Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Traditionally, countries relied on heavy natural resource extraction and fossil fuel use to grow their economies and generate jobs, which has heavily damaged our environment. With an increasing number of people escaping poverty around the world, there is an urgent need to foster more sustainable development.
One way to achieve this is by accelerating progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 goals that aim to improve lives and protect the environment. They range from ending hunger and poverty to achieving global gender equality, universal health care, and education, to halting the climate and extinction crises.
Expanding access to reproductive healthcare and voluntary family planning services are targets embedded within the SDGs that help women realize their fundamental human right to control whether, when, and with whom they become pregnant. Empowering women also helps foster poverty reduction, sustainable development, and a more equitable society over time.
When people, in particular women and girls, gain access to health care and education, they also gain political, economic, and social power. This facilitates economic growth, improves health and livelihoods, and delivers higher levels of bodily autonomy. Because family planning enables women to autonomously manage whether and when they become pregnant, one significant outcome of providing access to contraceptives is increased education rates for women and girls. And because higher levels of education afford more options for sustained employment and improved livelihoods, women with higher levels of education tend to have fewer and healthier children. As individuals, families, and communities gain access to higher levels of education and quality health care, these tools are passed on to subsequent generations. Thus, the benefits of health and education compound over time.
When reproductive autonomy is realized, many social, economic, and environmental benefits follow, including reductions in infant and maternal mortality and improved livelihoods. Slower population growth also reduces pressures on natural resources, habitats, and food production systems. Within the context of climate change, the additional health, education, and economic benefits afforded through family planning would greatly reduce climate vulnerability and increase resilience for women and families around the world.
When women and families have access to the resources necessary in order to freely and intentionally choose the number, timing, and spacing of their births, a wide variety of health benefits ensue, including: lower maternal mortality & morbidity; lower infant and child mortality; reduced rates of unintended pregnancies; lower rates of unsafe abortions; and increased overall health outcomes.
Access to sexual and reproductive health care can influence population dynamics through voluntary fertility reductions and lower infant and maternal mortality rates. Additional benefits include better health outcomes and higher life expectancies for women and children; greater individual rights; lower poverty rates; higher education rates for women and girls; and slower population growth.
Rapid population growth inhibits sustainable development in low-resource settings especially. High fertility is positively correlated with extreme poverty: many of the fastest growing countries are also the poorest, with annual income per person averaging less than $1,000. Both conditions increase vulnerability to stresses associated with climate change.
Solutions Through Reproductive Health Info Brief
Ensuring access to quality, comprehensive reproductive health care is an essential component of sustainable development initiatives worldwide. This info brief takes an in-depth look into the ways in which voluntary family planning services aid development, support women’s empowerment, and increase climate resilience at the individual, community, national, and global levels.
Solutions Through Repro Health Slide Deck
This slide deck investigates the role of increased access to voluntary family planning services in global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, facilitate sustainable development, and increase health outcomes for women and their families.
Browse literature on family planning interventions for sustainable development, climate mitigation and adaptation, women’s empowerment, and state stability. This resource includes academic sources, reports from NGOs and international organizations, and relevant news articles.