International Women's Day: Family planning - key to women empowerment - EU monitor

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International Women's Day: Family planning - key to women empowerment

Source: V.P. (Vytenis) Andriukaitis i, published on Wednesday, March 8 2017.

Recently I came across the annual letter of Bill Gates foundation. The letter covered many issues close to my heart. One of them - entitled in the letter as 'the Power of Family Planning' - is particularly noteworthy today, on the occasion of the International Women's Day.

Family planning is central to women's health. It is not merely a question of having a right to abortion as it is so often said and written. On the contrary, it reduces the need to abortion and especially unsafe abortion. It prevents diseases resulting in lower mortality rates among women and children. Family planning involves having an access to various birth control products and services that enable women to take informed decisions.

Targets in two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG3 & SDG5) call for universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights. But in reality they havewider repercussions across all the others. This is the reason why we need to foster sexual education and open dialogue about reproductive health in schools, families, communities and general public of EU countries. Enabling people to plan their families is in the interest of our society as a whole. Giving a choice and access to women can make a huge difference as it enables them to pursue education and to follow their dreams as far as they can go. When a woman can choose when and how many children to have, it not only improves her personal and professional development but also means her children will be healthier and better educated.

Discussions on gender equality improvements have been ongoing for centuries and even though a great progress has been made, the reality of 21st century is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, there is a lack of gender balance in business and politics, and worldwide women's education and health is worse than that of men. We cannot ignore that women in the EU still get a question on planned pregnancy during their job interviews or in some cases are forced to sign that they would quit should this happen.

I want to remind that there are still Member States where reproduction health is close to a taboo. There are also countries in the EU where religious aspects play an important role when the topic of women's reproductive rights is raised.

In January Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen launched a platform "She decides" which aims to support women's sexual and reproductive health rights. I could not agree more with the idea of this project. Reproductive rights are human rights, so yes, she does decide and let's help her to do so.