banks operated by a self-help groups
    need to be established. In the re-negotiated World Trade Agreement,
    industrialised countries should make provision for recognising and rewarding
    primary conservers of bio-diversity and holders of traditional knowledge,
    mostly found in developing countries and indigenous communities. Breeders'
    and farmers' rights should be protected with intellectual property laws doclink

    Asia Must Preserve MDG Gains, Include Poor in Future Growth: ADB

    May 04, 2009, Asia Pulse

    The economic crisis threatens to reverse progress in poverty reduction and governments must do what they can to ensure those gains are not lost.

    The target year is (2015) for accomplishing the eight MDGs. Asia has made strong progress to cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015. However, the economic crisis threatens to slow the pace of further reduction.

    GDP growth in 2009 for developing Asia will be 6% lower than in 2007 and 3% lower than in 2008. As a result, around 60 million people will be stuck below the US$1.25 poverty line.

    Prospects for the achievement of non-poverty related development goals look increasingly bleak. Many countries remain off-track on primary school completion rates, and access to water.

    Questions have been raised whether infrastructure alone can cushion the harsh economic impacts of the crisis. Social service programs such as health care and education, should not be crowded out by infrastructure programs. doclink

    Bangladesh a Success Story in Reproductive Health

    July 10, 2006, Daily Star

    Bangladesh has been a success story in population and reproductive health, but it still has to go a long way. People are not getting the right contraceptive at the right time. Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world and its population will stabilise in 2050 when there will be nearly 24 crore (crore = 10 million) people.

    The country has made progress but the maternal mortality rate is still high with 12,000 women dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth annually.

    Bangladesh has to target the poor because they are voiceless and have a higher total fertility rate (TFR), maternal mortality and higher incidence of malnutrition. The TFR among the poor has been double that of the rich. Women get married at an early age due to low income and lack of security. Half of the population lives below poverty line. Close links between poverty and reproductive health exist that keep the poor in persistent poverty. Infant mortality among the poor has come down to 65 per 1,000 in 2004. Contraceptive prevalence increased to 58% in 2004 from 8.5% in mid 70s. A growing concern in Bangladesh is the persistence of health inequality, linked to birth attended by skilled health personnel.

    More than 45% in the highest income group has access to safe delivery whereas in the lowest income less than 4% get this service. The first round of success was the reduction of fertility to 3% in 2004 from 6% in the mid 70s. doclink

    Ugandan Women Poverty Levels Alarming

    February 08, 2006, The Monitor (Uganda)

    Despite the poverty eradication plan, the level of poverty amongst women in Uganda is alarming. The poverty has persistently increased due to gender inequality and the existing poor macroeconomic policies. Ugandan women constitute 75% of agricultural labour yet own 7% of registered land. 51% of women have wages which cannot sustain them, especially, in rural areas where there is 20% of the micro finance. The gender dimensions of poverty are escalated by unequal relations within households, powerlessness due to weak property rights, inability to enforce legal rights as well as limited access to services by women. Women should be allowed access to and control over all the five assets including natural, human, financial, physical and social among others. doclink

    Achieving the Mdgs in the Middle East: Why Improved Reproductive Health is Key

    September 2005, Population Reference Bureau

    Improving women's reproductive health is crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But investing in reproductive health often does not make the top of national priorities. Making women's reproductive health a national priority would accelerate progress toward MDGs across the world. MDG number 1 is to: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger. Despite poverty reduction across the region, poverty seems entrenched in the MENA region where the poverty rate has not improved since 1990; 23% live on less than $2 a day. The percentage in poverty is the highest in Yemen. More than 20% of Egyptians could not afford the minimum daily calorie. The average enrollment for primary education in the MENA region is about 85% and some countries are on track to achieve this goal. Literacy among 15 to 24 years olds ranges from 68% in Yemen to 99% in Jordan. Literacy remains low for poor women. In Egypt, 91% of women 15 to 49 in the richest one-fifth of the population had completed five years of primary schooling, compared with only 22% of the poorest one-fifth and the cycle of illiteracy, high fertility, and poverty continues. The gender gap in education has been narrowing throughout the MENA region. But Yemen, Morocco, and Egypt have had difficulty closing the literacy between women and men: While 84% of Yemeni males between the ages of 15 and 24 can read, only 51% of Yemeni women can. In these three countries there are nearly 5 million illiterate women. Maternal health has improved in almost all MENA countries, but remains a challenge in parts of the region. Algeria, Iraq, and Syria are expected to miss this MDG, which calls for reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015. Even in countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, there is need for improving maternal health. Maternal deaths are estimated at more than 40 per 100,000 in Jordan and more than 20 per 100,000 in Saudi Arabia both higher than the average for developed countries of 14 deaths per 100,000 births. While the MENA region has the lowest rate of HIV infection in the world, they are growing in every MENA country, and there is potential for rapid spread of the disease through injecting-drug use. In Iran one-half of injecting-drug users are married and one-third have extramarital sex. Sex workers appear to be poorly equipped to handle the threat of infection. The MENA region is the most arid in the world, and freshwater scarcity tops the list of environmental concerns. Fresh water in most MENA countries now averages 1,500 cubic meters per capita per year, well below the 1,700 cubic meters that defines "water-stressed" countries. Only Iran, Iraq, and Turkey hold two-thirds of available freshwater resources. Oil-rich Gulf states are dependent on technologies like desalinization to meet their increasing demand a strategy not available to Yemen. MENA countries continue to face challenges to meeting their family planning and reproductive health care needs. Contraceptive use ranges from 74% in Iran to 23% in Yemen. Rural women generally have a greater need for accessing quality health services. doclink

    AIDS Threatens Agricultural Production in Ethiopia

    September 04, 2005, unknown

    HIV poses a serious threat to agricultural production in Ethiopia. An increasing number of the rural population are being affected by the pandemic. A large part of the Ethiopian population relies on donor handouts for survival because of frequent droughts and crop failures. This year at least 5 million people require emergency food assistance because they could not raise their own crops. The agricultural professionals union is planning an information network that will assist rural communities to get better understanding of the disease and how it spreads. Provision of appropriate information as well as care and support for the affected people could mitigate the pandemic. Life expectancy in Ethiopia is already falling and the epidemic is undermining the nation`s efforts to reduce poverty. It is estimated that 2.5 million Ethiopians live with the AIDS virus. Life expectancy is currently 45.5 years. According to statistics the prevalence rate of the virus in the country`s population of 72 million is around 6.6%. The primary mode of transmission is unprotected sexual practices, high frequency of casual partners and harmful traditional practices. doclink

    Poverty Rate Down to 30.4 Percent in Philippines

    May 10, 2005, Agence France-Presse

    The poverty rate in the Philippines fell 2.5% over three years to 30.4% of the population in 2003. The Anti-Poverty Commission sets the poverty threshold at 31.37 pesos (58 cents) a day, barely more than the 25-peso (46.3 cent) cost of a hamburger at the country's largest restaurant chain. Some 13.8% of the population earn less than 21.11 pesos (39.1 cents) a day, the minimum amount needed to acquire the most basic of food items, down from 15.8% in 2000. The World Bank says 43.2% of the population, or some 35.7 million, earned two dollars a day or less last year. doclink

    Kenyan Village Serves as Test Case in Fight on Poverty

    April 04, 2005, New York Times*

    A settlement in western Kenya has become a giant test tube and there will be 10 such test villages across the world's poorest continent. The project aims to fight poverty to prove that conditions for millions of people can be improved in just five years. If it fails, initiatives like increased foreign aid to Africa may seem foolhardy. The project grew out of the Millennium Development Goals, and today they keep slipping further into the future. The remoteness of this settlement has allowed poverty to get a foothold here. The Millennium Development Goals seem to have been forgotten in a country that has seen corruption devastate its economy. Researchers behind the program are keeping track of every penny to demonstrate that for a modest amount, around $110 per person, a village can be tugged out of poverty. Every home was surveyed to get an accurate portrait of the population. Blood tests were taken for a nutritional analysis and to determine how widespread malaria is, and then later, to see whether the mosquito nets given to every villager help keep people alive. A new health clinic has gone up. Villagers did the labor, and the project pitched in the sacks of cement, the sheets of tin and the white and blue paint. The Kenyan government must provide the drugs. Before the health clinic, villagers relied on the district hospital, which got its first government doctor as part of the project. The villagers will receive a truck to double as an ambulance and for farmers to get their produce to market. Projects come and go in this part of the world and some people participate to get a free lunch and do not see the long term benefits. People need to stay involved after the experts go home. Most of the aid will come from shared knowledge from experts on health, agriculture, energy and economics. Residents will lift themselves out of poverty. A soil scientist is advising the people how to revive their damaged fields and plant trees as a way of fertilizing the soil for free. Yields could double or triple. Not all the new food the farmers produce will remain theirs. In exchange for free fertilizer and seeds, farmers had to agree to give 10% of their yields to local schools that will start a program to feed children at noontime and, bring more of them into class. The project plans to bring electricity by extending the power grid that never actually reached them. It is too early to say whether this will be another failed venture. Village leaders persuaded one farmer not to sell his free fertilizer. Although an estimated one-fifth to one-third of the people are H.I.V. positive, many fear the stigma if others find they have the disease. Some volunteers came by the village to encourage people to have their blood checked. The reward was a free bed net and a free paper visor to shield one's face from the sun. doclink

    Exploitation of Children and Young Women

    Women's Conference Decries Lack of Progress Since 1995

    June 09, 2000, Chicago Tribune

    At the conference called Women 2000: Gender, Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called for a global effort to eliminate trafficking in women, which, she said was "distorting economies, degrading societies, endangering neighborhoods and robbing millions, mostly women and children, of their dreams." 200,000 Bangladeshi women have been sent to Pakistan during the past 10 years. The Center for the Study of Intelligence estimated that 45,000 to 50,000 women and children enter the U.S. annually as slave laborers or sweatshop workers. 50,000 women from the Dominican Republic work in the sex trade in Latin America and Europe, according to estimates from the International Organization for Migration. Women are sent from Ethiopia illegally to neighboring countries and to Middle Eastern nations such as Lebanon. Ethiopia passed a law in 1998 forbidding this practice, but enforcement has been difficult. Once the women get there, their passports are taken away from them, and they can't get back home. 5,000 to 7,000 Nepalese women are sent to India annually, mostly as prostitutes. An estimated 220,000 Nepalese women are living in India as a result of trafficking. Other women at the conference decried female genital mutilation and circumcision, which persist in Ethiopia and other African countries. An estimated 2 million women and girls undergo genital mutilation each year, and about 132 million have been mutilated in 28 African countries, according to the World Health Organization. doclink

    U.S. Girls Ages 11 to 14 at Risk for Sex Trafficking

    March 18, 2011, Bloomberg

    In the U.S. from 100,000 to 300,000 girls are subject to sexual trafficking every year, and few cases of child rape are ever prosecuted, according to Malika Saada Saar, the founder of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights. Girls between ages 11 and 14 are particularly at risk, and more American-born than foreign-born children are being bought and sold for sex in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that "about 293,000 American youth are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial exploitation."

    Actor Ashley Judd spoke of a 14-year-old girl she knows who was separated from her family in the Atlanta airport. She was picked up by a man and forced to have sex with men 15 times a day.

    Saar said "We don't put the trafficker or the pimp behind bars. When you go and talk to survivors of trafficking, they talk about how they are the ones who were arrested."

    U.S. laws are being rewritten to make them tougher on traffickers and the people who pay for sex. A new law in Georgia imposes a 25-year minimum prison sentence for those found to have coerced someone under 18. But Saar said new laws aren't necessary to address the problem. "There are statutory rape laws," she said.

    The trafficking of men women and children for labor and commercial sex is a "serious" problem in the U.S., the State Department said in its 10th annual report, published in June 2010, which grades 175 nations on their efforts to fight trafficking. doclink

    For Albanians, It's Come to This: a Son for a TV

    November 13, 2003, New York Times*

    Since the collapse of Stalinism in Albania, an estimated 6,000 children have been sent abroad in begging and prostitution rackets, or sold for adoption. A majority come from a group of 300,000 Albanian-speaking Gypsies who have fared poorly. More than 1,000 children are in Greece, working as beggars. One or two are arrested every day and sent home. This is part of a trade including East European women for prostitution, and an outgrowth of the organized crime in this clannish society. In Albania most cases of child trafficking have involved older children who are sold or rented to minders (pimps), who take them to Greece and Italy, where they work as beggars or child prostitutes. Many families believe that their children will gain better lives abroad and to send a child abroad is a success and not exploitation. The Albanian government has introduced campaigns to alert families to the dangers of such decisions. Laws penalizing child trafficking have been enacted, and policing stepped up. doclink

    Ethiopia;: Poverty Forcing Girls Into Risky Sex Work

    October 18, 2006, UN Integrated Regional Information Network

    The nightclubs of Addis Ababa, reveal a thriving sex industry.

    Extreme poverty has forced many girls into the sex trade which in Addis is linked to restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs frequented by wealthy expatriates or local businessmen, but the city also has residential houses that function as unlicensed brothels.

    8,134 establishment-based sex workers were identified in the capital, 60% between 15 and 24.

    Clients are increasingly targeting young people with the perception that these groups are less likely to have HIV. Condom use by sex workers is very high. In 2005, the state-run Addis Ababa HIV Prevention and Control Office launched a condom campaign to promote condom use.

    But clients are often reluctant to use condoms. HIV prevalence among sex workers is over 20% and as high as 50% in some towns.

    MSDA, a local NGO, is trying to give sex workers the opportunity to earn a safer, legitimate living by offering training and gives them capital to start a small business.

    Almost half of Ethiopia's 71 million people survive on less than US$1 a day, and the government estimates that 1.2 million are living with the HIV virus. Most sex workers say they started doing it for economic reasons.

    MSDA is currently training 72 commercial sex workers and 120 sex workers' mothers. Training them in income-generating activities, their mothers too, because if the mothers do not have money they will force their daughters to go back to their life as sex workers, or practice prostitution themselves. doclink

    20,000 Bangladeshis Being Trafficked Every Year

    September 06, 2006, New Nation (Bangladesh)

    About 20,000 persons are being trafficked every year from Bangladesh and those working in the Middle East sent home 72% of their earnings on average.

    Bangladesh is one of the nine largest manpower-exporting countries along with China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. These countries contribute between one half and two thirds of all documented immigrations and refugees.

    One third of labour migrants within the region are women, the majority in domestic services or entertainment often not covered by the labour laws. Many also ended up in the sex industry fueled by poverty, discrimination and unemployment in Asia.

    Bangladesh data indicated that less than 1% of the immigrants between 1991 and 2003 were women. There are about 10,000 to 15,000 women employed in Dubai. Restrictions were enforced on female migration by countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in order to protect women. Bangladesh lifted the ban in 2005.

    One third of the global trafficking in women and children occurs in the South East Asia. doclink

    Fortune Search Now Turns Into Modern Slavery

    September 07, 2006, The Nation (Kenya)

    A report says that although most women voluntarily seek work in the richer countries, they toil in intolerable conditions, or are held in virtual captivity in which they are physically and psychologically abused.

    In the Middle East, a system called kafala, in which the employer holds the worker's passport and other official documents until the date of departure, ensures that the worker is dependent on the "master."

    If domestic workers break their contract they are often forced to forfeit their pay cheques.

    Although workers are likely to be abused sexually, they lack access to health facilities. Saudi Arabia requires that a pregnant domestic worker be attended to only if accompanied by the expected child's father.

    In Sri Lanka, where migrants undergo AIDS testing, half of all reported HIV cases occur among domestic workers who have returned from the Middle East. Human trafficking in Africa is the third most lucrative illegal business after arms and drugs.

    Trafficked people across the world are estimated at more than 3 million, with 80% women and girls and up to 50% children.

    Millions of women working overseas send remittances back home to improve the lives of those they left behind.

    Somebody must do the low-paying jobs that the locals are unwilling to do, it says.

    Migrants' earnings sent back home are the reason experts give for supporting international migration.

    The World Bank estimates that remittances are larger than the value of official development assistance. Apart from claims of gobbling up jobs at the expense of the locals the migrants are accused of being HIV bearers. A study which claims that 66% cent of all heterosexually transmitted HIV infections diagnosed in the EU are in people from high-prevalence countries.

    While the brides are dependent for their legal status on the groom-to-be, they are being used as a ploy to recruit women.

    The US passed a law authorising consulates to share information with would-be brides regarding their husbands-to-be.

    In 2004, the second largest category of work permit applications from foreign women were for entertainment and leisure. Japan admitted nearly 65,000 women on entertainment visas. The boundary between entertainment and sex work is often blurred.

    Pregnancy-related problems among migrants are a major issue throughout the EU. Migrants receive inadequate or no antenatal care, and have higher levels of still birth or infant mortality. Domestic violence against immigrant groups is high. doclink

    Call to Fight HIV Risk in Young

    August 01, 2006, BBC

    An estimated 1,800 children become infected with HIV every day because of exploitation and discrimination.

    Many young people were not able to choose safe sexual behaviour while 2.3 million children under 15 are living with HIV and many have no access to treatment.

    Plan has called for the education of children and adolescents to prevent the spread of Aids, prevention of parent-to-child transmission, and to support vulnerable children, including orphans.

    In the West African Republic of Benin, girls are harassed on their way to, from, and even in school. They are often pressured into having unprotected sex. Many more are so desperate they are forced to sell sex for the price of a meal.

    There are millions of sexually exploited children; girls whose older husbands are infected, or boys who are under pressure to practice unsafe sex.

    UNICEF said: "More must be done to reach the most vulnerable groups. Girls who are at risk of being trafficked are at particular risk of HIV infection. Education equips children with better negotiating skills.

    "Over 50 million children have lost their parents in sub-Saharan Africa. Many will likely be forced into child labour or the commercial sex trade."

    Plan wanted to ensure universal birth registration for all children orphaned by or living with AIDS, protection of inheritance, property rights for AIDS orphans and basic health care.

    The international community must address poverty and the denial of human rights. doclink

    Peru: Women: the Enemy at Home

    June 07, 2006, InterPress Service

    Almost 70% of all the women killed in a year in Peru died at the hands of their husbands, partners, lovers or boyfriends. More than 300 women have been murdered in Ciudad Ju'rez, Mexico, in the last 11 years. In Guatemala, 500 women were killed in the 2000-2004 period. But the biggest danger is not out on the street. According to a study in Peru femicide in this country takes the shape of domestic violence.

    The press tends to describe them as "crimes of passion," because the perpetrators usually claim to have committed them in a fit of jealousy. These cases become invisible when the newspapers lump them together as 'crimes of passion,' and official reports do not discriminate between them at all. There was no official government monitoring of killings of women. The figures for January to March of this year confirm that three-quarters of the killers were cohabiting partners, boyfriends, husbands, ex-partners or ex-boyfriends of the victims. And the crime was nearly always committed in a place the couple shared. Perpetrators usually argue that they killed their partners out of jealousy, or because of alleged infidelity, in an attempt to mitigate their responsibility. In 2005, 58% claimed infidelity or jealousy as their motive.

    In a police report obtained by IPS, Juan Jos' Galiano, 36, confessed that on Apr. 2 he strangled his partner, Rosa Trujillo, 38, because he suspected her of carrying another man's child.

    Mar'a Elena Salas, a lawyer and researcher for the non-governmental organisation Demus, said the nationwide average was 12 cases of femicide a month.

    According to the monitoring of news items, 52% of murdered women are between 16 and 35. One out of three women is killed by being strangled, throttled or knifed. Only one out of two is killed with a firearm.

    Many perpetrators of femicide tell the judge their violence was due to their sense of outraged honour, because of an infidelity that is very hard to prove.

    In over half the cases, the woman was murdered after several previous instances of violence, and in some cases the victims had reported their partners to the police.

    The State does not prevent violence against women, much less do anything to eradicate it. The perpetrators of these crimes have a record of violence against their partners. Peru has signed the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women, but Peruvian law has not been reformed to ensure that those responsible for the murders of Peruvian women are sentenced appropriately. doclink

    Violence Against Women and Children

    End Acid Attacks in India

    December 3 , 2013, Forcechange.com   By: Afieya Kipp

    When Laxmi she was just 15 years old, she refused to engage in an arranged marriage with a much older man. Angered, the man and a friend purchased acid from a local retailer and attacked Laxmi in a crowded marketplace, burning her on nearly 50% of her entire body. Eight years after her attack, Laxmi learned that nearly 20 acid attacks against women are performed every month because of disagreements that arise because of dowries and arranged marriage disputes. Laxmi took action immediately and started a petition to regulate the sale of acid in the open market. Just a week later, she won.

    Recognizing the epidemic of acid attacks, the Indian government announced that it would implement strict guidelines for shopkeepers which would make it illegal to sell or distribute acid without a valid license. Also, buyers would be required to produce a valid ID and proof of address before purchasing the product.

    By signing this petition, you'll applaud the efforts of the Indian government to stop acid attacks against innocent women in India and thank Laxmi for her dedication to advocating for women's rights. doclink

    Pakistan: Malala Effect in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

    November 25, 2012, Vietnam News Agency

    November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "Ensuring women's and girls' rights, eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality lie at the heart of the international human rights system."

    In October, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head and the neck by the Pakistani Taliban on her way back from school in Pakistan. The Taliban threatened to kill anyone else, including women and children, holding views they disagree with.

    "Malala was targeted for her prominent role in promoting the fundamental right of education for girls and for criticizing the Taliban for actions such as destroying girls' schools and threatening to kill girls who attend them. The fact that they tried to do just that to her brought into sharp focus the extreme intolerance and physical danger facing many girls who try to exercise their basic human right to education in many other countries," Pillay said.

    "The sad truth is that Malala's case is not an exceptional one and, had she been less prominent, her attempted murder might have passed more or less unnoticed."

    In nearby Afghanistan since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001, they have reverted to guerrilla tactics which have included - as a matter of policy -- attacks on girls and women, especially in relation to their attempts to receive education.

    "In the first six months of 2012 alone, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) verified 34 attacks against schools, including cases of burnings of school buildings, targeted killings and intimidation of teachers and school officials, armed attacks against and occupation of schools, and closures of girls' schools in particular. Incredibly, there have even been at least three separate attempts this year to poison girls attending schools in Afghanistan, with over 100 girls affected on each occasion."

    The long distance travelled to school was as a major factor in parents deciding not to send their daughters to school, with security concerns one of the main reasons.

    Girls' education has been subjected to deliberate attacks in more than 30 countries because of religious, sectarian, political or other ideological reasons. Girls get less education because their parents fear for their safety, worry about sexual violence or simply -- because of traditional values or lack of education themselves -- value their daughters' education less than that of their sons.

    "Malala's bravery in confronting such practices touched a chord internationally. The attack led to an unprecedented outpouring of popular anger and major protests in favor of girls' education in Pakistan itself and in a number of other countries in the region." Important Pakistani and international educational initiatives have been launched in her name. doclink

    World Bank: No Low-income Fragile Nation Achieves Millennium Development Goal (MDG); Enhanced Global Efforts Vital

    April 10, 2011, Xinhua

    About 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by organized violence, either currently or recovering from political violence, fragility and high levels of homicide, according to the World Bank's World Development Report (WDR) 2011.

    Economic, political and security challenges undermine development and trap fragile states in cycles of violence. National institutions must be bolstered and governance improved to value job creation, citizen security and justice, said the agency.

    "Children living in fragile states are twice as likely to be under-nourished and three times as likely to be out of school. And the effects of violence in one area can spread to neighboring states and to other parts of the world, hurting development prospects of others and impeding economic prospects for entire regions."

    Poverty rates are 20% higher in countries affected by violence over the last 30 years. Nations lose an estimated 0.7% of their annual gross domestic product (GDP) for each neighboring country involved in civil wars. In the four weeks following the unrest in Libya, global oil prices surged by 15%.

    While much of the world has made huge progress in reducing poverty over the past 60 years, countries facing political instability and criminal violence are being left far behind and face stagnation, both in terms of economic growth and disappointing human development indicators.

    Securing jobs and to paying attention to vulnerable groups of people are the "key to social stability and economic development in different nations", said a World Bank representative.

    The World Bank said it could play a constructive role helping governments to "stabilize domestic prices and to secure the supply of food to citizens."

    The report suggested improving global coordination through measures including providing more integrated assistance for citizen security, justice and jobs, forging new international consensus on the norms of responsible leadership and encouraging knowledge exchange. doclink

    Abused Village Women Speak Out for Justice in 'The Rape Capital of the World'

    October 13, 2010, Guardian (London)

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a UN visit has raised hopes of legal action over sexual violence.

    The women of Kampala village, where 35 were raped, still sleep in the forest at night, for fear the rapists will return. They gathered to tell their stories to a special U.N. representative on sexual crime in conflict.

    The mass rape of more than 300 women, several men and children in villages deep in the forest of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo at the beginning of August has renewed momentum to tackle the sexual violence.

    The prosecutor of the international criminal court in The Hague is sending a team to investigate the mass rapes.

    Callixte Mbarushimana, executive secretary of the FDLR, one of the rebel groups implicated, was recently arrested under an ICC warrant in Paris. The core of the FDLR are Hutus who fled Rwanda after participating in the genocide of Tutsis in 1994, and are accused of war crimes in the DRC.

    The arrest was a "crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC".

    Although a peace treaty in 2003 formally brought to an end the decade-long war, atrocities - primarily against women - have not subsided. Rape is a way of humiliating and cowing local populations who may be used as slave labour.

    The 80 Indian soldiers assigned as UN peacekeepers are often as brutal and ill-disciplined as the militia and rebels they are fighting.

    After the rapes the government of President Joseph Kabila announced a temporary ban on mining, which may be lifted later this week. The idea is that government agents should tax the miners rather than leave them to run a gamut of illegal roadblocks manned by rebels, militia and rogue soldiers. But this seems unlikely to stop the brutality. UN sources say battalions of government troops that have fanned out across the jungle. They are now preying on the population, looting and raping.

    The US Congress has approved a financial reform law that requires US-listed companies to disclose whether their products contain "conflict minerals" from the DRC.

    In Nyasi village the women say they will only feel safe if UN peacekeepers patrol more often and stay close. "We had the courage to speak out because we've had enough. We're like dying people, who are no longer afraid because they know they're at the end of their journey." doclink

    Clinton Urges Papua New Guinea to End 'Culture of Violence' Against Women

    November 3, 2010, Agence France Presse

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an end to the "culture of violence" against women in impoverished Papua New Guinea during a lightning stop in November in the South Pacific nation.

    Clinton, who was greeted by bare-chested men beating drums and face-painted women in grass skirts, announced a new initiative to help the island's women, who suffer staggering levels of violence, according to rights groups.

    She also discussed ways of avoiding the "resource curse" with Prime Minister Michael Somare as PNG grapples with a huge influx of wealth from an upcoming gas project, as well as ways of fighting climate change.

    "Giving women access to education, health services, economic opportunities, and the structures of power is critical for alleviating poverty and disease in every part of the world," she told an audience of mainly women during a visit to the country's parliament.

    Clinton said the United States, PNG government and World Bank would bring together senior officials and business leaders from across the Pacific "to expand opportunities for women". The U.S. State Department is working with local groups to help women voters prepare for 2012 elections, hoping to ease their plight by encouraging more female MPs and is working with US energy giant Exxon Mobil and local groups on a mentoring programme "aimed at ending the culture of violence against women and girls in Papua New Guinea", she said.

    Clinton, the first secretary of state to visit since 1998, meanwhile offered technical expertise to help PNG cope with the windfall of its 15-billion-US dollar liquefied natural gas project to supply Asian countries. "If not handled right a country can actually can end up becoming poorer," Clinton warned.

    The plant, PNG's biggest resources project, is expected to double national income.

    Several other developing countries that have experienced sudden energy investments only to become mired in corruption and political instability. doclink

    State of the World Population - From Conflict to Renewal

    October 21, 2010, United Nations Population Fund

    Research showed that when women had access to the same rights and opportunities as men, they are more resilient to conflict and disaster, which could lead to better reconstruction efforts in their societies.

    Generations of Change is a report highlighting how women in conflict and post-conflict situations fared 10 years after the Security Council adopted its landmark resolution which aimed to put a stop to sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict and encourage greater participation by women in peacebuilding initiatives.

    Women rarely waged war, but they often suffered the worst of it. In many of today's conflicts, women are disempowered by rape or the threat of it, HIV infection, or trauma and disabilities that often results from it.

    Girls are disempowered when they can not go to school because of the threat of violence, when they are abducted or trafficked or when their families disintegrate or are forced to flee.

    When it comes time to wage peace, women are too often denied a place at the negotiating table, but that through the stories of real people who lived through conflict in places like Liberia, or through natural disaster such as Haiti, the report showed that when women enjoyed the same rights as men, they were more resilient and could play a role in reconstruction, peace building and recovery.

    To help women facing violence in war, urgent and concerted action is needed to stop impunity and bring justice, and it is important to replace crisis and underdevelopment with peace, justice and stability.

    Investing in development softens crises. Rebuilding societies is as important as rebuilding houses, and it is key to renew societies and rectify entrenched inequalities.

    This year s report contained narratives directly from people in those countries. Through the stories of individuals affected by conflict or catastrophe, the report showed how communities and civil society were healing old wounds and moving forward.

    In Liberia women blockaded the doors where talks where being held, and would not let the men come out until they had a peace deal in hand.

    Rebuilding took a long time. People continue to have trauma, women are in psychoanalysis and being medically treated for years and the violence has not stopped, and in at least two of the countries in the report, domestic violence has increased in peacetime. If a rape victim came back from a camp and their relatives said she dishonoured the family, it did not lend to women healing, psychologically or any other way.

    Conflict and protracted humanitarian emergencies affected women and girls, men and boys. However, the panellists agreed that many women and young people had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and had begun rebuilding their lives and societies. Conflict today is less about soldiers engaging in battle with soldiers on the other side of a national border, and more about combatants struggling for control within a single country and employing any means to break the will of civilians by disempowering them physically, psychologically, economically and socially.

    Governments needed to seize opportunities that arose out of post-conflict recovery or that emerged from natural disasters to increase the chances that countries were not just rebuilt, but built back better and renewed, with women and men on an equal footing, with rights and opportunities for all and a foundation for development and security in the long run. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: conflict tends to make the infrastructure for health, sanitation, family planning and reproductive health tenuous, rapes are more common, and women feel insecure about their family size when child mortality rate is high.

    Electronic Game Breakaway Fights Violence Against Women

    November 2010, Population Media Center

    Around the world, as many as one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused is some other way. Games have the potential to have a very positive impact on gender issues by profoundly shifting beliefs, stereotypes, and attitudes. In Breakaway, a soccer electronic game, the player encounters real-life situations that resonate with a teen's experience such as peer pressure, competition, collaboration, teamwork, bullying, and negative gender stereotypes. Breakaway gives players choices that allow them to make decisions, face consequences, reflect, and practice behaviors in a game and story format. See http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20021734-1.html?tag=cnetRiver doclink

    Australia: Ads Spark Sex Fury

    October 20, 2010, Herald Sun (Australia)

    Clinical psychologist Alison Grundy, who works with sex abuse victims, said advertisers were reaching a dangerous new low by using sexual violence as a marketing tool, including Calvin Klein's jeans ad, which is said has connotations of gang rape.

    "If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualised and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse,' she said.

    In a post on renowned women's advocate Melinda Tankard Reist's website, Ms Grundy said cases of gang rape of girls as young as 13 were increasingly being reported to professionals in NSW and that advertisers were blurring the line between rape and group sex and the Calvin Klein poster was "clearly intimating' the gang rape of a woman.

    Menswear brand Roger David has also drawn fire for selling T-shirts with semi-naked, gagged women. doclink

    Coersion, Disincentives

    China Softens Its One-child Policy

    March 7 , 2013, Hindustan Times

    China has loosened its one-child policy to allow more couples to have a second child in the rural areas of five provinces and two municipalities, it was announced on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC).

    Couples from rural areas in the municipalities of Shanghai and Tianjin and the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, Jiangsu, Anhui and Fujian could have a second child if either of them was the only child.

    Currently rural couples can have a second child if the firstborn was a girl and both rural and urban couples can have a second child if the father and mother was the only child of their parents.

    30 years ago China introduced the one-child policy bringing China's fertility rate to 1.5 today.

    Issues related to aging, gender imbalances, urbanisation, an expanding shortage of migrant workers and an only-child generation may have led to the decision.

    The number of people aged between 19 and 59 declined by 3.45 million year-on-year in 2012 on the Chinese mainland, making a significant dent in China's labor force. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: China's population is still growing at about .5% a year, and China admits it cannot feed all of its people. China has purchased agricultural land in Madagascar.

    The Indian Women Pushed Into Hysterectomies

    February 05 , 2013, BBC News   By: Jill McGivering

    Reports from few Indian states, including Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, suggest that thousands of women are having their uteruses removed for unscrupulous reasons, including many below the age of 40.

    Sunita from a small village in Rajasthan, north-west India, said she "I went to the clinic because I had heavy bleeding during menstruation," she says. "The doctor did an ultrasound and said I might develop cancer. He rushed me into having a hysterectomy that same day."

    Village leaders said about 90% of the village women have had the operation, including many in their 20s and 30s. The doctors charge about $200 for the operation and many families have to sell cattle and other assets to raise the money.

    One doctor admitted that he sometimes didn't do biopsies before removing the uterus, only afterwards. In the U.K., to confirm a diagnosis of cancer, doctors would first perform a biopsy and other lab tests. In some cases, they would treat with radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy before recourse to a hysterectomy.

    Dr Vineeta Gupta, a lady gynaecologist said she sees seven or eight women a week from villages in the region, who've been told they need hysterectomies but want a second opinion. She tells them that "an infection doesn't cause cancer. We'll cure the infection, I tell them, and you will be completely all right. Some are convinced but some are not convinced because they've been told: 'If you don't get your uterus removed you will get cancer and die.'"

    This follows the rapid expansion of small private clinics and hospitals, especially in remote rural areas that are poorly served by the government health system.

    In the U.K., most vast majority of hysterectomies are for women between the age of 40 and 50.

    The operation can also lead to incontinence, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, back pain, loss of sexual pleasure, thrombosis and vaginal prolapse."

    In 2008 the Indian government launched a national health insurance scheme, the RSBY, to help the poor. However the scheme appears to be encouraging unnecessary hysterectomies, as unethical private clinics exploit the vulnerable poor, using them as a means to tap into government funds.

    In Samastipur, a district in the northern state of Bihar, the district magistrate did a survey that suggests that of 2,606 women who were examined, about 12% had had their uteruses removed unnecessarily. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: this will set women's reproductive health and family planning in India back for many years.

    Coercion is Not the Answer

    2009, William N. Ryerson, Population Media Center

    William N. Ryerson, President of Population Media Center and Population Institute, does not take the challenges to the future of humanity and the planet presented by population growth lightly. While reducing fertility rates is essential to improving living conditions in the developing world and while preventing unwanted and unintended pregnancies in the U.S. and other developed nations is of utmost importance to the future of the planet, coercing women to have fewer children is not the answer.

    Some worry that humanity will grow so much that we will see totally outstripping of the planet's resources, and they fear that voluntary approaches will not work fast enough. And so they believe we should use coercion.

    As with many challenges that we face today, we know what works; we just aren't doing nearly enough. With respect to population, the answer is public education and giving women universal access to family planning and reproductive health information and services. We just need to do a lot more of it, and quickly.

    Coercion is not the answer. doclink

    U.S.: Life Begins at Conception: That's Not the Point

    November 04 , 2012, RH Reality Check   By: Jodi Jacobson

    "Life begins at conception" is the phrase frequently invoked by anti-choicers seeking to eliminate women's basic right to control over their own bodies, and it is the premise of policies pushed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and fundamentalist evangelicals. It is the cornerstone of the so-called personhood laws attempted in both Colorado and Mississippi, and the basis for the "Sanctity of Life" bill co-sponsored by Congressmen Paul Ryan and Todd Akin. The result of all of these efforts, if they succeeded, would be a total ban on abortion without exception, and bans on many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for women who are or who may be pregnant - in other words, a radical shift in women's lives.

    "Life begins at conception," suggests a question: are women people with the same fundamental rights as men, or are they essentially incubators whose ability to participate in society and the economy, and, quite literally, whose ability to live is dependent on whether they are, might be, or might become pregnant.

    But the phrase is highly - and purposefully - misleading because it confuses simple biological cell division both with actual pregnancy and with actual, legal personhood, which are all very different things.

    Vice President candidate Congressman Paul Ryan said he was pro-life - not simply because of his Catholic faith, but also because of reason and science, giving the example of when he and his wife saw the seven week ultrasound of their child, and when they saw heartbeat, even though the little 'baby' was in the shape of a bean, they were convinced that life begins at conception.

    Of course life begins at conception. Having a child requires, as a first step, the successful integration of a sperm and an egg, or fertilization. By "life," we mean the essential starting place of a potential human being; a human being is the end result if the fertilized eggs go through the process of cell division, successfully implant in the uterus and develop into healthy embryos, and subsequently go successfully through the many other phases of development leading to their births.

    The fact that life begins at conception is why women and men use birth control to prevent it from happening. Humans don't need modern "reason and science" to tell them they get pregnant from sex; as Homo Sapiens they have been conceiving, carrying, and bearing babies for at least some 160,000 years, and they've been trying to prevent pregnancy and induce abortions for just as long.

    Evidence of condom use has been found in cave drawings in France dated between 12,000 and 15,000 years old and in 3,000 year-old illustrations in Egypt. Humans have used pessaries, herbs, and other objects to create barriers to fertilization when having sex, and have used many other more dangerous and less effective means in the hopes of preventing fertilization, a subsequent pregnancy, and later, the birth of a child.

    Paul Ryan needed science to believe his wife was pregnant and that his daughter's "life" began with conception, while most of us don't need an ultrasound to know that "life" begins with conception and is a frequent consequence of having sex.

    The question is not when life begins, but when does pregnancy begin? Does personhood begin at conception? Is a fertilized egg, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus a person with rights that take priority over those of the woman upon whose body it depends?

    Women know that pregnancy leads to having a baby, they don't need 'evidence'.

    Do women have the moral agency and fundamental rights to decide whether or not to commit themselves not only to the development of a life within their own bodies, but to a lifelong tie to another human being once a child is born?

    Life begins with conception, but pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg successfully implants in the uterus and develops into a healthy embryo; implantation begins six to 12 days after fertilization. There is no pregnancy until implantation happens, which is why any method that prevents fertilization or implantation can not cause an abortion. 50%-80% of fertilized eggs never successfully impant and end in spontaneous miscarriage (and before a woman even knows she is pregnant) because of insufficient hormone levels or an non-viable egg or for some other reason.

    Hormonal contraception, including emergency contraception, works to prevent fertilization in the first place. If you don't like abortion at any stage, you should be a supporter of contraception, and emergency contraception, which needs to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse to prevent fertilization from taking place.

    Anti-choicers who support "personhood" legislation intentionally or unintentionally misrepresent the mechanisms of action of contraception and the medical definition of pregnancy to blur the lines between contraception and abortion. There is this lie perpetuated by the USCCB and fundamentalist evangelicals, which is a precursor to promoting their goals of eliminating both contraception and abortion, making abortion the equivalent of murder, and by extension, controlling women's bodies and their economic and social choices. This is exactly the goal of so-called personhood amendments that have been the subject of several ballot initiatives and of the "Sanctity of Human Life" act co-sponsored by Ryan and Akin.

    In December 2011, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who in recent years converted to Catholicism) told a reporter that he believes that human life does not begin at conception but at "implantation and successful implantation" because if you say life begins at conception "you're going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions." Shortly thereafter, however, Gingrich "clarified" his statement. to the global Catholic network, ETWN, and reiterated his belief that "human life begins at conception" and that "every unborn life is precious, no matter how conceived," vowing to support pro-life legislation aimed at the ultimate goal of legally protecting "all unborn human life."

    The term "personhood" has no medical or scientific definition. The Vatican teaches that a fertilized egg is a "person" with full rights under the law. However, Jewish law and tradition does not recognize an egg, embryo, or fetus as a person or full human being, but rather "part and parcel of the pregnant women's body," the rights of which are subjugated to the health and well-being of the mother until birth. The United Methodist Church recognizes the primacy of the rights and health of women. Islamic scholars, like Jewish scholars, have debated the issues of "ensoulment" and personhood, and continue to do so with no over-riding consensus.

    Roe v. Wade allows abortions up until fetal viability, except that the "viable fetus must yield to the woman's right to have an abortion to protect her health and life."

    Women who face unintended and untenable pregnancies and choose abortion overwhelmingly prefer to terminate a pregnancy as early as possible. According to Guttmacher Institute: nearly 62% of women who terminate a pregnancy do so before nine weeks of pregnancy, before any fetus is involved. Nearly 80% of such abortions occur before 10 weeks, and nearly 90% by the end of the first trimester. It should be noted that anti-choice laws and policies such as banning early and safe medication abortion, mandated waiting periods and unnecessary ultrasounds - all serve to push early abortions later than they otherwise would be, and are, in fact, responsible for a large share of such abortions.

    Women know what being pregnant means, more than any fetal heartbeat, sonogram, ultrasound, or lecture on pregnancy can show. When considering an abortion, women weigh the responsiblities they have... to themselves and their own futures, to any born children they have or any they may plan to have at a future date. It is about whether or not a woman wants to and is able to make a lifelong emotional, financial, and physical commitment - often at substantial cost to herself and/or to her family - to the person who will exist if a pregnancy is successfully brought to term; it's not just about getting through the "inconvenience" of a pregnancy.

    Without recourse to safe abortion care, an unintended pregnancy is a forced pregnancy and a forced birth, and amounts to reproductive slavery. Only one person - the woman in question - has the right to decide whether, when, and under what circumstances to bring a new person into the world. The vast majority of women who have an abortion know they are ending biological life that they can not or do not want to sustain because the commitment to an actual child is a moral commitment they are not able, willing, or ready to make, or can not make for reasons of health or life.

    If you have no choice and control over your body, you are less than an actual person in the eyes of the law. If conservatives are so worried about abortion the closer a pregnancy gets to viability, then anti-choicers would be making sure both contraception and early, safe abortion were widely available. And when you reduce a complex reality to a slogan like "personhood", you actually minimize the personhood of women. doclink

    Governmental Coercion in Reproductive Decision Making: See it Both Ways

    September 2012, Guttmacher Institute   By: Sneha Barot

    You've probably heard about the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng who fled China earlier this year to escape persecution for exposing and protesting coerced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in China. His escape was followed by the story of a rural Chinese woman - Feng Jianmei - who was seven months pregnant and forced by local officials to have an abortion, causing outrage across China and across the globe.

    Chen had never publicly advocated against abortion per se, only forced abortions as a violation of human rights. Yet, U.S. antiabortion activists and policymakers predictably latched onto Chen's and Feng Jianmei's struggles as vindications of their cause.

    Reproductive rights advocates reiterate their long-standing principle: Coercion in reproductive decision making is wrong. Forcing a woman to terminate a pregnancy she wants or to continue a pregnancy that she does not want both violate the same human rights: the right to decide freely whether and when to bear a child and the right to have that decision respected by the government.

    Throughout history, societies, religions and governments have often defined women's value by their childbearing capacity, subjecting them to coercion - either to have or to not have children for the greater good of those other than themselves. Motivation for such policies range from fears of a population explosion or implosion and the resulting impact on economic or environmental security; the desire for more workers, but no matter what the motivation - the reproductive self-determination and human rights of individual women are sacrificed.

    From about 1950-1999, attention to reproductive rights violations has focused largely on actions by governments to curtail what they view as "overpopulation." The most notorious example was India during the 1970s, where the national government established population targets, mandatory sterilization, and punitive disincentives for large families, particularly among the poorest classes. In the 1990s, under former President Alberto Fujimori's regime, Peru sanctioned coercive and forced sterilizations of more than 346,000 poor and indigenous women and almost 25,000 men through intimidation and force. China's one-child policy - under which involuntary abortions are frequent if not technically condoned - fits this pattern.

    But there there are also examples at the other end of the spectrum: to compel pregnancy and childbirth. Under President Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship in Romania, 1965-1989, the state implemented a radical pronatalist policy that outlawed all forms of contraception and banned abortion, with a few exceptions. Enforcement was by mandatory monthly gynecologic exams. As a result, maternal mortality - mostly the result of unsafe, illegal abortions - skyrocketed by 1989 to the highest level in Europe. Infant mortality also soared, while among those children who survived, thousands were abandoned in orphanages without basic food, health care and attention.

    Even today, the governments of both Turkey and Iran announced their intentions to alter policies to restrict family planning and abortion services. The Turkish government proposed banning abortion after four weeks of pregnancy - a change from the current 10-week limit. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling for Turkish women to bear at least three children, equating abortion with murder and unpatriotic behavior, and asserting that family planning undermines economic development.

    In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is urging Iranians to have more than two children to raise fertility rates, which have been falling substantially due to a highly successful government-backed family planning effort over the last two decades. Iran has a highly educated female population and a youth cohort that faces double-digit unemployment. Iran's health minister announced that "the budget for the population control program [i.e., family planning] has been fully eliminated."

    In the 1960s, Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb warned of mass global starvation and environmental destruction from a population explosion, even as the women's rights, civil rights and antipoverty movements were also shaping public consciousness. Among policymakers and advocates promoting access to family planning services, there was rising sensitivity to the United States' own troubled history with reproductive rights abuses, especially state- sanctioned involuntary sterilizations.

    However, U.S. family planning policy - domestic and international - recognized the importance of voluntarism and informed consent from the very beginning. USAID guidelines from the 1960s insisted that assistance be conditioned on the voluntary participation of individuals free to choose among available methods that align with their own beliefs, culture and personal desires, and that USAID not promote any specific family planning policies or methods but, instead, support the ability of "people everywhere enjoy the fundamental freedom of controlling their reproduction, health, and welfare as they desire." This was later refined to: "The underlying principles of U.S. assistance for family planning are voluntarism and informed choice."

    The U.S. Title X family planning program was created in 1970 to "assist in making comprehensive, voluntary family planning services readily available to all persons desiring such services." The Title X statute and accompanying regulations specify that the receipt of family planning services and information must be on a voluntary basis and that a woman's eligibility for other government assistance may not be conditioned on her acceptance of any contraceptive method. They require that a broad range of contraceptive methods and related counseling services be offered to clients, who may not be "subjected to any variation in quality of services because of the inability to pay."

    On the conservative side, in 1973, shortly after Roe v. Wade, Congress passed the Helms amendment to restrict U.S. foreign assistance for abortions. Consequently all funding for abortions overseas, even in extreme cases such as rape, incest or when the mother's life is in jeopardy, has been withheld. In the U.S. conservatives passed the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal Medicaid funding for abortion services for low-income U.S. women, unless the pregnancy would endanger the life of the woman or was the result of rape or incest. A Guttmacher review concludes that the Hyde amendment blocks approximately one in four Medicaid enrollees from having an abortion they otherwise would have if Medicaid funding were available.

    Then there is the 1985 Kemp-Kasten amendment, in which U.S. funding is prohibited for any entity that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization," as determined by the president. Every Republican administration since Ronald Regan has used the provision to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for allegedly supporting coercion in China, despite the fact that multiple investigations - including one under the latter Bush administration - have found no evidence of UNFPA complicity. The UNFPA operates in China to promote voluntary family planning and to push the Chinese government to respect principles of reproductive integrity.

    This year, Arizona and South Dakota joined seven other states in requiring counseling on the negative mental health consequences of abortion, even though experts have thoroughly debunked this claim. In July, a federal appellate court upheld a South Dakota law that mandates that a woman be informed, inaccurately, that an abortion may cause suicide or suicidal thoughts. The real purpose of these laws is to dissuade them from having an abortion at all. These restrictions violate the essence of anticoercion policies which seems ironic when conservatives are quick to condemn coercive efforts to stop pregnancy.

    The Programme of Action of the landmark 1994 U.N. International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) affirms the universal human right of "all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so." And, specifically, governments should aim to support individuals to enable "responsible voluntary decisions about child-bearing and methods of family planning of their choice, as well as other methods of their choice for regulation of fertility which are not against the law." Incentives or disincentives to alter fertility rates are to be viewed with suspicion.

    At the recent London Family Planning Summit, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom's international development agency (DFID), increased political and financial commitments for international family planning were garnered. Concern was expressed that the summit's stated goal of obtaining 120 million additional contraceptive users by 2020 could lead to overzealous implementation efforts, including "coercive family planning programs where quality of care and informed consent are ignored." In turn, more than 1,300 civil society organizations from 177 countries signed in support of the new global initiative launched at the summit, announcing their support for empowering women: "We commit to working with communities and reaching poor and vulnerable women and girls with evidence-based information so that they can make informed choices regarding their fertility and choice of contraceptive method."

    The global reproductive health and rights community has made clear that its priorities lie in upholding choices for women everywhere, and that coercion - whether to prevent childbearing or compel childbearing - violates reproductive autonomy and should be unequivocally condemned. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: it is not necessary for targets, incentives, disincentives, or any form of coersion to be used in order to lower fertility rates. In country after country, voluntary programs have been shown to lower fertility rates. Iran's program, without coersion, has lowered fertility rates to the same extent that China's program, with coersion, did. Both started at the same time and both currently have a fertility rate of 1.7. Most of today's population activists are not interested in coersion of any kind.

    What Supporting the Global Gag Rule Means…in Theory and Practice

    October 10, 2012   By: Mark Leon Goldberg

    While presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has said he opposes abortion, except in instances of rape, incest and when the mother's life is threatened, he recently said no abortion legislation is part of his agenda, but by executive order, not by legislation, he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy (aka Global Gag rule) that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions, he said.

    In 1984 the Reagan administration officials - under pressure from its antiabortion and increasingly overt anti-family planning constituency - prepared a position paper for the U.N. international conference on population in Mexico City. The position went far beyond the 1973 Helms amendment, which had passed in 1973 - in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade - to ban the use of U.S. funds under the Foreign Assistance Act from paying "for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning." This policy was one they could impose without the involvement of Congress.

    The Mexico City policy disqualified foreign NGOs from eligibility for U.S. family planning assistance if they used non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services or information in the form of counseling or referrals, or to engage in advocacy within their own countries to liberalize abortion-related laws or policies.

    An example of the effect this policy has had on women is Josephine, who at 29, was raped during the Congo's conflicts, became pregnant. She wanted an abortion, but didn't know where to get one, despite the many health services NGOs that operated in and around Congo, and had to carry her baby to term and raise him. "Today, the only thing that I can think about is that I want an abortion. I am hungry; I have no clothes and no soap. I don't have any money to pay for medical care. It would be better if I died with the baby in my womb," she told Amnesty International.

    Thousands of girls and women raped and impregnated in armed conflict are routinely denied abortions with devastating consequences. An estimated 5% of rapes lead to pregnancy, which suggests that the 1.8 million women and girls raped during the Congo's crisis may have led to as many as 90,000 unwanted pregnancies.

    President Barack Obama dropped the Mexico City policy on his tenth day in office. doclink

    Senegal: Moolaadé - Movie Review

    September 24, 2011, Netflix

    Senegalese writer-director Ousmane Sembene makes an impassioned plea against the practice of salinde, or female circumcision, in this moving portrait of a society in transition. In a West African village run by uncompromising Muslim males, fiery Colle (Fatoumata Coulibaly) provides safe harbor for young girls fleeing their "cleansing" rituals. But what one man terms "a minor domestic issue" soon puts the whole town on the verge of bloodshed. This movie is available on Netflix DVD. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This movie is not just a about female circumcision, but about women winning a bit of liberation in a traditional Muslim society. Very enjoyable and very satisfying.

    UK Population Increase Challenges Society’s Goals

    June 30, 2011, Population Matters (OPT)

    The increase of almost half a million in the UK population in just a year illustrates the continuing challenge posed by our growing numbers to society's goals of reducing emissions, protecting the natural habitat, ensuring food and energy security and providing adequate housing and services for all. England is already the most densely populated country in Europe.

    The increase, announced by the Office of National Statistics, continues the pattern of recent years and is the highest since 1962, almost fifty years ago. It is made up almost equally of natural change and net in-migration.

    Britons are living longer and having larger families than they have had in the recent past. One factor contributing to larger families may be child related changes to the tax system initiated by the last Labour government. At the same time, net in-migration is consistently standing at around 200,000 a year.

    Population Matters chief executive Simon Ross commented "The constant increase in our population makes society's goals ever harder to achieve. Whether we talk about carbon emissions, protecting the natural habitat, food and energy security or the provision of housing and services, it is not in our interests for the population of the UK to keep increasing, year in year out. We ask individuals to consider the environment and sustainability when thinking about how many children they have. We also call on the government to look at the relationship between its policies and population numbers and take the action needed to stabilise the population. Specifically, they should look at enhancing family planning services and sex education, limiting automatic tax credits and benefit payments to the first two children per couple and taking more effective action to limit immigration." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: History has shown that disincentives (like limiting tax credits) have backfired. The U.K.'s fertility rate is 1.82 and the contraceptive prevalency is 84%, which demonstrates that most UK folks practice family plannning. Penalizing them for what may not be their fault, is not a good idea. Also it should be considered that longer living seniors is another reason the population is not stabilizing. What the U.K. might look more closely at is teen pregnancy.

    Understanding Sexual Behaviors; Customs; and Sexual Choice

    How One Small Town Lowered Their Teen Birth Rate

    A comprehensive sex education program teaches kids in a small South Carolina town about abstinence, contraception, and effective communication--and where to get free condoms.
    March 31 , 2014, Time magazine   By: Charlotte Alter

    While the U.S. has one of the highest teen birth rates in the industrialized world, the birth rate among teens has decreased 50% since the 1990s.

    Take Denmark, South Carolina, for example. The teen pregnancy rate was so bad that, according to Michelle Nimmons, director of the Bamberg County School/Community Sexual Risk Reduction Project for Teens, they were seeing grandparents in their 30s and even great grandparents in their 40s.

    Nimmons and her team worked to build a comprehensive sex education program that included information about contraception but also advised students to stay abstinent. She said that "abstinence is the best option for young people, and that's what parents want for their children."

    About 22 states in the U.S. mandate sex education but whether the curriculum should be abstinence based or include discussion of contraception is debated.

    Nimmons said that both boys and girls should get sex ed. Young men need to understand what the consequences were when they engaged in sexual behaviors and did not take effective precautions. "They don't get to walk away from a pregnancy and not have emotional scars and financial responsibilities," she said.

    Her program has students role-play by re-enacting awkward sex conversations to practice effective communication. "They need to become comfortable with whatever their refusal message s going to be," she said.

    Because it is illegal to distribute condoms in schools, barbershops, beauty parlors, or laundromats have agreed to keep condoms out for kids to take whenever they want.

    Now, Denmark has one of the lowest teen birth rates in the state. doclink

    U.S.: Doctors Are Still Reluctant to Give Women the Most Effective Types of Birth Control

    November 14 , 2013, Think Progress

    A new study shows that over 90% of women who begin using a long-term form of birth control continue with that method for at least six months. This could be a contraceptive implant or an intrauterine device (IUD).

    The senior author of the study, the Washington University School of Medicine's Dr. Tessa Madden hopes this study will dispel the perception among healthcare providers that women discontinue these methods rapidly.

    Women used to stop using their IUD because of heavy cramping or bleeding due to faulty IUDs in the 1970s, but today, the IUD is the most effective form of birth control available, and multiple studies have confirmed it's perfectly safe.

    But most U.S. women aren't opting for the IUD, in part because their doctors still aren't suggesting it.

    Medical professionals are reluctant to prescribe implants or IUDs to young women, assuming that negative side effects will convince them to give up. But the study shows that young women weren't any more likely to discontinue their long-lasting birth control than older women. Previous studies show that IUDs are just as appropriate for teenagers as they are for adult women, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now encourages doctors to give IUDs to their teenage patients since they would benefit the most from long-lasting contraception.

    But parents are not comfortable with the idea of their teenage daughters having an IUD, and many medical professionals think of long-lasting birth control as something that's mostly appropriate for married women. Some think that giving women the resources to prevent pregnancy may seem like giving them a license to be promiscuous. The same idea is behind misguided resistance to the HPV vaccine and Obamacare's birth control benefit.

    Birth control may seem basic, but many women are still misinformed about their options and reluctant to initiate that conversation with their doctors. "Studies like this will encourage providers to use these methods more, and to not create additional barriers for women to get the most effective methods," said Madden. doclink

    U.S.: Popping the Pill's Bubble

    Free birth control is great, but it’s not going to do women much good if they don’t know which method to use
    October 31, 2013, American Prospect

    With the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), newly insured women can begin to start thinking about what kind of birth control they want, rather than what they can afford. All forms of female contraception will be offered without a co-pay to insured women as part of a larger package of preventive-care services. If women can choose a form of birth control that works for them, without worrying about the cost, they'll be less likely to get pregnant, saving insurance companies thousands of dollars in sonograms and prenatal vitamins.

    80% of women will use a contraceptive pill at least once during their reproductive lives, but they need to take the pill at the same time every day, a challenging task that even very organized people have problems with. But it's cheap, unlike longer-term contraceptives like the IUD—a T-shaped device that, once inserted into a woman's uterus, can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years.

    Under the ACA, insurance companies are required to cover at least one form of all FDA-approved contraceptive methods -- including IUDs and contraceptive implants, matchstick-sized rods that are inserted into the arm to prevent pregnancy and last for up to three years—at no cost to their subscribers.

    However, all this variety of contraceptive options—patches and implants, shots and rings may sound pretty scary to many women. They need doctors to guide them through the process of choosing a new form of contraception, a role that physicians, who are already pressed for time, are ill prepared to fill. A survey found that 40% of women between didn't receive in-depth counseling or information from their health provider on how to use the birth control they were prescribed. One third of the women surveyd were not presented with multiple birth-control options, and of those that were, 10% reported that they felt pressured to choose one over the other and the same percentage said they had questions they did not feel they were able to ask their health provider.

    The problem is: doctors may inadvertently prevent their patients from finding the form of birth control that works best for them. The ACA requires insurers to cover counseling as well as the birth control methods themselves, but it's not yet clear whether insurers will pay doctors extra for longer counseling sessions. "It's much easier to write a prescription for a birth control pill than to sit down and talk with a woman about the pros and cons of the IUD," said Low.

    Because doctors are don't spend enough time or get little emphasis on contraceptive counseling or education in medical school, most women are unaware that birth control pills can cause decreased libido and vaginal dryness. 30% of women using the pill discontinued use because of dissatisfaction with the method—most often because of side effects, such as unpredictable bleeding, weight gain, or a dulled sex drive,

    Giving the task of contraceptive counseling to nurse-midwives or to non-clinicians might be a better alternative. In 2007, a study by researchers Washington University in St. Louis implemented the Contraceptive CHOICE Project which provided 10,000 St. Louis women with free contraception, with the goal of decreasing unintended pregnancy. Contraceptive counseling wasn't initially built into their program model, but the majority of women did not realize that there were lots of choices available and they recruited research assistants to counsel women about their options. Few women ended up choosing the pill. Most went with a long-acting contraceptive method, like an IUD or an implant, and the results were striking. Women who opted for a shorter-term contraceptive like the pill were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy.

    Doctors need to stop thinking about contraception in isolation, as a tool to prevent pregnancy, rather than as a drug that's intimately linked to women's sexual and reproductive lives. Even if doctors are not compensated by contraceptive counseling, insurance companies might become be proactive, realizing that reimbursing doctors for contraceptive counseling is good for their bottom line. For insurers, there's no downside to improved contraceptive use -- it's in insurers' interest to help women think about the kind of birth control that works best for them. doclink

    1 in 3 Young U.S. Women Uses 'Withdrawal' for Birth Control

    But new study confirms that it's not good for preventing pregnancy
    August 06, 2013, US News & World Report   By: Mary Brophy Marcus

    Despite the fact that withdrawal is an unreliable form of birth control one-third of young women still use it. Withdrawal is a method of birth control that relies upon a man "pulling out" before ejaculating.

    Study author Dr. Annie Dude, a resident in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center, and her colleagues analyzed 2006-2008 data from a national survey of U.S. women, focusing on 2,220 participants between the ages of 15 and 24.

    31% of the women used withdrawal as a form of birth control at least once. Of those who used it, about 21% became pregnant unintentionally compared with only 13% of women who used other types of contraceptives.

    Withdrawal users were also 7.5% more likely to have used emergency contraception.

    Dr. Dude said that health care providers who care for sexually active young women need to recognize that one reason couples may use withdrawal as a method of birth control is that they haven't planned ahead, and that providers need to take the time to discuss more effective birth control methods with their patients.

    Many contraceptives are short-acting and require a lot of action on the part of a woman. The condom and the pill are examples.

    Dr. Angela Chen, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of California, Los Angeles, said that, for the withdrawal method to work successfully, both partners need to be highly motivated. They need to communicate well and the woman really needs to understand her menstrual cycles -- when she is most fertile. Practitioners need to talk about Plan B with their patients more openly. "Anyone who might have a method failure should be offered Plan B."

    Study author Dude said the most effective contraception for this age group is a long-acting, reversible method such as an intrauterine device (IUD), or a contraceptive insert in the arm. But there are "issues of access for the age group in this study -- young women ages 15 to 24," Dr. Kari Braaten, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston said. doclink

    New U.S. Study Highlights Need to Include Men in Strategies to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy

    September 2013, Guttmacher Institute   By: Laura Lindberg and Kathryn Kost

    Having children, whether intended or unintended, is a shared experience. After reviewing the results of the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute wrote "Exploring U.S. Men's Birth Intentions."

    They found that, like women, men reported that about 40% of kids they fathered were unintended, with two-thirds of these births being mistimed, and one-third being unwanted.

    The prevalence of unintended births varied by several factors.

    Both younger men and men with low education levels had more unintended births. Only 25% of births reported by married men were unintended, but 75% of single men did not intend to father a child, and about 10% of those men first learned about the pregnancy after the child was born.

    The acceptability of parenting outside of marriage varied by race and ethnicity. Among single men, more births were intended by black fathers than by white fathers. White men had the fewest unintended births (34%), while 51% of births among black men were unintended and 38% among Hispanic men.

    Hispanic fathers more commonly reported planned births than white or black fathers. Not surprisingly, men who planned the birth of a child were more likely to be happy about it than those who had not planned the birth. However, many men who had an unintended birth, particularly those who were married, reported being happy about it.

    Laura Lindberg concluded that most men preferred having children within marriage, but "others might be happy having a child as a single dad. … Regardless of a man's marital status or race, his community and health care providers should recognize his fertility desires and empower him to plan his family. We need to include men in our discussions about unintended pregnancy and foster strategies to help men work as individuals and with their partners to control when or if they have children." doclink

    The Awkward History of Americans Talking About Contraception

    August 23, 2012, Atlantic Monthly

    The ACLU announced that a California school district is being sued by parents and students over its abstinence-only sex education program. Among other affronts to the concept of comprehensive sex education, the program's textbooks do not mention condoms, even in the chapters on protecting oneself from STIs and unintended pregnancy.

    Manufacturers, health officials, and the public have found numerous ways to talk about contraception without really having to talk about it. Condoms were marketed as "sheaths, skins, shields, capotes, and 'rubber goods' for the 'gents.' Many companies emphasized testosterone-fueled virility with names like Spartans or Trojans.

    In 1873 the Comstock Act criminalized any and all forms of contraception and euphemisms became a legal necessity. But by World War I, because of an emerging knowledge of communicable disease, particularly venereal disease, condoms began to build their reputation as prophylactics -- and that form of contraception became understood as a public health issue. That was the point where "protection," "safety," and other words with health implications became common.

    The term "birth control" entered the lexicon in 1914, when it was coined by Margaret Sanger, a controversial hero in the field of reproductive rights. By "birth control," Sanger meant to put words to the idea of "voluntary, conscious control of the birth rate by means that prevent conception."

    Although the health of women and children were also a priority, a lot of what Sanger and her followers were talking about when they referred to "birth control" is deeply disturbing by today's standards: they believed that certain populations -- specifically minorities and the poor -- should be kept from proliferating. Considering its strong eugenic undertones, it's surprising that the term is still so widely used.

    On the upside, the introduction of the idea of birth control heralded a new era of talking openly about contraception. In a 1923 editorial for the New York Times, Sanger praised a bill that would allow doctors to discuss contraception with their patients:

    In the 1940s, Planned Parenthood introduced the term "family planning" as a less radical way of talking about birth control. Turned intimate, the new discourse concerned a woman's right to sexual expression and to control over her body. In 1971 the Boston Women's Health Collective published When Our Bodies, Ourselves, with this in its preface:

    "This knowledge has freed many of us from the constant energy-draining anxiety about becoming pregnant. It has made our pregnancies better because they no longer happen to us, but we actively choose them and enthusiastically participate in them. It has made our parenthood better because it is our choice rather than our destiny. This knowledge has freed us from playing the role of mother if it is not a role that fits us. It has given us a sense of a larger life space to work in, an invigorating and challenging sense of time and room to discover the energies and talents that are in us, to do the work we want to do. And one of the things we most want to do is to help make this freedom of choice, this life span, available to every woman."

    In 1965, the Supreme Court made contraception legal for married couples; in 1972, it made access possible for single people as well. Women's health had taken on new meaning in 1960, when the pharmaceutical product was approved by the FDA as a form of oral birth control. By 20 years after it was first developed, 30 million women worldwide, including 10 million in the U.S., were on the Pill, allowing it to become a way of life.

    As of last year, birth control is considered preventive care, required by Department of Health and Human Services to be covered by private insurers. And the U.S. government characterizes its family planning services, aided by Title X, as "educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors, to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the claim that Sanger "believed that certain populations -- specifically minorities and the poor -- should be kept from proliferating" is disputed by Planned Parenthood. The term 'birth control' is familiar to couples who used it in the 1960s and beyond as a synonym for contraception. There was never any understanding that eugenics was involved, considering the huge benefits contraception gave to women: education, ability to have a career, more leisure time, healthier families - few women would want to do without.

    Birth Rate Plummets in Brazil

    December 30, 2011, Washington Post

    Across Latin America fertility rates plummeted, even though abortion is illegal, the Catholic Church opposes birth control and government-run family planning is rare.

    Migration to the cities, the expansion of the female workforce, better health care and the example of the small, affluent families portrayed on the region's popular soap operas have contributed to such a fast demographic shift that it caught social scientists by surprise. The number of children per woman when from 6 in 1960 to 2.3 by 2010.

    Brazil has been particularly fascinating for demographers, it's fertility rate falling lower than in any other Latin American country except Cuba, which has state-sponsored family planning and legalized abortion. With a population of almost 200 million, there is a great gap between rich and poor, although millions have joined the middle class during Brazil's recent economic expansion.

    The country's fertility rate has fallen from 6.15 children per woman in 1960 to less than 1.9 today. That is lower than the United States, which at 2 per woman is just enough for the population to replace itself.

    Brazil's fertility rate took a big drop uniformly across the country. Suzana Cavenaghi, a Brazilian census bureau demographer. "We wouldn't expect that in a country that's so diverse, with a lot of poverty in so many places and so unequal, economically speaking."

    Women were empowered by a pro-democracy movement that rose up against a 1970s-era military dictatorship. That dictatorship, which wanted to populate Brazil's remote areas, inadvertently contributed to fewer births by promoting industrialization. That led rural families to crowd into cities, where a brood of children could be a financial drain.

    Women began to look for means of birth control, easily obtained without a prescription. Doctors in the public health service provided sterilizations, which became common, and women sought out pills that induced abortions long before those pills became the subject of controversy in the United States.

    A report, "The Battle for Female Talent in Brazil," says that 59% of Brazilian women consider themselves “very ambitious" and that 80% of college-educated women aspire to upper-echelon positions. U.S. women are far less likely to give those responses.

    The country's elaborate soaps, or telenovelas, have been an important factor in the drop in Brazilian fertility, researchers say. The protagonists inhabit an appealing, affluent, highflying world, whose distinguishing features include the small family. doclink

    Beijing: in Defence of Sex Education in Schools

    September 02, 2011, Xinhuanet

    While older Chinese may be shocked by the idea of sex education, in recent years China has seen a dramatic increase in premarital sex, and unwanted pregnancies and abortions among young girls.

    For that reason sex education classes, complete with graphic drawings of sexual organs, will be introduced to a primary school in Beijing from this session on an experimental basis.

    Medical clinics in China perform an estimated 13 million abortions a year. Add to that the abortions performed in unregistered medical clinics and then there are the 10 million abortion-inducing pills are sold every year.

    Many people in China lack even the basic knowledge to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Li Ying, a professor at Peking University, says that young people need to acquire better knowledge about sex.

    Nearly two-thirds of the abortions in the country's hospitals are performed on single women aged between 20 and 29 and nearly half of the women who underwent abortions said they did not use contraceptives, according to a study and a government official.

    In countries like the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and Singapore, all schools have sex education courses which begin from the early grades, even in primary schools.

    Sex education in schools doesn't necessarily mean encouraging "sexual liberation". In China, where people are relatively conservative about sex, introducing sex education in schools in the early grades will help youngsters avoid unsafe sex rather than encourage them to have sex.

    Because parents do not tell their offspring the facts about sexual activity and how to engage in it responsibly, every generation believes it "invented" sex. Sex is a normal activity that is on the minds of both men and women, therefore, humans do not have sex just for procreation. Sex serves multiple purposes, including personal pleasure, social bonding - as seen among live-in partners and spouses - and procreation.

    Children and teenagers images and stories about romance and sex in the media almost every day. But the information they get may not be wholesome or accurate. Avoiding discussions on the subject won't prevent young people from taking interest in or having sex. It will only force them to get information from other sources which could be misleading and even dangerous, and could lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases.

    Sex education should be appropriate to the age of the student. For older teens, the topics could include the physical mechanics of sex or "what sex is", the nature of sexual attraction, sexual feelings and sexual pleasure, various approaches to values related to sex, sexually transmissible diseases and how to prevent them, safe sex practices, sexual preferences, how to say "no" to sex and how to accept a "no", and actions to take if one becomes pregnant.

    Sex - like other aspects of our lives - be dealt with frankly and appropriately in the educational process. doclink

    Ideas on What Works (Some Good, Some Bad)

    Family Planning & Immunization Integration Toolkit

    November 8, 2013, K4Health

    Providing family planning information and services to postpartum women during their infants' immunization visits provides an opportunity to reach women with unmet need for family planning.

    To be successful, integrated immunization and family planning service provision requires actions that support family planning and immunization alike. Supportive policies, evidence-based service delivery guidelines, capable service providers and managers, strong logistics to ensure availability of supplies, and broad acceptance by both communities and health workers are essential.

    Follow the link in the headline for more complete information doclink

    Could Growing Inequity Lead to Lower Birthrates?

    October 15 , 2013, WOA website   By: Art Elphick

    Robert Reich and other economists warn that, since our world's economy depends on how much people spend, growing income inequality could trigger another recession. If they are right, could growing income inequality also lead to higher birthrates?

    Based on 2010 U.S. Census numbers, women with the lowest household incomes had the highest fertility rates. Internationally, the world's highest fertility rates occur among the poorest people in the poorest nations. In 2011, the average woman in a lower income nation had four children, and the average woman in a high income nation had 1.8 children, and in those nations fertility has been highest among women in a lower income groups and lowest among women in higher income groups. According to an Oct 29th 2009 article in The Economist, "fertility starts to drop at an annual income per person of $1,000-2,000 and falls until it hits the replacement level at an income per head of $4,000-10,000 a year. This roughly tracks the passage from poverty to middle-income status ..." So, if our income levels are falling, will our birthrates rise?

    Not necessarily. women in some of the world's poorest nations had fertility rates no higher than women in some of the richer nations. For example, according to the 2013 CIA World Factbook, at 2.50 births per woman, the birthrate of poverty-ridden Bangladesh is lower than that of Israel or Kuwait, both of which have 2.56 births per woman. Other factors could be more important than income. The Bangladesh health services promote family planning by providing both advocacy and birth control devices without regard to income ( http://www.prb.org/pdf09/fp-econ-bangladesh.pdf ). An April 1997 study from the National Center for Health Statistics Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that a women's educational level is the best predictor of how many children she will have. Based on an analysis of 1994 U.S. birth certificates, the study found a direct relationship between years of education and birth rates, with the highest birth rates among women with the lowest educational attainment. Income levels generally correspond with educational levels, so birthrate differences by income may be do more to birthrate differences by education.

    Hans Rosling said in a TED talk, "you don't have to get rich to have few children. By 2010, 80 percent of humans live in countries with under three children per woman, "from the U.S., France, Russia, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, India and all the way to Bangladesh and Vietnam." Vietnam has less than 5% of the U.S. per-capita income, yet fewer babies per woman. And, since the wealthier nations of all religions had fewer children, Rosling found greater differences based on income than religion. He concluded that the most important factors for lowering birthrates are marrying older, woman's education levels, and having more women integrated in the labor force." ( http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies.html )

    Will growing income inequality lead to higher birthrates? Probably not. During recent years of declining income equality, birthrates have also been falling. What seems to matter more is how family planning is promoted and made accessible, education levels, age of marriage, and the types of jobs women hold. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Bangladesh made great progress in lowering fertility rates - due to an excellent reproductive health, family planning and infant survival program - until they reached a fertility rate of about 3. Then it seemed to stick at 3 for several years, perhaps due to male preference. Now that girls are starting to finish high school, the fertility rate is once again declining, now at 2.5.

    U.S.: IUD Evangelism: the Birth Control That Converts

    December 10 , 2012, Cut   By: KAT STOEFFEL

    An IUD is a T-shaped device - smaller than a penny - that is inserted by a doctor or nurse in a less-than 15 minute procedure, and remains in the uterus, preventing pregnancy for up to ten years with minimal side effects.

    In 2002, IUDs made up 2% of Americans' contraceptive use. Now combined use of the ParaGard copper IUD and Mirena hormonal IUD accounts for more than 10%, and the rate is expected to continue rising, thanks to inclusion in the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate.

    There are about 4,700 IUD-related threads on Mothering.com.

    Costs for the device and insertion can be as much as $1,000. An aggressively marketed and fatally defective seventies model, the Dalkon Shield, waylaid the IUD's popularity when it was recalled amid a highly publicized, class-action lawsuit. One of Dalkon Shield's disastrous side effects was pelvic inflammatory disease, a complication of gonorrhea and chlamydia that can cause infertility. Consequently, some doctors can be reluctant to prescribe IUDs to women who haven't finished having children or sleeping around. Nonetheless, its reputation held in Europe, where about 20% of contraceptive-using women currently have one.

    Are you tired of refilling birth control prescriptions? Can't remember where you left your pills? With the IUD, you're baby-proof for up to ten years. Do the hormones in birth control pills make you cry? The IUD is as effective as sterilization until you take it out.

    USAID workers say that the IUD is among the most popular methods of birth control worldwide, favored in countries where men resist condom use.

    The device is inserted into the uterus is through the cervix, which can hurt.

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended IUDs "as a first-line contraceptive option" for sexually active teenagers this year, but NARAL Pro-Choice New York recently found that about a third of 16- to 17-year-old women don't know anything about the IUD, and one in five 18- to 25-year-olds had never heard of it either.

    Finding a doctor who will insert and IUD may be a problem. "Many providers are not up to date on the research," said Dr. Sophia Yen, an adolescent medicine specialist who thinks the IUD is an underrated strategy for preventing teen pregnancies. doclink

    Opting Out of Parenthood

    eZine for Jewish Women Talks of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Childfree
    December 05, 2012, 614::HBI eZINE

    About 20% of the U.S. female population have chosen to be childfree, with this percentage having doubled in the last three decades. Women who choose to be childfree have to contend with being cast as social pariahs: "selfish," "self-centered," "baby-haters." "Given the rapid growth of this trend, we sought out a variety of perspectives on how this specifically impacts Jewish women".

    Click on the link in the headline for the articles. doclink

    World Lacks Enough Food, Fuel as Population Soars: U.N.

    January 30, 2012, Reuters

    The world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population a recent U.N. report warned.

    The world's population, now at 7 billion, is expected to reach 9 billion by 2040, with 3 billion of them middle-class consumers, increasing the demand for resources exponentially, and at a risk of condemning up to 3 billion people into poverty.

    Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply, says the UN .

    Efforts towards sustainable development are neither fast enough nor deep enough, as well as suffering from a lack of political will, the UN high-level panel on global sustainability said. "To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required" it said. "Tinkering on the margins will not do the job. The current global economic crisis ... offers an opportunity for significant reforms."

    Although the number of people living in absolute poverty has been reduced to 27% of world population from 46% in 1990 and the global economy has grown 75% since 1992, improved lifestyles and changing consumer habits have put natural resources under increasing strain.

    There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85%t of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38% between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level rise and more extreme weather.

    The panel made 56 recommendations for sustainable development to be included in economic policy as quickly as possible.

    EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard suggested: "Let's use the upcoming Rio+20 summit to kick off this global transition towards a sustainable growth model for the 21st century that the world so badly needs."

    The report urged governments to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the eight Millennium Development Goals to 2015 and create a framework for action after 2015.

    It suggested an "evergreen revolution," which would at least double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses; more efficient management of water and marine ecosystems; universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030; pricing of carbon and natural resources should be established through taxation, regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies; reform of national fiscal and credit systems to provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well as disincentives for unsustainable ones; application of sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions for sovereign wealth and public pension fund, development banks and export credit agencies; strengthening the relationship between policy and science by regularly examining the science behind environmental thresholds or "tipping points"; and naming a chief scientific adviser or board to advise the organization.

    The report is available at www.un.org/gsp/ doclink

    Karen Gaia says: why not try a solution that has been proven to work: programs that make contraception available, along with reproductive health, education and empowerment of girls and women, and discouraging the practice of child marriage. Forty percent of pregnancies are unintended. Let's work on those. Let's supply more funding for these programs so they can prevent unintended pregnancies.

    Understanding the Demographic Dividend

    February 26, 2005

    The demographic dividend occurs when a falling birth rate changes the age distribution, so that fewer investments are needed to meet the needs of the youngest age groups and resources are released for investment in development and family. It improves the ratio of productive workers to child dependents that makes for faster economic growth and fewer burdens on families. The demographic dividend does not last forever; there is a limited window of opportunity. In time, the age distribution changes again, as the adult population moves into the older, less-productive age brackets. The dependency ratio then rises again, with the need to care for the elderly. While demographic pressures are eased where fertility falls, some countries will act to capitalize upon the released resources and use them effectively, but others will not. Take the Republic of Korea for example: as its birth rate fell in the mid-1960s, elementary school enrolments declined and funds previously allocated for elementary education were used to improve the quality of education at higher levels. In Korea the bulk of the population is at the working ages whereas in Nigeria the young dependent ages stand out, with all the burdens that they represent in that poor country.
    The demographic dividend is delivered when the generations of children born during high fertility become workers. Women have fewer children and take jobs outside of the home and tend to be better educated. Working-age adults tend to earn more and save more than the young favoring savings. The ability to save money is greater when individuals born during periods of high fertility move into their 40s. Personal savings serve as a partial resource for investments that fuel economic growth. Having fewer children enhances the health of women. Their participation in the labor force enhances their social status and personal independence. They have more energy to contribute to society. Family income can be focused on better food for infants. Incomes can go toward prolonged education. There are increased benefits from the demographic dividend, assuming that policies are constructed to build upon the dividend. Evidence suggests that better health facilitates improved economic production, as will focusing especially on low-income populations, with strong public sector programs. Poor health is an important cause of losses in household income. About one fourth of all births in the developing world outside China are unwanted or ill-timed. About 20 million unsafe abortions occur annually. Half of the world's 175 million pregnancies annually are unwanted or mistimed. There is room for improvement in contraceptive provision and education. Governments and the public sector must target resources to the poor while releasing the private sector to meet the needs of those who can afford to pay for family planning and health services. Reducing unwanted pregnancies benefits maternal health and family welfare and hastens the changes in age structure that advance development. Policies to generate capital are needed to fuel growth. In East Asia, personal savings helped greatly; other sources are government and business savings as well as foreign investments and assistance. All these are responsive to favorable government actions. Investments in education, health, and job creation are vital, as are policies that favor the fertility declines that have created and sustained the window. This article is well worth reading in full - just follow the link. doclink

    Demographic Dividend

    March 24, 2007

    China's Economic Growth is Set to Slow - China's economic growth will slow in 2010 when the gap between the working population and those too young or old to work is cancelled out, in China it was at its lowest in 1968, allowing the country to spend less on dependent groups and more on economic development.

    China's population structure has contributed to 27% of economic growth, but a country's demographic dividend usually lasts for 40 years until the aging problem looms.

    China currently has 144 million people who are over 60 years old, 11% of the 1.3 billion population. But the number will reach 160 million in 2010, 200 million in 2015 and 400 million in 2044, which will result in pressures on the pension and healthcare systems.

    China has to invest more in education and training to raise productivity. Otherwise, when the demographic dividend is over, everything will slow down.

    From 1950 to 1980, China's population exploded from 500 million to 1 billion, prompting the country to start its family planning policy in the late 1970s. doclink

    There's More to Sustainability

    Lack of Education in Children's Lives Causing Health Problems Globally

    November 04, 1999, Earth Times

    by Dr. Ceasar Chelala. To educate all the world's children, governments have to spend an additional $7 billion per year for the next 10 years. This amount is less than what is spent yearly on cosmetics in the United States or on ice cream in Europe. 855 million people are functionally illiterate, according to UNICEF. Each additional year spent by mothers in primary schools reduces the children's risk of premature death by almost 10%. Education of mothers is also associated with smaller family size.

    In Brazil, illiterate women have an average of 6.5 children, but those with secondary education have 2.5 children. In urban India, the mortality rate among the children of uneducated women is more than double than those of children of educated women.

    Primary education among Philippine mothers reduces the risks of child mortality by half. Girls represent 2/3 of children who don't go to school. There are 250 million working children and also children caught in armed conflicts or other emergencies, who don't go to school.

    In Africa, children who lost one or both parents to AIDS will not be able to enroll or will have to drop out of school. It is suggested that both governments and international lending institutions implement debt-reduction policies for those countries willing to provide increased resources for basic education. doclink

    Why Age Structure Matters to a Safer, More Equitable World

    July 17, 2007, Population Action International

    Progress in development, security and human rights must go hand in hand. There will be no development without security and no security without development.

    These words underscore the threats to the well-being and security of our world-from HIV/AIDS, terrorism, climate change and poverty - these require a mix of interventions and partnerships. One area of growing attention is failing states. There is an increasing desire to understand what makes a state more peaceful, democratic, and better able to provide for the needs of its citizens. Steps must be taken toward achieving poverty alleviation. Population age structure can have an impact on stability, governance, economic development and the well-being of its people. Age structures are dynamic and can be shaped-through policies that affect births, deaths and migration, such as programs that promote family planning, girls' education, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. Poverty, disease, inadequate health care, lack of education and economic opportunity pose risks, in terms of human well-being and state security.

    We must do more to support developing nations with access to family planning and the protection of individual rights. In East Asia, with one-half of the world's population under the age of 30, and one-half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa under age 20, the needs are great. doclink

    Philippine Urban Areas to Face Water Sanitation Crises

    April 01, 2003, Asia Pulse

    Cities in the Phillipines face water and sanitation crises as the population grows. 50% of the world's population lives in cities and towns and one billion live in slums and squatter settlements without clean water or decent sanitation. Metro Cebu in the Phillipines has a population of two million and is expected to grow. The Rotary Club of Cebu provided 15 toilets with water that were turned over to the community. But they will have to charge a small fee to maintain them and pay for the water. All cities grow on a supply of good water, the removal of wastewater, and attention to pollution control. But better governance means all citizens' needs must be considered. Government institutions must allow community-based organizations a greater role in determining projects. doclink

    Family Planning and Resource Conservation - Forging the Link

    1999, Population Action International

    Here is yet another way to slow population growth. Add this to: providing contraceptives, educating women, reproductive health and family planning services, educating men, and micro-credit.
    Population Communications International has been studying linkages between family planning and natural resource conservation at the local level. Over the past 7 years, PAI has identified and described 48 projects linking these activities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.


    This involves a holistic approach to community needs, engages ongoing community effort, may work synergistically to improve access to and use of environmental and reproductive health services, may improve the overall condition of women, may encourage men to become more active partners in reproductive health, and may be more cost-effective than other single-sector approaches. doclink

    1999, Vicki Robin

    Just as the new population strategies call for every child born to be planned, wanted, and loved for her/his entire life, so every purchase we make should be planned, wanted, and loved for its entire life. The daunting task of keeping and loving all my "stuff" forever has kept me from consuming on many occasions. doclink

    World Must Create a Billion Jobs for Youth

    U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan

    5 billion people live in developing nations and half of them are under age 25. Annan suggested: -- developing nations reorient their development strategies toward job creation, with particular emphasis on agriculture, which now employs 70% of workers; -- more spending on education and health care and less on defence and security;
    -- make developing nations more attractive to investment by strengthening regulatory and financial systems and good governance; -- the international financial mechanism (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) should be strengthened to facilitate a flow of long-term capital from developed nations; -- an increased flow of long-term capital to the very poorest nations. doclink

    World Must Create a Billion Jobs for Youth

    U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan

    5 billion people live in developing nations and half of them are under age 25. Annan suggested: -- developing nations reorient their development strategies toward job creation, with particular emphasis on agriculture, which now employs 70% of workers; -- more spending on education and health care and less on defence and security;
    -- make developing nations more attractive to investment by strengthening regulatory and financial systems and good governance; -- the international financial mechanism (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) should be strengthened to facilitate a flow of long-term capital from developed nations; -- an increased flow of long-term capital to the very poorest nations. doclink

    Sustainability Thoughts

    September 1999, Bruce Sandquist

    If one thinks the crucial issue defining carrying capacity is topsoil,
    then one seems faced with achieving roughly an 80 percent reduction in
    human population over about 7 decades. This would support the McCluney
    conclusion [that we are all doomed] if that were the only strategy. But there are other strategies. If somehow the technology for no-till agriculture (also called low-till or conservation tillage) could become widespread throughout the Third World, and if drainage tiles could be installed under the world's irrigation systems (except those in monsoon cli mates), then one might get away with a 20 or so percent reduction in population over a similar time-frame (or some equivalent trade-off between
    population-reduction and time-frame). This suggests that we ought to
    ponder some carefully compiled set of options and strategies for
    achieving this goal before giving up.

    Conservation-tillage agriculture reduces the energy inputs needed by
    agriculture, and has been widely adopted in the US, not to conserve soil
    but to save money. (American farmers have always refused to do any soil
    conservation that the taxpayer does not pay for.) Thus selling the
    Third World on conservation tillage does not seem like a really hard
    sell. Drainage tiles could be a harder sell. But with population growth
    slowing so dramatically in recent decades, this may free up the capital
    needed for the investment in tile (capital that would otherwise have been
    used to build more houses, feed more faces etc.). So the remaining parts
    of the strategy might come from a list of options for achieving a modest
    20 or so percent reduction in world population over the first half or so
    of the 21st century. The very least we could do is develop that list of
    options. Below, off the top of my head, are some contributions to this
    list.

    (1) Increase First-World funding for international family
    planning--sufficient to insure that everyone in the Third World has
    access to family planning services. The money involved here is on the
    order of $10 billion/year--peanuts relative to the First World's military
    bud get--a budget which probably could never begin to achieve the global
    stability that $10 billion in family planning services could achieve.
    The stability created could provide massive benefits in terms of
    increased security for the First World's capital investment in the Third
    World (now several hundred billion dollars/year). Thus $10 billion/year
    is not a cost at all, but a profit-making venture for the First
    World--with huge financial pay-offs, even neglecting the more
    philosophical/humanitarian issues. All we need to do is get around a
    bunch of Christian-, Moslem-, Jewish- and Hindu fundamentalists. I have
    compiled a large file of facts, figures, arguments and analyses that
    support increased US support for international family planning. The
    environmental community could get off its back-side and collectively
    develop and improve such a compilation, and every year jump into the
    arena of public opinion with facts blazing.

    Universally available contraception could reduce fertility by some thing
    on the order of 0.5 children per woman--a major advance.

    (2) Invest more in providing family planning services to poor First
    World folk in order to reduce the number of unwanted children in the
    First World. The investment being talking about here is on the order of
    hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the US. Studies have shown
    that every dollar invested in this service returns many dollars in
    economic benefits for the economy as a whole. All we need to do is get
    around a bunch of religious fundamentalists. I have compiled a file of
    facts, figures, arguments and analyses that support increased US support
    for domestic family planning. The environmental community could get off
    its back-side and collectively develop and improve such a compilation,
    and every year (around budget time) jump into the arena of public opinion
    with arguments blazing.

    (3) Increase women's economic options world-wide. This always results
    in women wanting fewer children, and with universally available family
    planning they can have whatever number they want. I am only guessing,
    but I suspect that this holds the possibility of another 0.5 children per
    woman reduction in fertility (based on the difference between First-World
    fertilities and Third-World fertilities where contraceptives are readily
    available). Again, the opposition is the religious fundamentalists
    mentioned above.

    (4) Separate out children from social security systems. A primary
    motive for having children is for old-age security--especially in the
    Third World. Finding more alternatives could provide large payoffs in
    terms of reduced fertility. Reductions in population growth rate in
    recent decades may free up the capital needed for increased old-age
    security. What First World citizens could do to bring this change about
    in the Third World is difficult to imagine, but it is something to think
    about.

    (5) Limit immigration into the First World in order to reduce Third
    World population growth. Third World leaders tend to see emigration as a
    far easier option for dealing with surplus populations than pushing
    family planning past local clergy. Third World citizens see each child
    as a lottery ticket--a child that can emigrate to the First World and
    send home lots of cash. Once everyone in the Third World recognizes that
    they must deal internally with their population growth, attitudes would
    probably change markedly. Virtually every country in the First World is
    now clamping down hard on immigration except one--the US, and even there
    people are growing more aware of immigration issues and effects on the US
    economy. Clearly the ball is already rolling for this option. All we
    need to do is give it a push.

    (6) Reduce the use of animal (particularly cow-) intermediaries in human
    consumption of grain. This would significantly increase agricultural
    efficiency and reduce the need for (and the stress on) crop land.
    Per-capita production of grain is leveling off or dropping already, so
    just the impending increasing cost of grain could bring this option about
    without anyone taking any conscious actions toward this goal. Admittedly
    this may not be a large benefit because it puts more pressure on the
    world's 32 million square kilometers of grazing land--a tad over a third
    of the world's biologically productive land--that are already overgrazed
    by a factor of about 2.

    (7) Increase support for contraceptive research. Research and
    devel opment on contraceptives is probably the main reason why fertility
    has dropped so markedly in recent decades. Cheaper, more reliable and
    more easily delivered contraceptives can still produce massive bene fits
    in terms of reducing fertility. Supporting political drives for making
    RU486 available in the US, and donating money to the Population Council
    (which does much of the R&D on new contraceptives) are things all of us
    can do.

    Looking at all of the above, I cannot dispute the legitimacy of
    McCluney's pessimism [that we are doomed], but to conclude that all is without hope seems premature.

    If we really want to get pessimistic, we should probably look inward.
    With all due respects to my fellow environmentalists, I grow
    increasingly annoyed at how they and their organizations can indicate
    such strong feelings about their environmental values, and then totally
    betray those feelings with something near contempt for:

    (a) doing the homework they need to do to push their cause effectively in
    the arena of public opinion;

    (b) creating the organizational structure needed for the collection,
    organizing, analysis, storage, retrieval, sharing and disseminating the
    information needed for effective environmental advocacy doclink

    News

    Nigeria;: Maternal Deaths - Need for Emergency?

    October 30, 2007, Africa News Service

    Every year, about one million Nigerian children die before their fifth birthday and every hour, six women die from complications of pregnancy in Nigeria. The increasing deaths could be reduced to the minimum if steps are taken by the relevant authorities to re-position the health sector. Health experts suggest that a declaration of an emergency appears attractive at this stage.

    The causes of the maternal deaths range from haemorrhage 23% per cent, infections 11% per cent, toxaemia 11%, unsafe abortion, 11%, obstructed labour 11%, malaria 11% and anaemia, 11%. Other causes of death are put at 5%.

    Nigerian women still die needless deaths. The former State Commissioner for Health challenged the media to hold the leaders accountable. According to him, all the causes of death could be easily dealt with, but for the weak health system in the country.

    In the medical sector, costs are on personnel and not on materials. 80% of budgetary allocation is spent on emoluments. It was possible to offer free antenatal services to persons of need throughout the country. He decried the policy makers, who do not see social service as a priority.

    "To effectively reduce maternal and child deaths, all women need access to high-quality delivery care with a least three key elements: skilled care at birth, emergency obstetric care in case of complications, and access to emergency if needed. Another key solution is helping women to avoid unwanted pregnancies", he stated.

    Nigeria is holding back the rest of the world from attaining the MDG because of the worsening state of maternal health.

    Improving maternal, and child health has been slow and uneven, due to the lack of political attention and the resources to scale-up the coverage of essential interventions. More than two-thirds of newborn deaths, for instance, could be prevented by extending the availability of existing cost-effective technologies.

    In settings with high fertility, women face this risk many times in their lifetime. The probability that a 15-year-old girl will die from a complication related to pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime is highest 1 in 26. In the developed regions it is 1 in 7,300. Experts contend that providing universal access to reproductive health services must be prioritised. This includes access to family planning, prevention of unplanned pregnancies and provision of high-quality pregnancy and delivery care. However, health services can only help when women are able to make use of them. When obstetric emergencies arise, the importance of recognizing danger signs and seeking care quickly is critical.

    Less than 20% of the health facilities offer emergency obstetric care and only 36% of the deliveries are attended by skilled birth personnel.

    The objective of the immersion programme is to generate public awareness, discourse and media support for policy advocacy in different areas of the maternal and child health in Nigeria. doclink

    Ethiopia, US Sign Three Grant Agreements

    July 07, 2005, Xinhua General News Service

    Ethiopia and the US signed three grant agreements, amounting to 38.9 million US dollars. Under these agreements, the largest grant, $16.2 million, will bolster private-sector economic growth, particularly in the food and agriculture. The second grant of $12.6 million is for the health sector to reduce disease, prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including TB and malaria, increase immunization for children, and expand family planning services. The third, of $10.1 million is to improve basic education system by increasing primary school enrollment, improving teacher training, and increasing the number of elementary school children who complete eight years of education. Degraded lands, poor cultivation practices, and frequent periods of drought have made Ethiopia unable to feed its population and has to rely to massive foreign aid. doclink

    Asia: The Search for 100 Million Missing Women: An Economics Detective Story

    May 24, 2005, Slate

    Amartya Sen in 1990 claimed that there were some 100 million "missing women" in in countries like China, India, and Pakistan. Sen charged these cultures with gravely mistreating their young girls. Emily Oster is an economics graduate student at Harvard, finds that there may be another reason for the "missing women". While reading in the book Baruch Blumberg's Hepatitis B: The Hunt for a Killer Virus" she discovered that in a series of small-scale studies researchers found that a pregnant woman with hepatitis B is more likely to have a baby boy than a girl. It wasn't clear why. Oster set out to see if she could use data to confirm Blumberg's thesis. A vaccine for hepatitis B had been available since the late 1970s and she found data on a U.S. vaccination program in Alaska. Before the vaccinations Alaskan natives had a historically high incidence of hepatitis B and a high birth ratio of boys to girls. White Alaskans, had a low incidence of hepatitis B and gave birth to the standard ratio of boys to girls. After a vaccination program in Alaska, the Native Alaskans' boy-girl ratio fell to the normal range, while the white Alaskans' ratio was unchanged. A vaccination program in Taiwan revealed similar results. Oster measured the incidence of hepatitis B in the populations of China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, and other countries where mothers gave birth to an unnaturally high number of boys. The regions with the most hepatitis B were the regions with the most "missing" women except they weren't missing for they had never been born. Oster's numbers are compelling. But while Oster found that Hepatitis B can account for roughly 75% of the missing women in China, it can account for less than 20% of the boy-girl gap in Sen's native India. The key to Oster's research was the availability of large and reliable sets of data. The challenge in her field is to take a mass of disparate numbers and somehow wring from it one thing that is true. doclink

    Women's Rights Lag Behind on Local Level

    1993, El Universal

    Mexico has achieved limited advances in womens rights and while the situation is improving on a national level, local changes have yet to take root. As an example, only 4% of municipalities are headed by women. Progress has been made in poverty reduction and access to health services and education, but the nation isn't meeting goals on infant mortality and defending the rights of indigenous women. Violence against women is widespread in Mexico. The decade-long string of murders in Ciudad Ju'rez began in 1993 and has cost the lives of around 300 young women, most of whom were sexually assaulted before being killed and dumped in the desert. doclink

    Ghana: NGO Trains 1,200 Youth in Employable Skills

    February 14, 2005, Ghana News Agency

    Youth in Action for Development (YIAD), a Kumasi-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), has trained over 1,200 youth to contribute towards the development of the country including entrepreneurial skills, community development, capacity building, reproductive health, information, empowerment and HIV sensitisation programmes. The future development of every nation depends on the youth, hence the need to exposed them to education and skills training. doclink

    Survey Says Most Filipinos Are Receptive to DOH Family Planning Campaign

    February 09, 2005, Manila Bulletin (Philippines)

    About 96% of Filipinos believe that the door-to-door family planning campaign will help Filipino families. Two TV advertisements and one theme song were presented to boost the campaign that seeks to inform Filipino families of safe pregnancy and achieving the desired family size. The survey covered 1,200 respondents and found that 30% of Filipinos are using family planning. 14% are using pills, 4% intra-uterine devices and calendar rhythm methods, 2% use condoms, while 3% are using withdrawal, injectables, and ligation methods. Out of the 70% not using any birth control, 20% do not really know the methods. Others have used contraceptives but ceased using them for fear of side effects or just got tired of using them. The campaign will encompass all methods of birth control and give couples a free hand to choose which method they are comfortable with. The government will provide for both natural and artificial methods. The campaign will focus on safe pregnancy and give information to avoid unplanned and teenage pregnancy. The campaign will run for four to six weeks. doclink

    Scotland: 'Say No Until You're Ready' is Sex Health Message to Children

    January 2005, The Scotsman

    Abstinence was at the heart of sexual health strategy designed to redress Scotland's record on teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinence would be the starting point for all sex education in schools but contraception services had to be available for everybody. "Abstinence plus" - would provide the framework for sex education and all sexual health services. The morning-after pill would not be handed out in schools but all pupils including Catholic schools would be able to access contraception services outside schools. Sexual health co-ordinators will liaison with schools to make sure that everyone has access to advice, help and contraception. The leading Catholic in Scotland said that there remain areas which cannot be reconciled with the views of the Catholic Church - among them the support for the distribution of the morning-after pill to schoolchildren without parental consent. The strategy has been dogged by controversy over concerns pre-school children will be shown graphic images and taught about sex, rather than abstinence. £15 million over the next three years will go to preventing sexually transmitted diseases including condoms for male prisoners. Parents would be consulted and would be able to pull their children out of classes. The guidelines are based on respect and responsibility introduced after Parliament abolished the ban on promoting homosexuality. doclink

    Existing Demand for Birth Spacing in Developing Countries: Perspectives from Household Survey Data

    December 2004, International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics

    This study identifes the extent of demand for birth spacing according to age and parity among married women of reproductive age in developing countries. Demand for birth spacing is the most prevalent reason for an interest in family planning among married women aged 15-29 years in the majority of developing countries examined. In the 15-19-year age cohort, the demand for spacing is proportionally the most prevalent reason for a demand for family planning. A demand for spacing even exists among young, zero-parity married women in each country examined. doclink