Each year tens of thousands of girls globally are reportedly forced into child marriage, nearly one third of them before age 15. One woman in three experiences gender-based violence in her lifetime, while some 200 million women and girls have endured female genital mutilation, and 225 million others who want modern family planning, don’t have access, and therefore are unable to choose whether or when to have children.
This grim picture on the plight of women and girls around the world is contained in a statement released by the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017.
He stressed that the ability of women and girls to exercise their basic human rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health, is a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, disclosing that studies have demonstrated clearly that family planning is the best investment countries can make for human development.
We wholeheartedly agreed with the UNFPA boss that family planning is cardinal to promoting healthy and sustainable family life without which our society would continue to grow in human population without a corresponding growth in human capital and development.
In Liberia, one needs not to look further to see a boom in childbirth or baby factories if you like, across the country, particularly involving girls ages 13, 14 or 15, as evidenced by the huge presence of street kids roaming between moving vehicles, selling water, biscuits, candy, etc. rather than being in school to secure a better future.
The problem of “babies bearing babies” has become prevalent here, notably during and after the civil war, leaving behind broken homes and families with children left to provide for themselves at an early age.
This is the foundation for child prostitution and unwanted pregnancies, because when the girls children are left along to care for themselves or with single parents at teen ages with little or no education, they are highly vulnerable and predisposed to almost any and everything. And this is where early sex education, including family planning becomes necessary. Having unprotected sex always leads to unwanted pregnancies and babies.
With shooting breasts, plump bodies and faces, teenage girls become very attractive to the opposite sex, not only their peers, but even to men thrice their ages, who are capable and willing to offer whatever inducement, including cellphones and little cash to go in bed with them. Those men with such habit do so not with a desire to keep them as wives, but to quench their selfish sexual desires and subsequently abandon their victims, leaving them with unwanted pregnancies and babies in a vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, disease and miseries.
Dr. Osotimehin further emphasized that ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning means putting the poorest, most marginalized and excluded women and girls at the forefront of global efforts, particularly those in conflict and fragile settings.
“Women and girls who can make choices and control their reproductive lives are better able to get quality education, find decent work, and make free and informed decisions in all spheres of life.
Their families and societies are better off financially. Their children, if they choose to have them, are healthier and better educated, helping break the spiral of poverty that traps billions and triggering a cycle of prosperity that carries over into future generations”, he says.