Updated: July 12, 2021 12:05:00 pm
Technology and greater investment in healthcare are key to improving the reproductive health of women, according to experts at a webinar, on ‘Addressing Women’s and Girls’ Needs for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning Services during Covid-19 and Beyond’.
On the occasion of World Population Day on July 11, the Population Foundation of India organised the webinar to deliberate on a range of population-related issues, including family planning, gender equality, maternal health and transforming social norms.
The panelists highlighted the progress that India has made towards achieving the goals set out in national policies and global commitments with regard to population and family planning. India’s population is stabilising with Total Fertility Rate (TFR) declining to 2.2, which is almost within reach of the TFR goal of 2.1 as envisaged by the India’s Population Policy, 2000.
The National Family Health Survey, NFHS-5 (Phase-I, 2019-20) reported an increase in the uptake of modern contraceptives in all 17 states that were surveyed, while unmet need for family planning declined in most states.
Dr SK Sikdar, advisor, Maternal Health and Family Planning, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said the government prioritised family planning as an essential health service during the Covid-19 emergency and by leveraging digital technology. He said, “…To reach gender and health goals, we must focus on men and boys and encourage an open and inclusive dialogue on sexual and reproductive health.”
Dr Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, founder and executive chairperson, Biocon Ltd, said, “Covid-19 has exposed health and gender inequities and inequalities in India.” “Investing in primary healthcare can play an essential role in improving the health of women, mothers and infants for survival and sustainable future,” she added.
Martyn Smith, interim executive director and managing director, FP2030, said, “Covid-19 is giving us the opportunity to talk about equity issues more intensely.”
Argentina Matavel, resident representative, India, and country director, Bhutan, UNFPA, said, “This is the time for innovations and use of digital technology to serve the underserved. This is the time for acceleration, to bring services closer to home.” “Women will respond with reason to whatever is before them and when you put rights and choices, including availability of a wide basket of contraceptive methods and information, at the forefront, women will respond to reason,” she added.
Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India, who was moderating the webinar, said, “To fully leverage our advantage, we must safeguard women and young people’s health, rights and wellbeing. Coercive population policies, which impose restrictions on the number of children couples can have, fail to acknowledge that India has nearly achieved replacement level total fertility rate. This means that now is the time to protect, equip and empower our population to ensure no individual is left behind as we evolve into a nation with a dynamic, young and productive population.”
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