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Women and Girls

Family Planning

Three-day-old Waleed lies wrapped in blankets at his family's home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah in 2016. Waleed was recognized as the two millionth person born in Gaza, a tiny enclave squeezed between Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Gaza is just 7.5 miles across at its widest point, and has one of the highest population densities in the world.

Securing women’s right to voluntary, high-quality family planning around the world would have powerful positive impacts on the health, welfare, and life expectancy of both women and their children. It also can affect greenhouse gas emissions.

225 million women in lower-income countries say they want the ability to choose whether and when to become pregnant but lack the necessary access to contraception. The need persists in some high-income countries as well, including the United States where 45 percent of pregnancies are unintended. Currently, the world faces a $5.3 billion funding shortfall for providing the access to reproductive healthcare that women say they want to have.

Carbon footprints are a common topic. Addressing population—how many feet are leaving their tracks—remains controversial despite widespread agreement that greater numbers place more strain on the planet.

Honoring the dignity of women and children through family planning is not about governments forcing the birth rate down (or up, through natalist policies). Nor is it about those in rich countries, where emissions are highest, telling people elsewhere to stop having children. When family planning focuses on healthcare provision and meeting women’s expressed needs, empowerment, equality, and well-being are the result; the benefits to the planet are side effects.

Technical summaries for each solution will be available May 1, 2017.

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