"On this World Population Day, let us act to safeguard sexual and reproductive health care, protect the health and rights of women and girls, and end gender-based violence. The pandemic has made our jobs much harder, but we must prevail." UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The COVID-19 crisis has taken a staggering toll on people, communities, and economies everywhere but not everyone is affected equally. Women, who account for the largest share of front-line health workers, for example, are disproportionately exposed to the coronavirus. The pandemic is hitting marginalised communities particularly hard and deepening inequalities.
July 11, every year, has been celebrated for almost three decades. The aim of this day is to focus the world’s attention on the importance of population issues. It took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion, then in just another 200 years or so, it grew sevenfold. And, nearly 60 percent of women worldwide work in the informal economy, at greater risk of falling into poverty.
Recent UNFPA research highlighted that if the lockdown continues for 6 months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low and middle income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies. Sadly, 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. The disruption of UNFPA’s programmes on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted.
On this year's World Population Day, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem underscored that women have a right to make their own decisions about “whether, when and how often to become pregnant”. That right was reaffirmed in 1994 in Cairo at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where 179 governments agreed that sexual and reproductive health is the foundation for sustainable development. Yet, despite considerable gains over the past 25 years, there is a long road ahead to live up to the promise of Cairo, with too many women still unable to enjoy their rights.
We, at World Assembly of Youth (WAY), are fully aware that over population growth is occurring all over the world but the growth often multiplies mostly in less developed countries and systemic violations of women’s rights continue throughout their life cycles. Therefore, taking into account the urgency to solve the current population challenges, we urge young people to educate others, including their peers especially, those living in less developed countries on existing inequalities and vulnerabilities, particularly for women and young girls.
Thus, at this point, we cannot know with certainty when or if world population can feasibly be stabilised, but we can be certain of the desired direction of change that we seek which is to ensure equality for all through the channel of education.