Guyana’s First Lady and PANCAP Champion, Mrs. Sandra Granger called for a comprehensive health curriculum to be implemented in the education system at the early childhood level. Mrs. Granger delivered this charge while addressing attendees of the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) observance of World Population Day, themed “Family planning is a human right”. The event was held at the Cara Lodge Hotel, Georgetown.
“I am an advocate for teaching [family health] at the nursery level, but it does not mean that our parents must be [excluded]… Parents have a large role to play in how our children are socialised… Let us hope that the Caribbean region will come up with a comprehensive health and family life education curriculum which they can implement in all our schools, so that our children will have the much-needed education and the knowledge that they deserve… [Let us hope] that our communities [and] our parents are educated [on] how they can protect [their] children and… how they should socialise their children, boys and girls, to be responsible human beings and, hopefully, productive adults,” the First Lady said.
Mrs. Granger also highlighted the benefits of accessible family planning. “It has been estimated that if the need for modern contraception was met, there would be 70 percent less unintended pregnancies, 74 percent less unsafe abortions, [and] 25 percent less maternal deaths… There would be an increase in educational opportunities for girls and women, greater participation by women and girls in the labour force, and an increase in their earning potential,” she said.
Notwithstanding the importance of including men in the family planning process, the First Lady said that family planning gives women more control over their lives. “Our men and boys must also be educated to participate actively in family planning and to understand and accept their roles and responsibilities as fathers when children are born… Family planning empowers women and supports their right to decide when and where they will have children if they do want children. In addition, they can set goals for themselves, whether they relate to education, their career, or their well-being,” she said.
Liaison Officer at the UNFPA, Mr. Adler Bynoe delivered the World Population Message on behalf of the organisation’s Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, who pointed out that accessible family planning can only be realised through collaboration. “Family planning is not only a matter of human rights, it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving the sustainable development… the UNFPA is fully committed to continuing to support countries’ efforts to uphold the right to plan a family. We are striving end all unmet needs for voluntary family planning in developing countries by 2030… We cannot do this alone. Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society must join forces to make it happen,” he said.
Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings said that the Ministry will be doing more to educate young people about the importance of family planning. “The Ministry of Public Health has a health promotion unit that engages in integrated health promotional activities. One of the areas in which it will be placing greater emphasis will be… generating more awareness about sexual reproductive health and the importance of family planning… At the Ministry, we are cognisant that effective and informed family planning has multiple health and social benefits… Through various health promotion activities, the Ministry of Public Health is ensuring that… accurate, unbiased information, to assist in preventing unplanned pregnancies, as well as empowering young people to make educated decisions about sexual and reproductive health, is disseminated countrywide,” she said.
Panellists and teen mothers from Women Across Differences (WAD), Ms. Makeda Perune, Ms. Tishana Peters, and Ms. Adriana Chappelle were in attendance to offer their perspective on the importance of family planning.
“Being a teen mom was a real struggle and the road was very hard… I encourage young persons who are sexually active to… use family planning. [It] will benefit you to [avoid] any unplanned pregnancies. You will have the opportunity to plan your future and set your goals,” Ms. Perune said.
Ms. Peters pointed out some of the risks of ignoring the use of contraceptives while being sexually active. “The [risk] of not using family planning is that it makes you exposed… to STDs, HIV, [and] unwanted and unplanned pregnancies… If I only knew earlier about contraceptives, I would’ve been, maybe, a better young woman today… [Contraceptives] save lives,” she said.
Ms. Chappelle commented on the empowerment that family planning provides. “I thank God for putting WAD in my path because I now know the importance of family planning [as a] human right… It has empowered me in such a way that I know what I deserve as an individual… and I have the courage to stand up for it… This is my body and I have the right to plan my pregnancies,” she said.
World Population Day, observed on July 11, was introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the affirmation of family planning as a human right.