What does birth control have anything to do with reducing global emissions?
Everything, women around the world would say, because they know how closely linked reproductive health is to issues ranging from poverty and food security to climate change and beyond. This message was precisely what female leaders brought to the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, but not many were listening, least of all the Vatican.
“The only way to respond to increasing human numbers and dwindling resources is through the empowerment of women,” said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and former director-general of the World Health Organisation.
“It is through giving women access to education, knowledge, to paid income, independence and of course access to reproductive health services, reproductive rights, access to family planning,” she elaborated, adding that no other way existed to change the current “pattern of human consumption”.
Female leaders have long been trying to tell the world that sustainable development is not just about deforestation, climate change and carbon emissions. Equally as important to sustainable development are gender equality and human rights, which include sexual and reproductive rights.
But the reality is that globally, 215 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using effective methods of contraception. More than two and five pregnancies are unplanned, and approximately 287,000 girls and women die each year from pregnancy-related causes. The world has a ways to go to ensure that women have access to full reproductive rights and health.