By Tiara Swartz, White Ribbon Alliance
On September 26th each year, we celebrate World Contraception Day. But, it’s more than a hashtag. It’s a day we reflect on the 16 million adolescent girls each year who give birth. These girls are at a high risk of having fatal complications and never making it out of their adolescent years. That’s why, this year, What Women Want wants to call attention to the voices of the 1.2 million women of all ages, all over the world, who shared their demands for improved reproductive and maternal healthcare during the campaign.
Thousands of these women and girls called for more access to family planning methods and services, and so we ask the world - are you listening to What Women Want?
When an adolescent girl gives birth, she is less likely to complete her schooling. By increasing access to contraceptives, these girls won’t have to quit school to raise a child and continue their education. When girls have access to contraceptives, the cycle of poverty can be broken and women and families can have a more sustainable path to a healthy future.
In Uganda, 1-in-4 girls aged 15-19 years old is a mother or pregnant with her first child, robbing 25% of the country’s adolescent girls of their potential. WRA Uganda created the Act Now to End Teenage Pregnancy campaign, a youth-driven campaign that advocates at national and local levels around reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health. These young leaders are calling on decision-makers to create action on improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Will you join them?
Access to contraceptives is even harder for adolescent girls and young women living in emergency settings, with more than 500 women and girls dying each day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. Not to mention, of the 40% of unwanted pregnancies, about 50% end with abortion, often in unsafe conditions that threaten the woman’s health and life.
ARE WE LISTENING TO WOMEN?
Country to country, women spoke up and shared their demands about the need for family planning methods and services: Carolyn, 26 and from Nigeria, asked for adequate, long term sexual and reproductive health programs that focus on family planning, while Fernanda, 23 from Mexico, asked for free contraceptives, not only condoms, and access to sex education from an early age. Their voices are just two among thousands that demanded improved access to family planning information and services. And so I ask you now, are you listening to women and girls about what they need for quality healthcare?
We can’t have any more women and girls dying from pregnancy and childbirth complications. We must step up and amplify the voices of those asking for better access to contraceptive methods.
To learn more about What Women Want, read the global findings at whiteribbonalliance.org/whatwomenwant.