Press Release

Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health - The Key to Gender Equality

8 March 2017

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund in Zambia is pleased to join the Government and people of Zambia and partners in commemorating the 2017 International Women’s Day under the theme “Women In The Changing World of Work, Planet 50:50 By 2030” which has been adapted locally as “Promoting Inclusiveness In Economic Participation as a Means of Attaining Sustainable Development”.

UNFPA’s sustained partnership with the Government of Zambia and other partners in advancing bold and far-reaching programmes seeks to ensure no woman is left behind in Zambia’s social and economic development landscape. This includes ensuring the fulfillment of sexual reproductive health and rights for women and adolescents as a critical driver for sustainable national development.

It is totally unacceptable in the 21st century that:

  • Almost one in every two women (43%) have experienced physical violence at some point in their lives;
  • Young women are twice more likely to be infected with HIV compared to their male counterparts;
  • A significant number of women still die while giving life with 398 women out of every 100,000 live births still dying from preventable maternal deaths; and
  • About one in every three girls becomes a bride and a mother while they are still children (31% and 29% respectively).

Urgent collective actions are required to actualize our various commitments to address the aforementioned development challenges, especially as these numbers represent significant missed opportunities of fulfilled future potentials for women and girls.

As Zambia advances efforts to become a prosperous middle income country by 2030 as well as achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); UNFPA reaffirms its commitment to collaborations with the Government of Zambia, partners, including women’s’ groups and rights holders, to ensure critical investments required to improve health, education, nutrition, economic and other development outcomes for women and adolescent girls are secured and targeted in a timely manner.

In his message on the occasion of the 2017 International Women’s Day, The United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin underscores the central importance of sexual reproductive health and rights to the achievement of gender equality and equity, including in the Workplace. In his words:

Gender equality is a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and fear, without discrimination. Gender equality is also vital to sustainable development, peace and security. It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s an issue for all of humanity.

Sadly, despite some progress, the world still has a long way to go to achieve full gender equality.

Take, for instance, the fact that every year tens of thousands of girls are forced into child marriage —nearly one third of these before the age of 15. Or that one woman in three experiences gender-based violence in her lifetime. Some 200 million women and girls have endured female genital mutilation. And there are 225 million women who want modern family planning but are not getting it, and therefore are unable to choose whether or when to have children.

The global community has an obligation to advance the new agenda for sustainable development, which enshrines gender equality as one of its goals. The ability of women and girls to exercise their basic human rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health, is a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Studies have demonstrated clearly that family planning is the best investment countries can make for human development.

Ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning means putting the poorest, most marginalized and excluded women and girls at the forefront of our efforts—particularly those in conflict and fragile settings.

Women and girls who can make choices and control their reproductive lives are better able to get quality education, find decent work, and make free and informed decisions in all spheres of life.

Their families and societies are better off financially. Their children, if they choose to have them, are healthier and better educated, helping break the spiral of poverty that traps billions and triggering a cycle of prosperity that carries over into future generations.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is fully committed to ensuring the rights of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning. On this International Women’s Day, we urge the global community to join us. Together, we can make a giant leap forward that saves lives, empowers women and girls, advances gender equality and ensures a more prosperous and sustainable future for all of us.

This message resonates with Zambia’s priorities and translation of the 2017 International Women’s Day theme.