Every day, a grim statistic haunts the lives of women and girls around the world: More than one in three women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime, usually at the hands of an intimate partner.
This statistic is intertwined with another: One in four women of reproductive age who wish to avoid pregnancy have an unmet need for modern contraception.
Changing these statistics is key to improving the lives of women and girls around the world and ensuring the doors of opportunity are open to all.
Women and girls who experience violence are at greater risk of a range of poor health conditions and outcomes, including an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections, as well as HIV, higher rates of unintended pregnancy, early childbearing as a result of child and forced marriage, and bodily harm and adverse psychological health.
Despite these increased risks, women who have experienced violence and wish to control if, when, or how often they become pregnant face particularly daunting challenges if they also lack access to modern forms of contraception. Heartbreakingly, this may be due precisely to the violence they are experiencing.
Imagine being afraid to access health care or discuss contraceptive choices with your partner for fear of his response. Imagine being ashamed to talk honestly with your health care provider about what you’re living through. Imagine being terrified to lose your children if you speak out, or being unable to afford the transportation cost or fee for care. Imagine living in a place where basic infrastructure, supplies, or doctors are not available, due to natural disaster, poverty, or a humanitarian crisis. Or simply imagine being 11, 12, or 13 years old, not knowing where to go, or to whom to turn.
In 2017, this is not imaginary for far too many women and girls. In 2017, the statistics belie a different reality. In 2017, services for women and girls should be better than this. Together, we’re working to make it so.
Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a global movement and partnership comprised of governments, civil society, donors, the private sector, multilateral institutions, and research organizations committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health services and rights. We stand together for all women and girls, no matter where they live or what they’re experiencing.
We are dedicated to ensuring that all women and girls are able to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have.
We know that contraceptives can be lifesaving, and we work to address the policy, financing, delivery, and socio-cultural barriers to women accessing contraceptive information, services, and supplies. And we are all far too familiar with the real and devastating impact of gender-based violence on women’s reproductive health.
This is why all of us must use our imaginations in order to take effective action. As providers, as leaders, as survivors, and importantly, as champions, we can take steps to ensure the availability of the information, services, supplies, and access every woman and girl needs to make fully informed choices about her own future, choices that violence can strip away.
The FP2020 partnership is thinking big. At the 2017 Family Planning Summit hosted in London, more than 125 commitment makers pledged specific and concrete actions they would take to demonstrate leadership and advance family planning. From launching media campaigns addressing the sexual health of adolescents and young people to investing in programs that address the root causes of gender-based violence, from rolling out lifesaving priority sexual and reproductive health activities and services at the onset of a humanitarian crisis to passing laws that penalize the perpetration of violence, partners from around the globe are making concrete commitments to the partnership, to their constituencies, and to women to ensure that women and girls themselves are better able to control what happens to their bodies.
By investing in the empowerment of women and girls, and through addressing the barriers women and girls face when trying to access contraceptive information, services, and supplies, we’re working to change the grim statistics for women and girls everywhere.
We’re not just imagining the way ahead. In every commitment that we make, every action we take, and every dollar we spend, the FP2020 partnership is creating a world where every woman and girl has the opportunity to grow and thrive, to work and earn, and to plan her own family and her own future.
Gender-based violence shuts the doors to those opportunities; the ability to choose and use modern contraception can help open them wide.
To mark the 16 Days of Activism to end gender-based violence, the UN Foundation blog will feature a diverse chorus of voices against violence between now and Human Rights Day, December 10. Read daily posts by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka here. Support the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women here. The views expressed in guest blog posts are those of the guest author.
[Photo: Robyn Russell for Universal Access Project]