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Ambassador Hamamoto: Family planning saves lives, improves health, and empowers women
May 22, 2015


Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto

Permanent Representative of the United States of America
to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva

Opening Remarks

 Good evening. I’d like to welcome you all to the U.S. Mission and thank you for attending this important event tonight.

I would also like to thank the Aspen Institute, and especially Peggy Clark, for organizing this event and for her leadership in international family planning and reproductive health.

It is an honor to be here to celebrate the progress Senegal, the Philippines, and Uruguay have made to improve access to reproductive health.

As we approach the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is vital that we maintain robust commitment and action for reproductive health as the SDGs move forward.

Family planning is important because it saves lives, improves health, and empowers women.  A USAID analysis found that by preventing closely spaced births, family planning could prevent up to 30 percent of maternal deaths and 25 percent of child deaths each year.

As the countries we are honoring today have shown, investing in people is not only the right thing to do, it also makes for a more prosperous nation.   Increasing access to family planning and reproductive health is a gateway to achieving a host of sustainable development goals and plays a catalytic role in advancing economic development.

Family planning can reduce the economic burden on poor families and allow women more time to work outside the home, which leads to increased family income. And with more income, families can invest in health care, more nutritious food, and better education for each child.  Families can also invest in their own livelihoods, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty.

For nations, a larger workforce with fewer children to support translates into increased savings on health care and other social services, increased investments in each child, increased output and productivity.  This demographic dividend can raise GDP by as much as two percent per year for many years. Many countries have done so in the past.  African countries — if they act now to implement programs that support women’s and couples’ desire to plan and space their pregnancies, and to enact supportive education and labor policies with attention to equity — can set themselves on a similar course.

225 million women want to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception.

No one sector can solve this problem alone.  This is why partnerships with the public and private sectors, donors and civil society are essential.

I’m particularly proud of a new initiative recently launched by the U.S. Mission called The Future She Deserves – because it is built around this recognized need to build partnerships and work collaboratively in order to really drive results. The fundamental goal of The Future She Deserves is to leverage this unique platform of Geneva-based institutional mechanisms and multilateral fora to protect and empower women and girls, thereby enhancing their ability to fulfill their promise, both as individuals and as equal members of society.

In the health context, it is difficult for young people to fulfill their promise due to the many obstacles they encounter to using available health services: lack of knowledge about sexuality and reproductive health, lack of access to services because of location, cost, hours of service, unfriendly and judgmental providers, communities that are not supportive of young people’s sexuality and use of services, and unequal gender norms.

The consequences of this are severe. 16 million girls aged 15-19 and 2 million girls under the age of 15 give birth each year. Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than women aged 20-24, and young women aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die.  And children born to adolescent mothers are much less likely to make it to their fifth birthday.

One of The Future She Deserves’ key priorities is to ensure adolescent girls have access to the full range of appropriate health services, and it is for this reason that we are so excited to host this event tonight, as it directly supports our initiative, and our goal of recognizing innovations and scalable interventions that will significantly improve lives.