by Elizabeth Reeves
It is no secret that the world’s population is fast approaching an unprecedented 7 billion, shooting up a drastic 2.5 billion since 1950, with almost all the growth expected to happen in the cities of less-developed countries. This planet could potentially face incredible struggle by having to support more human life than ever before. Think about it: Humanity will be competing for the same food, water, space and attention, which will undoubtedly result in huge strains on the planet. With infant mortality rates growing smaller, more adults living longer and females lacking access to tools for pregnancy management, the current population is reaching numbers that are difficult to sustain.
I believe this over-population is directly correlated to the lack of available contraception women’s education on its function. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute in New York City found there are 215 million women around the world who want the ability to control the timing of their pregnancies, but do not have access to effective methods of contraception. In order to regain control over the overflowing population and continue sustaining the global environment, women need to have access to and be educated on effective methods of birth control.
According to a recent study released by the World Health Organization, one in 31 women in sub-Saharan Africa will die of a pregnancy related complication. Even more terrifying: One out of eight women dies giving birth in Afghanistan. The true tragedy here is the fact that one-third of these deaths could have been prevented if women had access to voluntary family planning resources.
Compare these statistics to developing countries: One in 4,300 women dies of a pregnancy-related death. What does this tell you? Global access to family planning is an incredibly important use of funds and a cost-effective solution to sustaining the globe’s ecology and quality of human life. By providing education and access to needed resources, voluntary family planning methods enable young women to eliminate early pregnancy and reduce maternal mortality rates.
With the ability to plan pregnancies, more young women have the ability and new-found control to attend school longer, thus making it possible for women to have fewer, healthier children, which helps break the cycle of poverty. Additionally, contraception access and education would reduce the transmission of HIV and empower women to focus on occupations that generate income in their communities, promoting economic sustainability. This proves that women’s education is inextricably connected to the control of population growth.
Extending education and resources about family planning and the use of contraceptives can be done in a cost-effective manner. Research done by the Guttmacher Institute found that extending reproductive health care and modern contraceptives to all women who desire and need them reduces the cost of care for both newborns and mothers. This results in an approximated worldwide net savings of $1.5 billion. With the current global economic crisis, women’s and children’s needs have often faced being put on the back burner.
Providing women with the education and tools to prevent unwanted pregnancy would mean fewer children to sustain, which would help the global economy recover and regain stability. Providing family planning tools to all countries must be a priority. The sooner we take care of this issue by empowering women, the sooner we get the population under control.
Even with such vital issues on the line, foreign aid budget cuts include funding for international family planning in the U.N. Population Fund. The U.N. Population Fund focuses on providing quality sexual and reproductive health care, which includes distribution of contraceptives to women and education on their proper use. If the population continues to grow at the rate it currently is, by 2023 the world is expected to surpass 8 billion people, yet we are cutting family planning aid from the budget. I find this to be such an unfortunate and unnecessary budget cut.
Women across the globe need to be informed about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. By empowering the world’s women by giving them the access to contraception that they both want and need, we can get the population under control. As a nation and as international citizens of the world, we are facing some significant sustainability challenges. The U.N. is at the forefront of addressing these issues on a global scale. Securing the future of a healthy and successful world means it is critical for world leaders and citizens to support the U.N. in sustaining work on women’s education.