From May 16 to 19 this year, advocates from around the world are coming together in Copenhagen for the Women Deliver conference. As they work to improve the lives of women and girls, we’re spotlighting their work and experiences here on the Ms. blog.
This month, the fourth Women Deliver conference—in the wake of the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—focused on how to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women. There was a special focus on sexual and reproductive health, in recognition of the reality that many young women—most especially those in the developing world—are being left behind.
Today, of the 38 million adolescent women aged 15 to 19 in developing regions who are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy, 23 million have an unmet need for modern contraceptives—meaning they are not using a contraceptive method at all, or they are using a less effective traditional method.
Meanwhile, current use of modern contraceptives by the other 15 million adolescent women prevents an estimated 5.4 million unintended pregnancies each year. (Of these pregnancies, an estimated 2.9 million would have ended in abortion, many of which would have been performed under unsafe conditions.) Current use of modern contraceptives also prevents 3,000 maternal deaths annually among adolescent women in developing countries.
These are impressive numbers, and a new study from the Guttmacher Institute—released at Women Deliver this week—adds to them. Our researchers found that improving existing contraceptive services for current modern contraceptives, as well as expanding services to the 23 million adolescent women with unmet need in developing regions, would cost only an estimated $770 million annually, or an average of just $21 per user each year.
The impact of this investment would be truly remarkable.
Investing $21 per user per year to meet contraceptive needs and offer quality contraceptive services in developing regions would result in 6 million fewer unintended pregnancies each year. There would be 2.1 million fewer unplanned births, 2.4 million fewer unsafe abortions and 5,600 fewer maternal deaths related to unintended pregnancies.
These goals are attainable and the financial investment to achieve them would have enormous long-term effects on young women’s lives: Not only would it improve adolescent women’s sexual and reproductive health, it would improve their long-term social and economic well-being. Enabling young women to avoid unintended pregnancy and childbearing until they feel ready to become mothers allows them to achieve more education, better job opportunities and healthier lives for themselves and their children. Meeting adolescent women’s unmet contraceptive needs is not only the right thing to do, but is critical to achieve the SDGs—not only the few focused on sexual and reproductive health, but all of them.
Photo courtesy of UK Department for International Development on Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons 3.0