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The Synergy of the Environment and Reproductive Health
I became interested in the connections between reproductive health and environmental sustainability for very selfish reasons. First, I care deeply about women and young people, and have devoted my career to fighting for their human rights. Second, I have been concerned for some time about the sustainability of our production and consumption. This grew more intensely after becoming a grandmother who wants to leave a decent planet for my grandchildren to enjoy.
Thankfully, there is an intrinsic synergy between the work we do and the well-being of our planet. The reality is that when we give people the tools and knowledge they need to take charge of their reproductive destinies, the relationship between people and the planet begins to stabilize. That's because women know what's best for themselves and for their families. When they are empowered with basic tools—like condoms and contraceptives—women choose family sizes that work well for them and for their communities.
Evidence shows that empowering women creates a powerful ripple effect—enabling families and communities to be healthier and more prosperous, and helping to restore balance between people and the air, land, and water we all depend on. Simply meeting women’s needs for contraception, in particular, would reduce maternal and child mortality, advance human rights, increase food security, and decelerate population growth. It would also substantially slow the growth of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, at least 200 million women around the world aren't ready to have a baby, but aren't using modern contraception. This unmet need hurts women, adolescents, and families deeply. In our region, young people are particularly at risk for unintended pregnancies: A recent report from the United Nations Population Fund found that the rate of teen pregnancy is higher in Latin America than anywhere else in the world.
Nothing is ever simple, but we can all do something to ensure safer, healthier communities, more resilient natural systems, and a happier, healthier world for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and generations to come.