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We must all work harder to secure sexual and reproductive rights for all

DODOMA, TanzaniaAround 1,000 people mostly between the ages of 18 to 35 visited a “health village” set up by UNFPA in Nyerere Square, where they could access voluntary family planning and reproductive health cancer screening services.

This was offered as part of UNFPA’s drive to refocus attention on accelerating the promise of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), with the support of the Dodoma Regional Office and in partnership with Dodoma Regional Referral Hospital and development partners. Two vehicles travelled the outskirts of the capital to broadcast the event.  

Members of the African Youth and Adolescents Network on
Population and Development (AfriYAN), a youth-led organization,
ensured that information and services were accessible to
young people. © UNFPA Tanzania

The African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development (AfriYAN), a youth-led and youth-serving organization, ensured that information and services were accessible to adolescents and young people, in a region that has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country, at 39 per cent.

UNFPA also invited 16 members of the Tanzanian media to an Editor’s Forum to help ramp up efforts to secure commitment and political will to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action adopted in 1994, in advance of the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 from 12 to 14 November. A similar discussion was held with editors in Zanzibar on 26 July.

On World Population Day, which called for global attention to the unfinished business of Cairo, UNFPA launched the State of World Population 2019 report, entitiled “Unfinished business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all.” The report traces progress made in advancing reproductive rights since UNFPA began operations in 1969, as the first United Nations agency to address population growth and reproductive health needs, and in the 25 years since the ICPD in Cairo.

In Tanzania, there has been a steady increase in the number of women exercising their right to choose a modern method of family planning. More women are attending health facilities to give birth safely, and more women are being assisted by a skilled attendant during delivery.

However, gains have been uneven and inequalities still exist, while too many lack agency, education and access to critical reproductive health services. For the women and girls of Tanzania, there is still a long way to go to live up to the promise of Cairo.

What the future holds in terms of population dynamics, contraceptive use, and sexual and reproductive health and rights more broadly will both determine and be determined by the ability of women and girls to achieve their full potential as members of society. And this will be determined, in no small part, by how Tanzania takes forward the ICPD achievements and addresses the shortfalls. What is without question is that it is time to fulfil the promises made to Tanzania’s women and girls 25 years ago.