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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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Each year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in The Gambia recommits itself to delivering a Gambia where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, through a dynamic team of staff and partners.

Our interventions in 2017 were majorly centered around UNFPA’s three transformative results: ending the unmet need for Family Planning; ending Preventable Maternal Deaths; ending Gender Based-Violence and Harmful Practices.

UNFPA The Gambia and its partners delivered life-saving work in the interest of women, youth and adolescents, including those in hard-to-reach communities. This effort was accompanied by the continuous advocacy for programmes, policies and laws that protect the reproductive health and rights of our constituents.

This 2017 report captures efforts UNFPA is taking to support sustainable development, by delivering life-saving interventions to women, adolescents and youth in The Gambia, and by highlighting major results registered through our programme interventions.

2017 was an exciting year for the country office. We launched the African Union (AU) Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Young People in The Gambia. To wrap up the year, we engaged a sector of society, whose role in addressing gender-based violence and fostering family wellbeing, is often under-emphasized – religious leaders – through the International Consultation on Islam and Family Wellbeing.

I thank our government and civil society partners, the country office team and most importantly the communities we serve. We look forward to intensifying our work in 2018 as we improve programme effectiveness and quality delivery of our interventions to reach those furthest behind.

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This is an assessment of the obstetric and delivery complications associated with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the management of such complications. The study was piloted in 37 government and private health facilities throughout The Gambia from 2013-2016, by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, with support from UNFPA The Gambia.

Being the first of such to be conducted by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the main objective of the study is to provide country specific data and information on the obstetric complications of FGM in The Gambia, thus serving as reference material during educational activities on FGM complications as well as advocacy efforts geared towards changing beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, for the abandonment of the practice of FGM through social norm change.

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The new development strategy titled Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) will cover the period 2012-2015, and has the main objective of promoting an accelerated and shared growth coupled with jobs’ creation.

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This is the maiden edition of the UNFPA Gambia Country Office bi-monthly newsletter. In this edition you will find information on capacity building initiatives by our implementing partners;  a flashback on the tenth anniversary of the coming into force of the African Youth Charter (Banjul +10), World Population Day 2016 and other exciting initiatives and stories.

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Facilities in both the public and private sector (for- profit and not -for-profit) were included.Since the focus of the assessment was obstetric and newborn care, health facilities that did not offer maternal health services were not selected.

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