World Population Day is celebrated on July 11 of every year to highlight the urgency and importance of population-related issues and concerns in the context of development.

This 2020, the theme, “Putting the Brakes on Covid-19: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now,” focuses on women and girls who account for the largest share of frontline health workers; and who are mostly vulnerable and disproportionally exposed to various forms of sexual and reproductive health risks, gender abuses and other life-threatening struggles brought by the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the pandemic, POPCOM, as the government’s central policy-making, planning, coordinating and monitoring body of the Philippine Population Management Program, commits to achieve transformative goals of ending harmful practices that undermine the well-being of these vulnerable sectors—ensuring that they are protected, empowered and given importance as they play vital roles in national development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Coinciding with this celebration is the launching of the United Nation Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report that discusses development issues in the present context. This year’s report which is entitled, “Against my will: Defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality,” highlights the thousands of girls who have been neglected, forced to early marriages, experienced vicious cycle of abuses and engaged to activities that are against their will and consent, or simply because they are “females.”

Government and non-government agencies, private sectors, civil society organizations, individuals and communities are enjoined to drumbeat the celebration as it calls for unified action and response. Let us pledge to put women and girls at the pedestals where they are safe and free to live (by: Maria Cristina F. Martinez, POPCOM-1).