I find this statistic shocking. Worldwide, 51 million 15-19 year old girls are married and 200 teenagers per day die of complications from early pregnancy and childbirth. Some 200 million women and girls in developing countries do not have access to contraception. This week, the London Family Planning Summit was held to tackle the devastating consequences of inequality of access to birth control.
My baby was very much planned and wanted and we love her to bits. That is not to say that having a baby is easy. On a physical level there is a risk to both mum and baby from pregnancy and birth, particularly where medical assistance is unavailable. I had my daughter at the grand old age of 37 and I cannot imagine how many children I would have had by that point if I had not had easy access to free contraception. Children do cost money. Feeding and clothing them is not cheap. In the countries where women are most likely to not have access to contraception, free education is often not available. Therefore women have large families, but cannot educate their children which leads to a lack of opportunity and an inability to lift families out of poverty.
All the studies show that providing women and girls with sex education and control over their own fertility has massive benefits. Not just to women and their babies, through decreased maternal and infant mortality and better health, but to communities and economies.
There was a landmark announcement at the London Family Planning Summit this week. Leaders from around the globe committed to providing 120 million women from the world’s poorest countries with access to contraceptives by 2020. Hopefully, the appalling statistic that a girl growing up in Chad today is more likely to die from childbirth than attend secondary school will become a shameful memory by the time my daughter is a teenager.