The Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in his independence day speech today, highlighted the need for planned families. We welcome his statement and reiterate the need for greater investments in family planning to achieve population stabilisation. This would help us achieve greater socio-economic development and meet the sustainable development goals India has committed to.
As per the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, the wanted fertility rate in the country is 1.8, which means that women do not want to have more than two children. On the other hand, there is a high unmet need for family planning – an estimated 30 million currently married women in the age group 15-49 years and 10 million young women in the age group 15-24 years wish to delay or avoid pregnancy but do not have access to contraceptives for various reasons. Much greater attention has to be paid for expanding the basket of contraceptive choices, with specific focus on spacing methods, to match the needs of a large young population. Budgetary allocations and spending on family planning have to be raised, especially to provide birth spacing methods, adequately train health workers, ensure quality of service delivery and invest in behaviour change communication.
24 states and Union Territories have already achieved replacement level (2.1) or lower fertility rates by investing in education, better health services, and access to family planning. Fertility rates have dropped with rising age at marriage and reduction in teenage pregnancies, as well as with higher education of girls. We are highly encouraged by the Prime Minister’s call to improve awareness and showcase positive behaviours for motivating people to adopt family planning. Population Foundation of India advocates for a rights-based, voluntary approach to family planning. We call for a policy that ensures gender equality, and empowers women and men to be able to exercise their choice by providing adequate information and services within their reach.