Access to modern contraception, a key component of rights-based family planning, has revolutionised the lives of millions, contributing to better health, greater economic empowerment and the prosperity of entire nations.

Yet, significant challenges remain.

Globally, more than 214 million women who wish to access modern contraceptives cannot, the majority of them in developing nations.

This unmet need for family planning is linked as well to preventable maternal deaths; more than 300,000 women die of complications from pregnancy or childbirth each year, some 85,000 of them in our region alone.

Lower fertility, linked to population ageing, is triggering pro-natalist policies in some countries, with policymakers speaking out against family planning and encouraging women to have more children instead.

Patriarchy and rising conservatism in our region – reflecting a global trend - further contribute to a range of harms against women and girls, including child marriage and gender-based violence.

It’s clear that although we have been making progress under the ICPD Programme of Action, we can’t take this for granted.

The world of today is very different from that of 1994. We are seeing significant pushback on women’s rights and choices, impacting essential health services including family planning and contraception, even in countries that have long been champions.

All views are those of the original author. Originally published at