My name is Alexandra. I am a Canadian expat. I live in England. I’m married. I have two dogs. I love sailing and just generally being outside. I am a reproductive and sexual health and rights advocate. I work for Plan International. I am a woman.
I often find that we talk about women’s lives as if they are divided into categories such as career, relationships, health. But life doesn’t work that way. My reproductive health decisions have an impact on all other areas of my life. My job, my education, my overall health and wellbeing, my social life and my marriage are all impacted by my reproductive choices. And I have the right to make these informed choices.
Family planning: a human right for 50 years
This year marks 50 years since family planning was globally affirmed to be a human right in the Tehran Proclamation, and yet millions of girls and women globally are still fighting to get access to the information and services necessary to be able to “decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children”. In fact, approximately 214 million women of reproductive age want to avoid pregnancy but are not currently using a modern method of contraception. This is approximately 23 million girls aged 15-19. (We currently do not even have global statistics on access to contraception for girls under the age of 15.)
Approximately 214 million women of reproductive age want to avoid pregnancy but are not currently using a modern method of contraception.
Around World Population Day, I can’t help but think about what this means in relation to population. We know that 308 million unintended pregnancies are prevented each year using modern methods of contraception, and if we managed to meet the needs of all girls and women we would be able to avert 67 million more unintended pregnancies annually. And yet, as of 2015, there were approximately 35 countries globally that had at least one policy restricting girls and young women’s access to contraceptive services.
These policies include:
- the exclusion of unmarried women from accessing contraception
- the need for parental consent to uptake contraceptive services
There are, in addition to laws, many other barriers that impede a girl or woman from accessing the full extent of her reproductive and sexual rights including (but not limited to) a lack of youth-friendly services, insufficient information, social stigma and financial resources.
Realising sexual and reproductive rights is vital for gender equality
Plan International believes that girls should have autonomy over their own bodies. Ensuring all girls and women can realise their full sexual and reproductive health and rights is vital to achieving gender equality. What do we mean by realising her sexual and reproductive rights? Simply put it’s the right to make free, informed decisions. To have control over our sexual and reproductive health and lives, free from coercion, violence, discrimination and abuse.
Every girl and woman is different and our hopes and dreams reflect those differences. However, despite all our personal diversities, our human rights are the same. We each have the right to decide, freely and responsibly, the number and spacing of our children.
Sophie lives in Uganda. She’s 24 years old. Her hobbies are crafts and jewellery-making. As a Sunday School teacher, she loves working with children. She is a founder of the Hands of Hope initiative, which offers counselling and training to teenage mothers and is currently studying for her master's degree. She is a sexual and reproductive rights advocate. She is a woman.
Plan International is supporting Sophie, and all girls and young women, to make their own sexual and reproductive health choices. Because they have rich and complex lives. They have hopes, ambitions and potential. And because it’s their right.