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Fellow countrymen, women and youth.

Zambia is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating this years’ World Population Day. The theme for this commemoration is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations” which mutually reinforces the role for safe, voluntary family planning within a human rights framework, as central to gender equality and women’s empowerment. World Population Day has been observed on 11th July each year since 1990 to enhance awareness of population issues, including their links to development planning and impact on the environment.

In 1994, the landmark International Conference on Population and Development plan of action was adopted by 179 countries, including Zambia. The International Conference on Population and Development marked a paradigm shift in the field of population and development, with a view to increase universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. Among them is family planning, which has been the centrepiece of the new paradigm that is reinforced within a rights-based approach. It recognizes that people are actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of services. The results of the rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and family planning have been extraordinary. More women have become empowered to have fewer children and to start their families later in life, this has given them an opportunity to complete their schooling, earn a better living and escape the trap of poverty.

Fellow countrymen, women and youth.

This years’ World Population Day coincides with the London Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the consortium of donors and stakeholders that make up the Family Planning 2020 initiative, which aims to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020. The summit will also review progress towards achievements of the targets set by countries in 2012.

The 2012 London summit galvanized the global family planning community to rally around the benefits of family planning. The summit resulted in countries including Zambia, make commitments to among others, expand contraceptive access, widen method mix and reduce unmet need for modern contraception. Zambia made a commitment to increasing its modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 33% to 58% by 2020. This is to be achieved through comprehensive policy and integrated programmatic approaches. In addition, Zambia committed to increasing domestic funding and partnerships with donors and strengthening the supply chain for commodities. As a key imperative in population and development, we have prioritised expanding the method mix and access to family planning. Focus will be on the underserved in line with the 2030 agenda of “leaving no one behind.”

Fellow countrymen, women and youth.

It is worth noting that Zambia has made progress and we remain committed as a country in achieving the overall 2020 targets. As you may be aware, modern contraceptive prevalence rate among married women aged between 15-49 years in Zambia now stands at 45%. Therefore, more concerted efforts and integrated approaches are needed to help accelerate scale up to meet contraceptive needs of women and couples and achieve the family planning 2020 goal.

Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right, yet 21% of Zambian women of reproductive age who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods. Additionally, access to modern contraception is critical in protecting the future of adolescent girls in the light of high teenage pregnancies which now stand at 29%. Investments in family planning yield economic, social and other benefits that can stimulate development and are thus critical ingredients to the success of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Fellow countrymen, women and youth.

Family planning impacts economic and social development. The rights of women and girls to decide freely and for themselves, on whether, when and how many children to have, brings women and girls more opportunities to become wage earners and boosting family income. As women gain access to productive resources, they also report better health outcomes, achieve higher levels of education and experience a lower incidence of intimate-partner violence.

These same positive effects are also true for their children. Adolescent girls who delay pregnancy tend to complete more years of schooling, and women with more years of school tend to have fewer children. Investments in family planning thus create a reinforcing cycle of empowerment, supporting healthy, educated and economically productive women and families.

Furthermore, investments in family planning can contribute to a demographic dividend, which raises a country’s economic earning potential. When the size of the dependent population (i.e., children and the elderly) shrinks relative to the size of those in working age, it creates an economic advantage especially in countries like Zambia with lower levels of overall national earnings. The combination of increased wage earners, decreased dependency and the right policies can fuel major economic growth.

Fellow countrymen, women and youth.

It may be recalled that his Excellency, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, the President of this great nation Zambia recently launched the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) 2017-2021 on 21st June 2017. The plan articulates five development pillars that recognize the quality and well-being of its population as essential levers for achieving people-centred development. This requires timely, strategic, targeted and simultaneous investments in various sectors of the economy.  This will have to be done through integrated efforts that will translate policies into equitable, cost-effective interventions that truly leave no one behind.

To achieve the 7NDP objectives under each pillar, which have also incorporated Sustainable Development Goals, will depend significantly on how well the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people are fulfilled. Making provisions to their unmet need for family planning is among the most cost-effective investments to bring about the desired outcomes under each pillar.

It is clear that women who choose family planning are healthier and face lower risk of maternal death. Scientific evidence also shows that children born to women who space their pregnancies tend to be healthier and face reduced risks of death in their first five years.

In conclusion fellow countrymen, women and youth;

The Government of Zambia, working with its Cooperating Partners, the United Nations systems, Civil Society and Faith-based Organizations, traditional leaders as well as communities, commits to meeting the set targets for family planning. This will be done through the delivery of integrated, quality, timely, gender-sensitive and rights-based family planning services in order to empower its people and foster socio-economic development. I therefore officially launch the 2017 World Population Day. I thank you.