Unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face threats to their development goals, according to The State of World Population 2017, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The global report was launched in the Lao PDR today in a joint press conference held by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and UNFPA Lao PDR.
The report, titled Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality, highlights the costs of inequalities, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Failure to provide reproductive health services to the poorest women can weaken economies and sabotage progress towards the number one sustainable development goal: to eliminate poverty.
In the Lao PDR, access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health services remains a challenge for many.
Although the country was one of the only 9 countries in the world to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75% between 1990 and 2015, the rate is still high at 206 per 100,000 live births.
Furthermore, adolescent birth rate is highest in the Mekong region at 76 per 1,000 girls and early marriage remains a common practice.
This year’s State of the World Population reports on how the lack of reproductive rights feeds into other inequalities: lack of access to health care and information has direct impact not only on women’s health, but also on their education, employment and economic prospects, said Ms Frederika Meijer, UNFPA Representative in Lao PDR.
This global reality applies to the Lao PDR as well. Although the situation has been improving, some vulnerable groups such as rural women in remote communities and adolescent girls still lack the reproductive rights that would allow them to gain control of their lives, she added.
Lack of access to family planning and reproductive health services is not only a health concern but also affects the economic and educational empowerment of women. Unintentional pregnancies and poor health stop women from seeking jobs outside the home and limit their prospects of gaining economic power. Furthermore, childcare obligations cause women to face discrimination in employment.
The Government of the Lao PDR has recognised this linkage between reproductive health and elimination of poverty and is focusing its efforts on improving poor and remote women’s access to family planning and reproductive health services.
In May 2017, the government held the first-ever National Family Planning conference under the theme Investing in Family Planning for Economic Prosperity, highlighting the importance of family planning in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 as well as meeting the human asset indicators for the LDC graduation.
Investing in family planning is the keystone to achieving targets in the national development agenda, we therefore must reach every women and every girl with the information and services they need stated Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Kikeo Chanthaboury.
A key programme between the Government and UNFPA is a collaborative programme to strengthen midwifery services and improve midwifery education. This programme has trained 1,700 midwives to work in communities around the country.
The midwives are crucial not only for safe deliveries but also in providing reproductive health and information close to people’s homes.
The UNFPA report recommends focusing on the furthest behind first, in line with the United Nations blueprint for achieving sustainable development by 2030.
Reducing all inequalities needs to be the aim. Some of the most powerful contributions can come from realizing…women’s reproductive rights, the report states.
In the Lao PDR, this investment in women’s sexual and reproductive health as well as economic empowerment, including those of adolescent girls, will be an essential step on the path to the country’s graduation from LDC (Least Developed Country) status by 2020.
Source: Lao News Agency