- For policy makers and activists working for sexual and reproductive health and rights, it’s been a long road since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994.
Back then, the abortion issue pitted groups against one another, even as frustrated activists tried to keep the spotlight on human rights and development. Still, the conference prepared the groundwork for international development goals, and 179 governments adopted an ambitious “programme of action”.
"It’s the other way around. Countries become wealthier when people have smaller families."
Twenty years later, policy makers can point to major achievements, but divisive issues remain, and the status of women is nowhere near where it should be, according to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“We did change the paradigm around population and made it people-centred,” Osotimehin told IPS in an interview. “We have empowered women and girls to be able to make choices in their lives, we’ve reduced maternal mortality by more than 50 percent, we have lifted one billion people out of poverty, and we have more laws today protecting women than ever before.”
Osotimehin stressed, however, that there are still some 222 million women in mainly developing countries who would like greater access to contraception and other family planning tools, but are not able to get these for a variety of reasons.
In addition, almost 800 women still die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth; and teenage pregnancy, child marriage and violence against women remain troubling issues around the world. Meanwhile, women’s involvement in the political sphere lags behind that of men in most regions.