NEWS COMMENTARY ON WORLD POPULATION DAY WITH A FOCUS ON LINKING FAMILY PLANNING TO HUMAN RIGHTS
The global community once again marked World Population Day yesterday the 11th of July, to create awareness on the dynamics and trends of the world’s population and their implications for the growth of humanity. This year the focus of the global celebration was on the importance of Family Planning as a Human Right issue. Ghana however added another dimension to the theme and concentrated on family planning as an imperative human rights issue for the attainment of sustainable economic development of the country.
The UN and experts in population regard human capital as an indispensable resource for the progress of humanity hence advocacy for solution to the challenges that would draw back the development of mankind. Efforts to integrate human rights into reproductive health issues dates back to 1968 when the UN International Conference on Human Rights held in Iran affirmed family planning as human rights for the first time. The Tehran Proclamation advocated that parents had a basic right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children. The 1968 conference also connected human rights to the dignity and worth of the human person. It further advocated the relationship between access to family planning and the status of women.
Over the years the UN has been championing the need to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. This is manifested in the programme of action of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing platform for Action as well as the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development. The International body perceives family planning as a key to achieving the sustainable development goals, SDGs, since it has the potential of eradicating extreme poverty, hunger and achieving universal primary education. It can also promote gender equality, empower women and ensure environmental sustainability.
It is therefore incumbent on policy makers, families, communities and other major decision makers to make family planning accessible to all who need it. Experts in sexual and reproductive health contend that access to safe, voluntary planning is human rights issue and a key factor for Ghana’s economic transformation. It has a strong linkage with sustainable development of the country at all levels. Family planning empowers individuals and couples to decide on the desired number of children, spacing and timing of their birth. It also prevents too early, too frequent, too close and too many births. The experts see it as a catalyst for national development, empowers women, boosts the financial position of the family and also enhances socio-economic growth. It is advocated that better family planning policy has positive effects on the economy, health, education, population growth and agricultural development of the country.
However, Ghana is marking this year’s World Population at a time the country had found it difficult controlling her population growth rate. Since 1969 when the country’s family planning policy was introduced, the growth rate has remained 3% soaring above 2.5%. This is due to some socio-cultural factors and lack of commitment to family planning issues. The Ghana Health Service annual report for 2016 indicates that even though family planning coverage had increased from 24.4% in 2012 to 33.8% in 2016 there were pockets of reduction in some regions. The Brong-Ahafo region saw a decline from 56.3% coverage in 2014 to 52.3%. The Eastern and Volta regions registered similar declines.
It is about time Ghana paid attention to family planning as a human rights issue and re-position sexual and reproductive health in national development. Improvements in family planning can benefit the economy by improving general health and wellbeing of the people especially women. Access to family planning does not only reduce fertility rate but also high risk births among the adolescents and women. We could achieve this if contraceptive information and services are available in sufficient quantity and variety to accommodate everyone who needs it. The country must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone.
Again contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner respecting both modern medical ethics and culture of the intended target group. Moreover each individual must be empowered to make reproductive choices independently and free from pressure and coercion. More importantly health and education systems, leaders and policy makers must be accountable to the people they serve in an effort to realise the human right to family planning. But above all family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate. And the individual seeking family planning information and services must enjoy the right to privacy. Ghana would be able to make better progress towards eradicating poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, and food security. Government’s vision for economic transformation of the country would be a mirage if sexual and reproductive health rights are ignored.
By CHRISTOPHER ASIEDU, A BROADCAST JOURNALIST.