There is no better investment than making sure that half of the world's population–girls and women- are empowered to contribute to building healthy and stable countries.
The facts are undeniable. Women are the mainstay of production in the developing world. They grow and harvest the rice in Asia and grow and deliver the produce in Africa. Women care for their children and devote more of their income than men to food, medicine, and other family needs. Women's unpaid work—farming, managing their homes, caring for children, and other tasks—equals about one third of the world's GNP.
Today, 215 million women do not have access to modern contraception. The loss and cost of not meeting this need is huge. Not only are girls and women unable to finish their education or go to work but more than 350,000 girls and women die each year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and 20 times that number suffer from life-long illness or injury.
Up to 40% of maternal deaths could be avoided through family planning. But in a world of many problems we have learned that the appeal to social justice is not a sufficient enough argument. So we have added a potent one that should appeal to every world leader watching their budgets: it makes economic sense to invest in family planning.
Family planning is cost-effective and relatively easy to implement. For every $1 spent to provide for modern contraceptives, $1.40 is saved in medical costs. Providing family planning does not take building hospitals or training thousands of doctors and midwives. This solution can be done quickly and efficiently if there is political will. We have great examples to show us how to accomplish this in countries such as Rwanda and Vietnam.
Economists have given us another reason to support family planning. They call it the demographic dividend, which can be a boon to economic growth in low-income countries. It happens when falling fertility rates results in fewer births making the number of young dependents grow smaller.
Fewer young dependents can translate to less government expenditures for basic needs and to increasing the ratio of working age population to child dependents. Both of these factors can promote faster economic growth. Many countries in Asia have capitalized on the demographic dividend, but not yet sub-Saharan Africa. The window is short but with good policies, including family planning, countries can take advantage of this opportunity to push their countries' economies ahead. It's good, it's right and it is sound economics: Invest in Women. It Pays! GHD