How can American mothers help in working towards the Millennium Development Goals?
Today mothers are still dying giving birth. We are committed to stopping this. We are working with communities and governments around the world to provide the support required for women to have access to good health services and voluntary family planning.
A mother here can provide mentorship and resources to get a young girl the information and empowerment she requires, and give that girl the chance to relate to other people, to get her beyond her small community and input to make her life better than what is now.
If we encouraged American mothers to reach out to the rest of the world and provide the kind of service we just described, we would have thousands of women empowered to take decisions on their lives.
Around the world [there] is almost an epidemic of teen pregnancy. Governments worry about teen pregnancy. Why are we getting increases, what is the context, how can we address is from that context and what interventions do we have to implement and most importantly to keep girls in school?
What are you most hopeful about right now?
We are in a position to expand access to family planning services around the world. By the end of 2015, we will have reached a large number of women and girls with services and information.
You have a special focus on youth in your work – how does that manifest in your leadership of UNFPA?
When you look at where UNFPA works, almost all [of our key programs] are in the Global South. Look at the demographics of these countries – each one has a youthful population. Some have 70 percent below the age of 30. So it’s appropriate that we address the issues of young people, especially with respect to reproductive rights, sexual education and quality of service. This emphasis will translate into evolving adults who are responsible and economically viable to participate in their countries’ development.
I attended a recent meeting of African Ministers of Finance and Planning in Cote d’Ivoire. Two priorities emerged: to educate girls in Africa, and to provide access to voluntary family planning. All of them agreed these are the right things to do to ensure their financial systems achieve capacity and that they build appropriate skill sets and equal opportunities for girls and boys. Young women can only have the opportunity to choose how many children to safely have and at what interval, if they have access.
What are you hoping for in terms of outcomes from the Women Deliver conference?
Everything! The Women Deliver conference presents a platform that is very unique. It brings together women from all over the world. UNFPA looks after women’s health and women’s rights particularly around access to family planning. We have offices in 150 countries around the world, but this conference gives us an additional opportunity to interact with women and to listen to them. (Look out for UNFPA special announcements at the event).
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Photo credits: Dr. Osotimehin in Syria and the Philippines, courtesy of UNFPA.