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UNFPA and Government of The Gambia Host National Celebration of World Population Day and Official Launch of SWOP 2019 in The Gambia

In 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, commitments were made to ensure rights & choices for all are pursued. Have these promises been kept?

There is no doubt that the Government of the Gambia in collaboration with its development partners, notably UNFPA, deserve applause for decades of hard work in ensuring women, youth and adolescent access to reproductive health and rights is guaranteed, access to quality education and combatting all forms of discrimination against the girl child and women.

The country has taken giant steps to enact legislation and policies prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.  The Government has put in place a transitional justice and reform process including the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, a Constitutional Review Commission, among others, that are aimed to protect the fundamental human rights of the citizenry. It is safe to say that; our democracy is developing with increased citizen participation.

However, despite rigorous efforts and interventions, The Gambia still has a long way to go in achieving ICPD commitments. Although maternal mortality has been halved in the period 2001 to 2013 respectively, the number of women we lose to preventable maternal deaths still remains far above SDG global target of fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In addition, maternal mortality accounts for 36% of all deaths among women in reproductive age in The country. Infant mortality on the other hand though significantly dropped, from 75 to 34 deaths per 1000 live births during the period 2001 to 2013, still falls short of the global target of at least, as low as 25 deaths per 1000 live births.

As the world commemorated World Population Day 2019 on 11 July, UNFPA The Gambia and the Government of The Gambia, on 17 July 2019, led the country’s World Population Day celebration and official launch of the State of World Population (SWOP) Report 2019.

This year’s World Population Day, which focuses on the theme: "ICPD+25: Accelerating the Promise", calls for strategic action to accelerate the implementation of the ideals of the ICPD agenda, while the SWOP 2019 theme dubbed "Unfinished Business: The Pursuit of Rights and Choices for all", emphasises the need for strengthened partnerships in investing in key populations everywhere, including The Gambia.

Speaking at the joint commemoration, UNFPA The Gambia Representative, Mr. Kunle Adeniyi highlighted that, in The Gambia since 1994, Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) have been halved, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has dropped and more girls are in school today than there were twenty-five years ago. As such, he said, we must celebrate the gains realised and went on to add that, we must however, be reminded that, smarter investments must be made to ensure that Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, among many other issues affecting women and young people especially, are eradicated.

In her keynote and launch statement, Her Excellency the Vice President of The Gambia, Dr. Isatou Touray, mentioned that, we must manage our population with the little resources we have, by improving the quality of lives of all Gambians, especially in the areas of education, health, mobility and employment. She concluded by highlighting that, the 2019 SWOP, signals the need to increase Family Planning uptake and invest in wider Health System strengthening.

The event also saw the presentation of The Gambia’s Five-Year Review Report on the Implementation of the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development Beyond 2014, the development of which was led by the National Population Commission Secretariat, with support from UNFPA The Gambia.

It is important to note that, the global reproductive rights movement that began in the ‘60s, transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of women, empowering them to govern their bodies and shape their futures. Despite the progress over the past fifty years since the establishment of UNFPA, the world still has a long way to go before rights and choices are claimed by all.

2019 is the year to strengthen partnerships and renew commitments for strategic investments in the interest of the women in communities furthest behind in The Gambia with little or no access to their basic needs, for the young people whose dreams of becoming leaders in community are too distant from reality they are faced with and to the adolescent girls and boys, who without guidance, the right education and protection, will not experience the life they deserve.

2019 is the year to shift the trend and make a difference and actively contribute to this moment of making history, for our children and their children to come, because power, voice and choice, shape the degree of agency an individual has within any relationship.