For over twenty-five years, DSW has advocated on the right of women everywhere, especially those living in countries of poverty, for complete access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, information, and supplies. We remain fully convinced that empowering young women – by reducing gender inequalities, by listening to their needs, and by including their voices in development planning – is the only truly effective way to gain significant advances in poverty reduction.

Why? Simply put, a young woman, who does not drop out of school, who is not forced into marriage, or who does not become unintentionally pregnant from a young age, has the power to lift her family, her community, and her country out of poverty.

This is the sentiment being shared today during the launch of the Family Planning Summit in London. During this event, governments and partners from across the world will come together to commit to advance family planning progress in countries of poverty. Not only will this renewed commitment help further the goal of universal access to SRHR as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – but it is also the right thing to do! Expanding access to contraception and family planning programmes is one of the most cost-effective ways to break the cycle of poverty as it empowers people to plan their futures and reach their fullest potential.

And the need for further commitment and action is high…

In the world today, an estimated 214 million women and girls who do not want to get pregnant have an unmet need for modern contraception. Think about that for a second – over 214 million young women have no choice or say in their lives if they want to get pregnant or not. For someone like me living in Europe, this situation is unthinkable. But it gets worse. Due to the lack of proper health care, millions of young women who find themselves pregnant run the risk of dying while giving birth.

I know this sounds depressing. So let’s look at it a different way…what would happen if ALL unmet need for modern contraception were satisfied in developing regions? In this case there would be approximately a three-quarters decline in unintended pregnancies (from the current 89 million to 22 million per year), a decline in unplanned births (from 30 million to seven million per year), and a decline in induced abortions (from 48 million to 13 million per year). Quite something isn’t it? And best of all, it is achievable – but only if commitment to the issue remains high.

This is why events such as the Family Planning Summit are extremely important. Not only do they bring attention to this vital issue, they are instrumental in repealing negative information and actions that attempt to reverse this good work. By this I mean, of course, the hardening of the Mexico City Policy (‘Global Gag Rule’) by the Trump Administration. A policy, which according to Marie Stopes International will, over the course of the next three years, lead to: five million unintended pregnancies, two million abortions, one million unsafe abortions, and almost 22,000 maternal deaths.

The time for doubt and negative misinformation must come to an end. It’s staggering to think that over 60% of all adolescent girls (15-19) living in extreme poverty, have no access to modern contraceptives. If we do nothing to improve services for these adolescents, particularly in Africa and Asia where unmet need is highest, an entire generation of women may find themselves trapped in the same cycle of poverty experienced by their parents, lacking control over their own bodies, and over their own destinies.

We need to take action. And we need to do it now. Not because we should, but because we have to. The lives of millions are counting on us.

Watch the Event Live HERE: 


DSW will continue to campaign until all young people living in countries affected by poverty are able to fully realise their rights. We are working hard to do this but but we need your help in accelerating it! Act today by:

  • Becoming informed via our blog and website about the changes occurring in this field and what actions are needed to reverse these issues
  • Following us on social media and share our news. The more people are informed, the more momentum we can gather to bring about positive change.
  • Reading our success stories about young women and girls living in situations of extreme poverty who managed to take charge of their lives and are now inspiring other girls to follow them.

 A Brighter Tomorrow is Possible!

Sylvia is 14 years old and lives in Uganda. This short film tracks her hopes and dreams and explores what a difference having access to sexual and reproductive health and rights information, services and supplies can make in helping her reach her true potential.

Photo by Jonathan Torgovnik/Reportage by Getty Images