World Population Day 2018 Highlights Family Planning

July 11 marks World Population Day. This year's theme, "Family Planning is a Human Right" emphasizes the importance of parents being able to plan for how many children they will have and when.

Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together. Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood—if at all. Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future in this fundamental way.

Access to Education

Access to education on sexual reproduction and modern contraception is essential in achieving gender equality and contributing to the reduction of poverty. However, in some areas of the world, young girls are still being forced into marriages.

Planet Aid supports projects that confront the issue of forced marriage among young girls, and promotes the early and continued education of young girls. Research has shown that educated women are less likely to marry early, more likely to have healthy babies, and more likely to send their own children to school.

Nikhalamo Project

The Nikhalamo-Girl Stays in School (GSS) project is an example of a girl-centered project supported by Planet Aid. The initiative is implemented by ADPP Mozambique and funded by USAID. ("Nikhalamo" is a word used in the local Chuabo language of Mozambique that translates to "I am here to stay.")

Focused on the Namacurra district of Mozambique, GSS is designed to address barriers that impede vulnerable girls' ability to transition from upper primary school (sixth and seventh grade) to secondary school and subsequently complete their schooling. The project works with 18 primary schools and three secondary schools.

Teen pregnancy is a critical obstacle to girls' education in Mozambique. The country has one of the worlds' highest rates of adolescent fertility—41 percent of all girls (between 15-19 years) are either mothers or pregnant.

GSS is strengthening community members' support for girls' education while addressing factors to reduce teenage pregnancy. For young girls who become pregnant, the project helps to create the support needed for them to stay in school.

A Foundation for Change

During discussions of gender norms with nearly 2,000 participants, the GSS project listened to parents' reasons for marrying off their young daughters. While the practice often exposes the girls to abuse and violence, the incentives for families to marry their daughters off were strong, including immediate material rewards (bride dowries are paid in money, crops, or livestock) and relief in having one less mouth to feed.

Through the use of girl mentors in the community and through sensitization sessions and other means, the project is laying a strong foundation for increased gender equity awareness and associated behavior change. The project is also underscoring the concept that a quality education can provide young girls with more earning power and the promise of a better more stable future.

The GSS project has had success is keeping girls in school. One secondary school reached by the project had problems retaining girls in the eighth and ninth grades due to teenage pregnancies. The project conducted extensive community awareness in the area around the school through door-to-door campaigns and follow-up support. In 2016, the school successfully retained 150 out of the 160 girls enrolled.

To learn more about World Population Day and this year's theme, click here. To read more about the GSS project, click here.