By Astrid Valentiner, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW)
A new study was conducted by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development on behalf of the Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW), the German Countdown 2030 Europe partner. The research proved once again the importance of access to sexual and reproductive health and family planning (SRH/FP) services as well as education for millions of women and girls in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. The report was released shortly after the German government formation, and findings were backed by the new German parliamentarians and government representatives alike, who pledged to support work on SRH/FP.
Behind the numbers
Millions of young women in the region cannot protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, or from becoming victims of sexual violence. This not only violates the rights of these young people and often obstructs their prospects, but also hampers the development of entire communities and national economies. The study also researched the political and financial support from the German government to meet the unmet needs of SRH/FP and Rights.
The importance of comprehensive and early sexuality education, especially for girls and young women, is reflected in many of the results, such as the numbers on teenage mothers. Every fifth girl between the ages of 15 and 19 in almost half of the countries of Sub-Sahara Africa has already given birth to at least one child. Many of these pregnancies are unwanted and have far-reaching consequences for the young mothers: pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death among young girls in low-income countries. In addition, pregnant girls often must drop out of school and thus have fewer opportunities for a job, reducing the chances of a self-determined life.
Renewed German support to SRH/FP
The study was released at the beginning of this year, shortly after the end of coalition negotiations between Angela Merkel’s party the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Members of the new parliament, as well as government representatives from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, voiced their support for the key findings and committed themselves to strengthening their engagement in the area of SRH/FP in the coming four years. However, it remains unclear how strong their actual financial support will be. Even though the international ODA commitment of 0.7% is included in the new coalition treaty, the announced spending increase is not enough to reach this goal any time soon. On the other hand, Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Gerd Müller included family planning as his main priority in the upcoming legislative period.
Read the full study in German here.