No More Lip Service: It’s Time to Invest in Young People

For immediate release
July 11, 2013

 No More Lip Service: It’s Time to Invest in Young People
Statement by Population Action International President & CEO Suzanne Ehlers

“This year’s World Population Day marks the one-year anniversary of the historic London Summit on Family Planning. A year ago, donors and developing country governments came together to pledge more funds and action for family planning, in an effort to reach more of the 222 million women who currently lack access to contraception.

What’s the connection? The recent release of the United Nations World Population Projections estimated we’ll be 9.6 billion by 2050—an increase of 300 million people from 2010 estimates—largely because fertility rates have remained higher than expected in much of sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. Fertility rates don’t remain high because women having 5, 6, and 7 children necessarily want that many kids—it is because support for family planning access has fallen short of what is needed for all women to have the means to decide their family size. The global community is not as far along as we had predicted in securing the human rights of these women and girls.

Speaking of girls, many of these countries also have extremely young populations. Worldwide, about 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year. For far too many, pregnancy is not something they want or choose, but a consequence of child marriage, rape, sexual coercion, or simply inadequate education about and access to contraception. Unintended pregnancies can cut off educational or career opportunities, and keep young people from achieving their goals.

Young people are speaking up for better reproductive health and contraceptive access, and we need to start listening. The next generation’s reproductive choices will drastically impact the future of not just our population, but our world’s health, economy, environment, and security.

It is up to all of us—not just on World Population Day, but every day—to make sure that every person has the rights and options to make the best choices for his or her life. We must do more to fulfill the promises made a year ago today and unlock the promise of our world’s young people.”