Still, wherever I travel, I continue to meet women and girls who are unable to exercise their right to choose whether or when to have children.
Women like Melody Abadji, a 24-year-old food vendor in the Republic of Benin, who became pregnant at 18, before she and her partner were ready.
“We didn’t want to have any children because of our difficult financial situation,” she said.
Melody was forced to drop out of school and put her dreams on hold. To support their baby, the couple moved from the northern city of Parakou to Cotonou to find work, leaving the child with her parents.
In Cotonou, Melody learned about a clinic run by the Benin Family Planning Association, an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The clinic receives health commodities, including male and female condoms and a wide range of hormonal contraceptives, from UNFPA Supplies, the largest global fund dedicated to family planning.
Melody opted to receive a contraceptive implant to avoid pregnancy until she and her partner were more financially stable.
But far too many women and couples still lack access to modern contraception.
Today, as we mark World Contraception Day, some 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods. Moreover, a global funding crisis is threatening family planning programmes like the one in Cotonou.
Last year alone, contraceptives provided by UNFPA Supplies averted an estimated 9 million unintended pregnancies and 26,000 maternal deaths. This support saved families and countries approximately $500 million in pregnancy, delivery and other health care costs.
These kinds of gains are at risk.
And this jeopardizes the health and well-being of millions of women and adolescent girls and global prospects for sustainable development.
As for Melody, she recently returned to the clinic in Cotonou to have her implant removed.
“Now we are ready,” she said.
Together, let us recommit ourselves to ensuring that every women and adolescent girl has the means and information to delay pregnancy until she is ready.
Today, I call on global leaders and the international community to prioritize funding for contraceptives and the systems that deliver them.
Let us ensure that every pregnancy is by choice, not chance.