Safeguarding women and girls

Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. D. Namgyal
According to the most recent estimates of the United Nations, the current world population is 7.8 billion. India stands next to China in terms of population. The country has a population of 1, 380, 004, 85. China is at the top with a population of 1, 439, 32, 776. If we analyze the population growth in the world, we find that a tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution; whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world


WORLD POPULATION DAYpopulation to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. The rapid recent increase in human population has created concern. The population is expected to reach between 8 and 10.5 billion between the years 2040 and 2050. Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.05% per year which is down from 1.08% in 2019, 1.10% in 2018, and 1.12% in 2017. The current average population increase is estimated at 81 million people per year. The annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The rate of increase has nearly halved since then, and will continue to decline in the coming years; but still it is a cause of concern for all of us. This is because the planet has also a carrying capacity and the increasing population has put severe pressure on the already scarce resources on this planet. Many social scientists think earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people. The eminent Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, bases his estimate on calculations of the Earth’s available resources.
To focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, the ‘World Population Day’ was established by the then Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1989 as an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987. The ‘Five Billion Day’ on 11th July, 1987 was the day when the world’s population reached 5 billion. This day was suggested by Dr. K. C. Zachariah when population reached five billion and when he worked as Senior Demographer at World Bank. ‘World Population Day’ is an annual event, observed on July 11 every year, which seeks to raise awareness of global population issues.
World Population Day aims to increase people’s awareness on various population issues such as the importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights. This year’s World Population Day also calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the 1994 ‘International Conference on Population and Development’. Twenty-five years have passed since that landmark conference, where 179 governments recognized that reproductive health and gender equality are essential for achieving sustainable development. World population Day obviously reminds us to look at the current population and population issues that influence how peoples live now. Population issues disproportionately affect people in developing countries. People living in very poor countries have a life expectancy that’s about 20 years shorter than people in rich developed countries. One third of population growth is due to unplanned pregnancies which often happen when peoples are lacking education and family planning services.
Every year the day is celebrated with a specific theme. According to United Nations Fund for Population (UNFP) previously called as United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), this year ‘World Population Day ‘2020 theme will focus on, ‘Putting the brakes on COVID-19: how to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now’. This year the UNFPA’s goal on World Population Day 2020 is to raise awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health and vulnerabilities during the pandemic and also to highlight how we can safeguard stronger progress and how the momentum for achievement of the SDGs we mobilized in Nairobi by 2030 is to be sustained.
Safeguarding the health and rights of women and girls now deserves a special focus particularly in times of pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted individuals, cultures and economies all over the world. However, all are not equally affected. Women who make up the largest share of health care staff in the front line are disproportionately exposed to corona virus. Supply chains across the globe are being disrupted, affecting contraceptive supply and also causing the increasing risk of unintended pregnancy. Sexual and reproductive health services are being sidelined as countries are on lock-down and health systems are struggling to cope, and gender-based violence is on the rise.
In addition, the women who work in insecure labour markets are disproportionately, hit harder by COVID-19’s economic effects. In the informal economy, nearly 60 percent of women worldwide are at increased risk of poverty. As a result of school closures and increased needs of the elderly, the work of women in unpaid care has increased. Recent UNFPA research highlighted that if the lockdown continues for 6 months with major disruptions to health services, then 47 million women in low and middle income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7 million unintended pregnancies. 31 million additional cases of gender-based violence can also be expected. The disruption of UNFPA’s programmes on the ground could result in 2 million cases of female genital mutilation and 13 million child marriages between 2020 and 2030 that could have been averted. Moreover, women disproportionately work in insecure labour markets and are harder hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The pandemic is hitting marginalized communities particularly hard, deepening inequalities and threatening to set us back in our efforts to leave no one behind. The response to COVID-19 in every country is critical and will determine how fast the world recovers and whether we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or not. On the 11th day of July this year, UNFPA aims to raise awareness about the sexual and reproductive health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls during the pandemic, to highlight how we can safeguard hard fought gains and ensure that Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) stays on the local agenda, and to explore how to maintain the momentum towards achieving the SDGs by 2030 that we rallied at the Nairobi Summit.
This day is also a day to set up standards where we can achieve the targets set under Sustainable Development Goals 2020. Our approach towards the fairer sex should be non discriminatory. Nothing should be cramped on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, national origin, age, and economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Every country should also ensure that the relevant commodities and services are available and accessible to everyone and that these should be acceptable. It also should be binding upon the countries to ensure the active participation of individuals in decisions that affect them including health issues. We should also use this occasion to educate and aware the common masses about the various issues pertaining to the rising population and to mobilize political will and resources to address the problem.