6 per cent or more
That’s roughly the percentage of the world’s women that experience an unintended pregnancy each year.
When societies tolerate such high rates, it begs an uncomfortable question:
Do these societies fully value the potential of women beyond their reproductive capacities?
I learned in medical school. Brazil, 46 years old
I learned about reproduction during my undergraduate education. Nigeria, 37 years old
Nursing school. Trinidad and Tobago, 65 years old
The first normal dialogue about sex and contraception I had was after the birth of my first child, at a consultation with a very qualified and responsible gynaecologist. She also gave me my first recommendations for effective and safe contraception. Ukraine, 39 years old
In college and at work. Although I never had 100% training on that. Mexico, 35 years old
School, college, television, internet. Nepal, 23 years old
Adolescents and youth are given inaccurate and fear-triggering information. Tanzania, 53 years old
Many people believe in old wives’ tales. Jordan, 44 years old
Almost every young person I know in Sudan has difficulties, as well as unmarried people of all ages. Sudan, 31 years old
People around me are given false information full of stereotypes. The people responsible for informing them are not well trained. Benin, 24 years old
Note: An informal questionnaire elicited about 60 responses from nearly 30 countries at the end of 2021. Responses here have been excerpted and edited for clarity.
We must do more.
We must reframe the conversation, calling on our policymakers, our communities and our partners to prioritize bodily autonomy. Rather than blaming and shaming women and girls for an unintended pregnancy, they should be battling to ensure women and girls are empowered to prevent these pregnancies in the first place.
We must strengthen our health and education systems, which have a human rights obligation to provide accurate information about reproduction and contraception. Young people deserve to be educated and enabled to articulate their goals and choices, and instilled with the duty to respect those of their partner.
We must ensure contraceptives are accessible, affordable and available in a range of forms acceptable to those using them.
We must invest in research to better understand the causes and consequences of unintended pregnancy and to spearhead contraceptive technologies that allay women’s anxieties over side effects and broaden the options available for men.
We must address justice systems that too often fail to hold perpetrators of sexual violence and coercion to account, leaving survivors to bear the stigma of both unwanted sex and the consequences of a potential pregnancy.
Share your knowledge. Stand up for your rights and those of others.
Doing so will bring us closer to a world in which every pregnancy is wanted and every person enjoys the full realization of their rights and potential.