Wednesday’s Global Summit on Family Planning in London presents the world with the opportunity to have a look into one of the most neglected women’s rights issues in the world. Family Planning is about more than health or birth control, and neither should it be restricted to child spacing. It is about giving choices to men and women, boys and girls about their reproductive lives.
Even though in 2010, the government of Nigeria made a commitment to spend $3million annually for three years on family planning products from the fund they set aside to make progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, this is a far cry from what is needed to meet the family planning needs of the country. With 167 million people, Nigeria stands as the most populous African nation and 6th largest nation of the World. As of 2009, only 10% of married women in Nigeria used modern methods of Family Planning compared to an average modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) for Sub Sahara Africa of 22% (World Bank 2009).
Many young women have been compelled to have children they really did not plan to have, thereby impacting on the quality of life they end up having. This is therefore a double edged sword, piercing through the heart of rights to the health of a woman.
It would be good if Civil Society make it clear at this summit that budget support by ALL governments is a priority and support from the donor community is a moral issue. This also must include financing for young women’s rights in the context of economic empowerment towards meaningful livelihoods that prevent male dominance, tackle violence against women and girls and eliminate sexual coercion. As ActionAid UK’s report for the Summit argues, without the power to negotiate whether, when and under what circumstances they have sex, younger (and older) women will still not be able to control what happens to their bodies, including planning for families and pregnancies.
The future of a nation can only be guaranteed when young people have access to needed reproductive health services which is inclusive of family planning services without restrictions because of their age or because they are not married. Governments must be at the centre of protecting the rights of the youth to family planning, most especially adolescent girls, and working to prevent the associated stigma and enshrining rights under a clearly stated legal framework.
In 1960, the year of Nigeria Independence, the population of Nigeria and the UK was the same at 52 million. Now, 52 years later, the UK has grown by 8 million people while Nigeria’s population has expanded by 111 million, which is equal to total population of the 5 smallest countries in Africa put together. For Nigeria to thrive its women must be empowered to make healthy choices and choose for themselves how many children they should have. At the Summit on Wednesday, I will be using my position as the official Nigerian Civil Society Representative to encourage delegates to ensure women’s rights and ending violence against women and girls are central to our efforts to increase access to family planning to all the world’s women.
These are my thoughts friends.