When do women decide themselves?

Léa Gaudron
02 March 2018
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, recently published its annual report on the State of World Population. Every year, this report highlights a problematic situation that affects an entire section of the population. For 2017, the theme is "Reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality".

Poverty is not only a question of having money in the bank. A complex network of factors leads to such a socio-economic situation. One of the ways to effectively fight poverty is to tackle the inequalities that lie at its heart. By inequalities, we mean disparities based on gender, ethnic origin, environment, etc. Today, these different criteria influence the opportunities available to each individual.

What is the importance of rights concerning reproductive health?

Many women cannot choose when and if they want to become a mother. In developing countries, women from the 20% poorest households cannot do any or very little family planning. Without sexual education and without access to modern contraception, motherhood is a fatality. During pregnancy and birth, these women are not guaranteed medical and professional care.

These women always take a major risk in terms of their health when becoming mothers. If they are teenagers, for many of them it means an end to their education. For those at work, because of a lack of maternity leave, they often find themselves excluded from the labour market. It is then difficult for them to return to work. As a result, they find themselves on the margins of society instead of contributing to it and being able to exploit their potential. Therefore, guaranteeing women's rights in terms of their reproductive health is beneficial on a personal level but also on a collective level.

Without sexual education and without access to modern contraception, motherhood is a fatality.

What do UNFPA's figures reveal?

The situation is not settled. Although economic disparities between countries have decreased in recent years, inequalities increased in at least 34 countries between 2008 and 2013. Furthermore, UNFPA highlights that 68 countries reveal greater disparities between man and women in 2016 than in 2015. Around the world in general, the pay gap between men and women stands at 23%. This figure is decreasing, but very slowly and, above all, not evenly.

Around the world, three women out of five do not benefit from maternity leave and many of them find themselves at a disadvantage when they get pregnant. It is in Africa that the gap between rich and poor is widening the most in terms of access to contraception. Unplanned pregnancies block these women's potential and consolidates their position at the bottom of the economic ladder. This leads to intergenerational poverty.

However, universal access to reproductive health services contributes to helping women overcome inequalities concerning education and income.

And what about Belgium in all that?


Our country has been a major partner of UNFPA for many years. Belgium offers its support to UNFPA on various levels. From a financial point of view, our country has greatly increased its contribution since 2016 and is now one of the 15 largest donors. From a political point of view, Belgium is a key ally, whose  negotiation capacities in bilateral projects help to ensure the progress of sexual and reproductive health and rights and convince new partners.


Belgian support has intensified recently with the strong implication of Belgium in the "She Decides" movement. This initiative was launched this year in order to support the rights of girls and women in particular concerning their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The main idea is to allow each woman to decide freely if she wants children and when and how many she wants to have. The aim is also to promote human rights which have a major impact on health, socio-economic situation and the self-fulfilment of every woman and girl.

Towards a more inclusive society:

UNFPA's report proposes 10 actions for a fairer world.


UNFPA report 2017


Gender She decides Reproductive health
Back People
About the same theme - Article 10 /10 ‘Female food heroes’: heroines of our time