This week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released their annual letter from Bill Gates, identifying family planning as a priority area for 2012. When women have access to family planning, Gates explains, poverty is reduced, more children are educated, and governments are better able to meet the needs of their people. This allows governments and citizens to benefit from the “demographic dividend”, referring to decreases in family size resulting in a higher number of educated youth. When these youth reach working age, they boost productivity and economic growth for their country.
For advocates of sexual, reproductive and maternal health around the world, it is reassuring to hear of the Gates Foundation’s continued dedication to family planning. Melinda Gates has long been an inspiring advocate for women’s health. At Women Deliver’s global conference in 2010, she announced the Gates Foundation’s commitment of $1.5 billion for family planning, maternal and child health in developing countries.
In the time since our last conference, the world population has reached a staggering 7 billion and is expected to increase to 9.3 billion by 2050. Now than ever before, there is a critical need to ensure all women can determine if and when to have children. Currently, 215 million women worldwide, and one out of every five married women of reproductive age in Africa, have an unmet need for contraception. Present levels of access to contraceptives prevent 188 million unwanted pregnancies, resulting in 112 million fewer abortions, 1.1 million fewer newborn deaths and 150,000 fewer maternal deaths.
Support from institutions such as the Gates Foundation would lead to even more lives saved, and the growth of more productive economies. The goal of the Gates Foundation is for every woman to have the ability to choose when she wants to have children, which would benefit mothers, children and governments alike. When programs are funded to increase women’s access to family planning, especially in the developing world, every baby is given the chance to receive the best her or his family, country and the world can offer.
Read the full letter here.
Flickr photo courtesy of United Nations Photo