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Celebrating choice, freedom, rights and the role of contraception

Celebrating choice, freedom, rights and the role of contraception

 

By: Dr. Armindo Daniel Tiago, Minister of Health and Andrea M. Wojnar, UNFPA Representative in Mozambique

This piece was published in the newspaper Noticas - 16 October 2020 edition

Every day, people in Mozambique decide whether or not to use contraception to delay, space or prevent pregnancy. Access to family planning is a fundamental human right for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

We will transform World Contraception Day into a year of celebrations, using that time as a way to raise awareness so that unplanned and unwanted pregnancies are not the ‘rule’, and that adolescents and young people can have access to the correct information and modern contraceptive methods.

In our country, we have celebrated this date since 2014, recognizing national growth in the use of modern contraceptives from 11% in 2011 to 25% in 2015 (IMASIDA, 2015). Despite great achievements in recent years, we know that there is more to do and that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to impact the progress that the country has already achieved.

On average, a woman has at least five children; one out of every two girls aged 15 to 19 is a mother or is pregnant for the first time; one in two deaths among women aged 15 to 24 years is due to causes related to pregnancy, childbirth and abortion (IMASIDA, 2015).

The Government of Mozambique has been implementing family planning projects across the country with technical and financial support from its core partners with a vision towards one of the global goals of 2030: achieving zero unmet need for family planning. Through school programs, door-to-door campaigns, information campaigns via radio, television, media and strengthening health systems, we are working towards a world where individuals and couples can make healthy and informed choices about their relationships, health and reproductive rights, and increase access to and use of voluntary family planning.

Through these activities and investments, the efforts of the Government of Mozambique in family planning have gained worldwide recognition. The Atlas of Global Contraception Policies, Africa, for example, assesses the performance of countries' political leadership on access to contraception, national and international policies and financing. In September 2020, the Atlas gave Mozambique an "excellent" rating of 87.7%, ranking just second behind the Seychelles out of all countries in Africa.

We cannot ignore the challenges brought on by COVID-19, but remember that sexual activity does not stop during a pandemic and that women will continue to conceive, making it essential that people have access to sexual and reproductive health services. Scientific evidence shows that providing access to contraception methods for girls and women who want to postpone their next pregnancy or stop having children has the potential to reduce unplanned pregnancies by 73%, maternal deaths by 25% to 35% and induced abortion by 70%.

In addition to gender equality, human rights and empowerment, contraception has a huge impact on the socio-economic development of a country like Mozambique. Rapid population growth increases the pressure on the health, education, economy and other productive sectors, compromising the ability of meeting the population's demand for basic needs.

Reducing rapid population growth will help the country to invest more in long-term measures to improve the quality of health services, guarantee universal education, increase employment opportunities and achieve food security.

It is important that young people remember that the first sexual intercourse can define their life and their future. Having information and access to modern contraceptive methods is crucial for young people to take safe and well-informed measures in their sexual and reproductive lives.

Family planning has positive long-term impacts for you, your family and society in general. But at the heart of it all is the right of choice and determination - freedom to decide when and with whom to have a baby. As we continue to celebrate World Contraception Day, we will work together to safeguard reproductive health and rights at all costs.