‘When women thrive, the world thrives’: Reflections on World Population Day

On World Population Day, Caitlin Glover, Senior Director for Global Sexual and Reproductive Health at CHAI, reflects on women’s reproductive health and rights. World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of populations issues, is observed on July 11 each year. 

Despite significant progress in making family planning services more affordable and accessible to those who need it most, lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health information and services continues to be an issue for many people; an estimated 121 million unintended pregnancies occurred each year between 2015-2019 worldwide, with the highest unintended pregnancy rates in low-income countries.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation more difficult, impacting health systems around the world. This includes family planning services, which in 2020, declined across CHAI’s partner countries as lockdowns and other measures to limit spread of the disease also reduced clients’ ability to access reproductive health services. 

Access to quality reproductive health information and services is critical to empowering women to make informed choices about whether and when to have children. When women have access to these services, they are more likely to have safer pregnancies, achieve higher levels of education, maintain employment, advance their careers, and achieve financial independence. On a wider scale, these changes can help accelerate the economic growth of a country. The impact of family planning services on women and their communities reminds us that we are truly an interconnected human family; when women thrive, the world thrives. 

CHAI believes that investing in women’s reproductive health and rights is crucial for a flourishing planet. CHAI is working with governments in over 15 countries to advance access to family planning information and services for women and girls. This includes supporting research to understand what services women want and where they want to access them, strengthening supply chains to ensure that contraceptives reach the last mile, training healthcare workers to deliver long-acting contraception immediately following delivery to women who want to delay their next pregnancy, and engaging with community and traditional leaders to share empowering messages about women’s access to reproductive health services. 

The impact of family planning services on women and their communities reminds us that we are truly an interconnected human family; when women thrive, the world thrives. 

Since the pandemic hit, we have adapted our approach to support ministries of health to maintain access to critical services, while protecting the health of clients and clinicians. During lockdowns in Madhya Pradesh India, for example, CHAI did phone outreach to frontline workers to ensure reproductive health commodities, like contraceptives, were well stocked and advised on protocols for community and home distribution.  

We have also supported health partners to share key safety messages with clients, helped governments devise infection control and prevention measures, and secure supply chains. As a result, in 2020 we saw a rebound in services being provided across our partner countries. In Zambia, for example, people making use of family planning services actually exceeded pre-pandemic numbers.

As Africa faces a third wave of COVID-19, CHAI will continue the work we’ve done for the past 15 months. This is a significant challenge in the face of lockdowns, health worker shortages, global supply chain challenges, and economic downturns. Yet rights-based family planning services are all the more important and remain a critical tool for addressing many of the most pressing challenges of today.  

Learn about our work on maternal, newborn, and reproductive health