Cartoon & reflection
If women could choose the number of children they wanted, fertility would be cut by more than a third in Latin America and Asia and 27% in Africa.
Slower population growth in developing countries and economic progress without irreversible damage to the environment will depend on investment in women, including health care, family planning services, education, and better-paid employment outside the home, according to the 1989 State of World Population Report by Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
In many countries. women have few choices apart from marriage and children. They tend to have large families because that is expected of them, says the Report. At the same time, they are responsible for providing food, fuel and water. They spend many hours in productive but unpaid and unrecognized labour. They also play an important but equally unrecognized part in the money economy. This 'invisible' work is as important as the visible part of what women do, the Report states.
Population 8.5 billion in 2025
Currently 5.2 billion, world population will increase by over 90 million each year until the end of the century. All but six million of each year's increase will live in developing countries, says the Report. The population at the end of this century will be about 6.25 billion, and about 8.5 billion by 2025. It may stop growing at 10 billion, about double its present size, perhaps a century from now.
To secure the projected drop in fertility, the number of women using family planning will have to rise to 730 million (58 per cent) in 2000 and finally to 1.2 billion (71 per cent or the present level in industrial countries) by 2025. In sub-Saharan Africa this would mean a tenfold increase in the number of family planning users by 2025.
If this does not happen, the population will continue to increase, by larger numbers and for longer. The eventual total could be as high as 14 billion, the Report says: 'These figures alone, and their implications for the global future, should be enough to make it clear that the population crisis is a matter for action now, not next century. By then it will be too late.'
Women's status not dependent on number of children
The Report argues that when children cease to tee the major source of women's status, women have smaller families. The most effective route to smaller families is to provide women with the means of social and economic self-determination: full rights in the family and society, access to income and career development, education and health care, and a real say in the decisions that affect their lives- of which one of the most important is family size.
The Report calls for increased investment in women by governments. This includes health care and family planning, education, granting women equal access to land, to credit, to rewarding employment - as well as establishing their personal and political rights.
Making the necessary changes means recognizing women not only as wives and mothers, but as vital and valuable members of society. It means that women themselves must take power into their own hands to shape the direction of their lives and the development of their communities. It means rethinking development plans from the start so that women's abilities, rights and needs are taken into account at every stage so that women's status and security is derived from their entire, contribution to society, rather than only from child-bearing, says the Report.
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