Statement

Message for World Population Day 2017 by Klaus Beck, Country Representative

11 July 2017
Message for World Population Day 2017 by Klaus Beck, Country Representative
Klaus Beck, UNFPA Country Representative discusses how family planning empowers people and develops nations.

Happy World Population Day to all!

UNFPA is pleased to celebrate this day with all of you. We thank the Commission on Population led by its Executive Director, Dr. Jeepy Perez, for organizing today’s celebration and for gathering us as one community of population and development advocates.

I also want to take this moment to thank our long-time partner, Quezon City, led by Mayor Bautista, for hosting today’s activities. We’re very grateful to have such an enduring partnership with you that goes back to the city’s participation in the Joint Program on Maternal and Neonatal Health (JPMNH) to today’s celebration. It is a reminder that Quezon City has such a strong and enduring commitment to women and girls setting an excellent example for other local government units to follow.

Let me start my message by telling you a story. About seven months ago, 30 year old, Mae Esparcia, gave birth to her first child, Maria Carmen. After her delivery, Ms. Esparcia, a garments factory worker at Hamlin Industrial Corporation in Cavite, Philippines, decided to start using contraceptive pills, which she received for free – from her workplace. She told us she is taking the pills so that she avoids getting pregnant so soon after the birth of her daughter.

Women, men and young people celebrate World Population Day 2017 with the Commission on Population and UNFPA at Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City.

 

I mention this story because through family planning Ms. Esparcia is able to plan the timing and size of her family, in essence, to take control of her future. Millions of other Filipino women would also like to plan the timing and the size of their families, but are not yet able to do so.

In the Philippines, 18 per cent of married women have an unmet need for family planning, according to the 2013 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey. This is why we’ve partnered with Hamlin, where Ms. Esparcia works, to support their FP programme, part of our joint efforts to expand access to family planning services in the Philippines.

It is also why World Population Day is so important. All over the world, millions of people, continents away, celebrate this day like we are doing focusing attention on the urgency and importance of addressing population issues.

This year, the celebration focuses on the theme, Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations. This theme highlights the important role family planning plays in empowering people, especially women and girls, the marginalized and the vulnerable, as a springboard towards economic development.

As part of the celebration, POPCOM conducted a health caravan for the residents of Barangay Commonwealth, including the distribution of family planning commodities by the Quezon City Health Department.  

 

Studies show the strong correlation between the size of the family and likelihood towards poverty. Families with more children are more likely to suffer from poverty than those with lesser number of children. This is because more children means more costs for education and health and because poor people are less likely to have knowledge of and access to family planning. No wonder, then that the National Demographic and Health Survey shows, that Filipinos from the poorest quintiles have larger families – in fact, they have two more children than they wanted in their lifetime. The poorest quintile also has the highest unmet need for family planning at 21 per cent.

The conclusion is clear – access to family planning is the key to reduce poverty.

But family planning is not just a need, it is a basic human right. It is not only a key factor in reducing poverty, it is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The rights of women and girls to decide freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children to have, brings women and girls more opportunities to become wage earners, boosting family income levels. 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.

UNFPA partner, FriendlyCare providing family planning counselling.  

 

Investing in family planning is a great investment too. For each dollar spent on contraceptive services cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by $2.30 due to less unintended pregnancies. These investments also yield economic and other gains that can drive development.

Investments in family planning create a reinforcing cycle of empowerment, supporting healthy, educated and economically productive women and families. A person’s ability to plan the timing and size of his or her family closely determines the realization of other rights.

Unfortunately, the right to family planning is one that many have had to fight for, and still today, despite the strong global rights and development frameworks that support it, it still requires more vigorous advocacy and broader support.

Fortunate in the Philippines there is already strong support for family planning. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health law was passed in 2012 and the full implementation of the law is a cornerstone of the Duterte Administration’s Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022. Given this the Philippines has perhaps the best opportunity it has ever had in its history to significantly reduce the unmet need for family planning provided that budgets are set aside to fully fund implementation and provided that programmes themselves are fully implemented.

 

There is however a risk that one population group in the Philippines is left behind, namely teenagers.

In the Philippines, one in ten teenagers 15-19 years old is already a mother, based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey. By the age of 19 4 out of 10 girls are either pregnant or already has one or more children.

What are the implications of becoming a mother early in life? It deprives a girl of the opportunity to enjoy the life of a teenager, free from any responsibilities other than taking care of her body and her future. Because of the need to give care to her child, an adolescent mother may have to stop schooling and consequently find herself in a difficult position to land a good job.

Teenage pregnancy, therefore, robs a girl of a better future not only for herself but also for her children. This must be addressed. Not by moralizing and telling young people not to have sex, but by coming together around empowering young people to make informed decisions about their lives.

It is therefore encouraging to see that the legislative agenda of the National Government, as part of the Philippine Development Plan, includes addressing teenage pregnancy. It is equally encouraging to see that lawmakers want to enact legislation on teenage pregnancy. At present separate Teenage Pregnancy Prevention bills have already been filed in both Houses of Congress. We commend Congresswoman Sol Aragones and Senator Risa Hontiveros for their authorship of these bills and encourage other lawmakers to take their lead and work with Aragones and Hontiveros to enact the bills into law.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While there are reasons to be optimistic in the case of the Philippines this is not the same all over the World.

Today, globally some 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods. Most of these women with an unmet demand for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth. Fulfilling their unmet demand would save lives by averting 67 million unintended pregnancies around the world and reducing maternal deaths by one third of the estimated 303,000 maternal deaths that will occur in 2017. 

This year’s World Population Day, 11 July, coincides with the London Family Planning Summit, the second meeting of the consortium of governments, donors and stakeholders that make up the Family Planning 2020 initiative. At the Summit, governments, civil society, the business sector and other duty-bearers will take stock of progress and make commitments to expand access to voluntary family planning to 120 million additional women by 2020.

I am extremely pleased to share with you that two of our business sector partners will be part of the commitment makers at the Summit. CARD-MRI, the biggest microfinance institution in the country, is committing more than $2 million up to 2020 to reach out and provide family planning information and services to at least 4 million Filipino women.

And Hamlin Industrial Corporation, the garments manufacturing factory that supplies high-end fashion products in the local market, and where Ms. Esparcia works, is committing to make the company family planning-friendly by making available family planning information and services to all its 6,000 employees.

Ultimately whether as private sector actors, like CARD-MRI and Hamlin, or local or national governments, like Quezon City and POPCOM, or NGOs, or development partners, like UNFPA, we’re all working together to make family planning accessible and realize our common goal of zero unmet need for family planning in the Philippines. We do this so women and girls, like Ms. Esparcia that I mentioned earlier, are able to realize their rights and in the process transform their lives, their communities and their country.

As the theme of today’s celebration put it: Family planning – Empowering People, Developing Nations that’s #HerFuture.

Maraming salamat po.

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