UNFPA report warns against failure to tame inequality

UNFPA officials launch the State of World Population 2017 report in Addis Ababa on October 19, 2017. ANDUALEM SISAY | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

A new UN report urges governments to address inequality as a way of averting social and political unrest.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, also appeals for urgent empowerment of women to make their own decisions about their lives.

The State of World Population 2017, launched in Addis Ababa Thursday morning, warns that countries could face unrest and threats to peace and development if they failed to tackle inequality.

The costs of inequalities, including in sexual and reproductive health and rights, could extend to the entire global community’s goals, says the Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality, report.

Family planning

Failure to provide reproductive health services, including family planning, to the poorest women can weaken economies and sabotage progress towards the number one sustainable development goal, to eliminate poverty.

According to the report: "Economic inequality reinforces and is reinforced by other inequalities, including those in women’s health, where only a privileged few are able to control their fertility, and, as a result, can develop skills, enter the paid labour force and gain economic power."

It further notes that in most developing countries, the poorest women had the fewest options for family planning, the least access to antenatal care and were most likely to give birth without the assistance of a doctor or midwife.

Limited access to family planning, says the report, translates into 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions in developing countries annually. This not only harms women’s health, but also restricts women's ability to join or stay in the paid labour force and move towards financial independence, the report argues.

Maternity leave

It further says that lack of access to related services, such as affordable child care, also stops women from seeking jobs outside the home.

"For women who are in the labour force, the absence of paid maternity leave and employers’ discrimination against those who become pregnant amount to a motherhood penalty, forcing many women to choose between a career and parenthood."

The UNFPA report recommends focusing on the furthest behind first, in line with the United Nations blueprint for achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies by 2030.

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