Hassia carries Abdoulaziz daily wrapped in a large handkerchief, is about to turn a year, is her second child, none was planned and she has not yet reached 20. She is now learning to read and write. It is Niger, the country with the highest fertility rate in the world, 7.1 children per woman; there, half of the population is under 15 years old and only 14% of the girls went to the institute in the last decade.
4,800 kilometers to the north, in Sweden, Andreas Åsander dismisses his partner, Elin, when she goes to work; then, he puts the coat on Edda, who is 11 months old, and Lo, four years old, and takes the latter to school. Then he returns home to spend the day with the little girl. In the European country, the rate is 1.9 children, and there is no choice between career and family, 480 days of leave are granted for fathers and mothers and, according to Hans Linde, of the Swedish Association for Sex Education, this policy "has allowed us to create one of the most solid welfare economies in the world".
According to the UNFP, governments must start implementing measures so that the freedom to decide becomes a reality and, they point out, they must prioritize access to quality reproductive health services, including modern contraceptives; guarantee access to a quality education that offers a sex education appropriate to the age; carry out campaigns aimed at transforming macho attitudes; and helping couples to have more children, if they wish, favoring the reconciliation of work and family life through measures such as affordable day care or better and more equal parental and paternity leave.
Hassia, Andreas and Elin reflect the abysmal difference between countries in terms of births and possibilities. Their stories are part of the latest report of the State of World Population, published by the Population Fund of the United Nations (UNFPA for its acronym in English) on reproductive rights and demographic transition. A situation of extremes that Luis Mora, responsible for Gender, Human Rights and Culture of the agency, also sees interesting. "Be the country that is, the issue of the right to decide has been configured as vital, as the axis".
This right forms the basis for this analysis, which results in a new global division that has a lot to do with the rest of the rights related to reproductive rights, such as health, education, non-discrimination or access to an adequate level of income. "This has a very important individual perspective, The obvious need for women to decide when they want to have children, how many or in what period of time. It is a deeply social issue, because what is derived from that touches the institutions, the communities, the economy … ", explains Mora.
Something that is not new. In 1994, 179 governments ratified the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, where they recognized that progress depends on gender equality, the elimination of violence against women and their freedom to decide whether or not to be mothers and reaffirmed the idea that demographic issues, economic and social development and reproductive rights they are closely linked and reinforce each other. Now, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development it includes it among its Objectives. Mora summarizes all this theory in one sentence: "The future of the world depends on the ability to decide freely on women."
A future that, at present, is not common to all regions. According to the analysis of UNFPA, there are four clearly separated zones. There are those countries where there are more than four births per woman. "They tend to be poorer and have little or no compliance with human rights, they do not have good educational and health services, they do have strong gender discrimination and they tend to practice forced marriage, which often leads to early motherhood"Mora explains." There are others in which fertility stabilized, although not for the same reasons. A few thanks to family planning programs and, in other cases, for the consequences left by armed conflicts or economic crises, "such as Ecuador or Morocco.
In a third group fertility declined rapidly; they are generally middle-income countries, although some of them are poorer and very few are rich and have very pronounced differences between their rural and urban areas and between their richest and poorest population, for example Latin America almost entirely, India or Libya. And a final set in which the fertility rate has remained low for a long time. "Mainly the most developed states of North America, Asia and Europe, where the problems are more related to public policies of birth support or the difficulty to reconcile work and family life. These face an aging population and weaker economies in the short term, "Mora adds.
In any case, the need for public policies, services and budgets to focus on this is urgent. In the end, for one reason or another, no country fully exercises the reproductive rights of its population: "The obstacles are different, but they are there. Millions of people have more or fewer children than they want. " Mora argues that, although the road will be complex, the advances are taking place. Since the mid-sixties, global fertility has been reduced by 50% and it is foreseen that, by 2050, no country will have a rate of more than five births per woman: "It is an important achievement, most of the countries have been moving towards moderate or low rates".
In an international context characterized by globalization, by the low rate of fertility in certain regions and by the increase of conflicts and humanitarian crises in others, the issue of displacement will be placed on the agenda more forcefully than ever. This is what Luis Mora, responsible for Gender, Human Rights and Culture and UNFPA. Therefore, he explains, an approach away from fear or opposition of certain countries to immigration is required: "It has to be seen from a rational and analytical point of view that poses what and how can be the best ways to face the challenges that We have ahead of us, and this has to come from the political class accompanied by the citizens, to give a coherent and long-term answer that supposes a sustainable development ".
Sustainability for a population that, according to latest annual report on world population United Nations, will exceed 8,500 million people by 2030, concentrated growth in a few countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Tanzania, the United States, Uganda and Indonesia will account for half of world growth.
Mora knows, and comments, that the world is not facing the best political context: "But anyway, history shows us that the majority of migratory movements in the history of humanity have had positive repercussions and consequences at different levels" . And, in any case, this is not just an opportunity for the expert, but a necessity. "What is clear is that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the fall in fertility, that is a scenario that we have to get used to live, and choose the best policies to take this new scenario."
Now, according to the expert, it is necessary to set the sights on two different fronts, that of those areas where an important investment in education and health is necessary in the coming years and that, although it is not a majority group, "it will represent the highest percentage of world population increase, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the only country in the world where fertility has not been reduced ", and in those other states where the alarm is the opposite," states such as Japan, Spain or Italy, where the rate has fallen so much that it supposes, or will suppose, a social problem. In South Korea, for example, they would face if they do not put measures to a loss of 20% of their population in the next three decades. "Different actions for different circumstances united by a single objective, guarantee the right to decide, and spun by One question: do men and women of all places, all income levels, of all ages have the number of children they want to have? The answer, for now, is no.