Rio+20 was a disappointment to many leading NGOs like Advocates for Youth, Women Deliver and CASD because it failed to recognize Sexual, Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) especially family Planning services for young women as the basis for sustainable development. This has once more raised dust on the relationship between climate change and SRHR in sustainable development. In the simplest terms, how are the two movements related in the pursuit of a sustainable world by young people?
Climate change disproportionately affects young women, who are often the stewards of their area’s natural resources – as they must walk farther to collect water, work harder to produce crops from dry soil, and cope with drought, flooding, and other natural disasters and disease. At the same time, empowered women can be particularly strong agents for sustainable change in their communities. An effective approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation must therefore support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as doing so is essential for adaptation while contributing to reducing the impact of future climate change.
Reproductive health problems remain the leading cause of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide. Some 222 million women who would like to avoid or delay pregnancy lack access to effective family planning. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving life. About 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves.
Experts agree that responding to the unmet need for family planning is a viable option for sustainable development, including climate change adaptation. For example, in a recent study climate change economists concluded that responding to the unmet need for family planning and supporting girls education are much less costly than low-carbon energy development options and are cost-competitive with forest conservation and other improvements in forestry and agricultural practices.
Instead of environmental and reproductive rights movements being at odds with each other, today’s world demands that we see these movements as one. Women who are empowered to manage the timing of their childbearing will be able to invest more resources in climate change mitigation and foster sustainable development.