In many developing countries, young women have little hope of acquiring an education. A lack of family planning education takes away important decision making skills and opportunities, better wages, and overall say in personal choices.
With roughly 16 million adolescent girls giving birth each year, and many of those in developing countries, most of these girls will lose out on education. Of these 16 million adolescent girls, those ages 15-19 will have children at a rate of up to 120 births per 1,000 girls.
But recently, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) set out to improve reproductive health education and services, specifically for young girls and adolescents ages 15-19. By working with eight African countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Tanzania, the UN organ will address female health through increased reproductive education over the next three years. They plan to create programs for young women in order to better prepare them for life as an adult woman.
The UNFPA’s education service will work towards teaching young girls the dangers of childbirth complications, pregnancy, and dangerous abortion procedures. In doing so, they hope these young girls will incorporate these lessons in their decisions related to pregnancy, marriage, and education, among other facets of life.
The purpose of the UNFPA’s work is to improve women’s health, and provide them with the ability to be independent when it comes to personal health decisions. As Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, said, “What we are trying to do is to create an army of young women who would have access to comprehensive sexual education, who would be able to have access to services, who also would be able to make choices in their lives and who would have access to education … so they can develop their full potential.”
Another reproductive issue, HIV contraction, remains a pressing issue for women’s health initiatives. Pregnancy and HIV related deaths still play a large part in women’s life expectancy in many countries. With UNFPA’s current program, they look to education and services as a reinforcement for young girls to stay in school. The belief is that if girls receive reproductive education, they will stay in school. If they stay in school, they won’t marry and have their first child at such a young age. By pushing back sexual interaction to a later age, reproductive related injuries and sexually transmitted diseases will inherently decline and thus reduce deaths.
Since 2007, UNFPA has been working with low income countries to improve access to contraceptive commodities, as well as financial and technical support for these service programs. During the past six years, their efforts have increased and improved reproductive health services with a focus on distributive infrastructure to make sure contraceptives and medicines reach their destination, which, in turn, will increase general access for the public. However, in UNFPA’s new three year program, education follows these services. The hope remains that increased family planning education will lead to increased use of current services, and young women’s overall reproductive health will improve.