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The 1994 Cairo Conference or ICPD adopted a new Programme of Action (PoA) as a guide for national and international action in population and development for the next 20 years. The PoA emphasises the enduring link between population on one hand and development on the other hand; and introduced for the first time the concepts of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. The African consensus on the ICPD beyond 2014, is known as the Addis Ababa Declaration on Population and Development (AADPD).

This National report reviews the progress and evaluates the extent to which The Gambia has fulfilled the commitments reflected in the AADPD over the past five years. The country’s prospects for harnessing the demographic dividend are also assessed.

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We bring you some highlights of our activities over the course of the second quarter of the year (April to June 2019).

Enjoy reading!

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Fifty years ago, it was hard for women to obtain contraception and relatively easy to die giving birth. Many women were unable to decide whom and when to marry, and when or whether to have children.

A worldwide movement to give women real choices in life culminated in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where a consensus was reached about the links between women’s empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, and rights and sustainable development.

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Welcome to this edition of our quarterly newsletter. This issue captures stories of our work during the first quarter of 2019 (Januray - March).  Happy reading!

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The 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, coupled with the 50th anniversary of UNFPA, call for galvanized efforts to take stock of the progress we have made so far and the gaps that remain in our drive to accelerate the ICPD Programme of Action. As such, UNFPA The Gambia, leveraged the 3rd Pan-African Youth Conference on African Unity and Development, co-hosted by the African Youth Commission (AYC) and the National Youth Council (NYC) under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports The Gambia, organised three high-level panels, capturing the voices and contributions of African youth, towards the achievement of the ICPD agenda.

This report captures the proceedings and outcomes of the event held on 25 March 2019.

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CHOICE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD. It can rapidly improve the well-being of women and girls, transform families and societies, and accelerate global development. The extent to which couples and individuals have real choices about whether and when to have children, and how many children to have, also has a direct impact on fertility levels. Where people are able to make these decisions for themselves, they tend to choose smaller families.

Where choices are constrained, they tend to have families that are either large or very small, sometimes with no children at all. No country can yet claim to have made reproductive rights a reality for all. Choices are limited for far too many women. And this means that there are still millions of people who are having more—or fewer—children than they would like, with implications not only for individuals, but also for communities, institutions, economies, labour markets and entire nations.

For some, the pursuit of reproductive rights is thwarted by health systems that fail to provide essential services, such as contraceptives. For others, economic barriers, including poor-quality, low-paying jobs and an absence of childcare, make it next to impossible to start or expand a family. Underlying these and other obstacles is persistent gender inequality, which denies women the power to make fundamental decisions in life.

In the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, governments committed to enabling people to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health as a matter of fundamental human rights. Now, almost 25 years later, this continues to require ensuring that individuals have access to the means to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reinforces these principles by making reproductive health and rights a specific aim. In fact, reproductive rights are integral to realizing all the Sustainable Development Goals. THAT IS THE POWER OF CHOICE.

The way forward is the full realization of reproductive rights, for every individual and couple, no matter where or how they live, or how much they earn. This includes dismantling all the barriers—whether economic, social or institutional—that inhibit free and informed choice.

This report is about global fertility trends, but it is also about choice- or lack of it - and what that means for women, for couples, and for countries' prospects for development.

The report makes the case that choice can change the world.

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Welcome to this edition of the UNFPA The Gambia Quarterly Newsletter. In this issue, we bring you stories from our World Population Day 2018 Commemoration, the Regional Change Management Workshop and the Communications and Advocacy Retreat held in Banjul, and other exciting activities. We hope you enjoy reading!

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UNFPA WCARO is delighted to have championed advocacy efforts that led to African leaders making young people their top priority in all their development, peace and security initiatives. In 2017, key actors across the continent, got involved and engaged in discussions, activities, projects and programmes around the demographic dividend agenda. This helped us to further raise awareness and explore ways of enhancing our understanding of the concept of demographic dividend and what it means in operational terms. At this point, it is important to reflect on the progress made and the challenges ahead, and to also decide how to consolidate discussions around the demographic dividend and its operationalization, in order to continue our work in transforming the lives of young people.

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The strategic plan reaffirms the agency's current strategic direction, which seeks to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, focusing on women, adolescents and youth. This 2018-2021 strategic plan, aims to ensure that no one is left behind and that those furthest behind will be reached first.

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Welcome to the first Quarterly Newsletter of the UNFPA The Gambia Country Office. This newsletter, is a tool to share stories of our work in The Gambia for women, youth and adolescents and to create an opportunity for learning and sharing best practices from communities benefitting from our interventions.

In this issue, we bring you stories from our Annual Staff Retreat in Toubacouta, Senegal, the Launch of the FP2020 Working Group in The Gambia, our commemoration of the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula and other exciting stories. Also, we are excited to introduce our summer interns who have been very instrumental in the production of this issue. We hope you enjoy reading this issue.


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