Fifty years since the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was established and 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was launched, and yet, so much has still to be done in order to make reproductive health and rights a reality for all Filipinos.

The 2019 State of the World Population Report was globally launched on April 10, 2019 by the UNFPA. The report, entitled “Unfinished Business: the pursuit of rights and choices for all,” reflects the struggle for reproductive health and rights for all women across the world.

Based on the report, “hundreds of millions of women today still face economic, social, institutional and other barriers that prevent them from making their own decisions about whether, when, how often and with whom to become pregnant.”

The report also looks at the life stories of six women and how sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender inequality has shaped their lives.

It also identifies major barriers to achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all in 2019, including a lack of access to modern contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services, and struggles with gender inequality. In addition, there still exist legal barriers such as restrictive abortion laws, criminalization and stigma of same-sex relationships, and parental or spousal consent to access services that hinder ones sexual and reproductive health rights. The report also recognizes the influence of social, political, and economic forces as well as humanitarian crises, due to conflict or natural disaster, on the lives of women.

The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) together with other government agencies have joined hands to help eliminate such barriers in achieving women’s reproductive rights for the past 50 years. As a result, more women today have access to the information and services they need to fully exercise their right.

The report revealed that women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy (women who are married or in a relationship are able to make their own choices over three key areas: sexual intercourse with their partner, contraception use and health care) was highest in 

the Philippines and Ukraine, where “81 percent of women are empowered to make these decisions for themselves.” In the Philippines, the average number of births per woman today is 2.7, a far cry from 6.0 in 1973.

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate also showed an increasing trend, from 40 percent in 1993 to 54.3 percent in 2017.

Based on the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey, the total demand for family planning is at 70.9 percent among currently married women aged 15-49. Such proportion of unmet need for family planning is highest among adolescents (aged 15-19) at 28 percent.

In Region I, about 14 percent of currently married women aged 15-49 have expressed intention to space or limit their children but are not using any method of family planning.

Yet despite these various gains, more women not only in the Philippines but also around the world are not yet empowered to make basic decisions about their own bodies which is crucial with their development. The report highlights that adequate funding for sexual and reproductive health services is important, and that “initiatives to promote universal access to health care presents opportunities for universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.” Efforts as well as initiatives should also be made focusing on adolescents to ensure their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The report advocates for “Getting to three zeros – NO unmet need for contraception, NO preventable maternal deaths, and NO violence or harmful practices against women and girls. However, achieving this will require ambition and commitment.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s administration’s commitment to empower the Filipinos families is reflected in the recently launched National Program on Population and Family Planning (NPPFP) to accelerate the full implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act.

Together with the NPPFP, the issuance of the Executive Order No. 12 which mandates the attainment of zero unmet need for modern family planning and the Joint Memorandum Circular Number 2019-01 by the Department of Health and POPCOM entitled “Policy Guidelines for the Intensification of the National Program on Family Planning (NPFP) Towards Better Health Outcomes, Poverty Reduction and Socio-Economic Development,” it is possible form women to fully exercise their rights and for the country to have a well-planned and empowered Filipino families and communities.