On World Population Day, July 11, leaders and activists turn their attention to the urgent need to address population issues, including family planning. Access to sexual and reproductive health care is essential for women’s empowerment, safety, gender equality, and to reduce poverty, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Yet millions of women and adolescent girls still lack access to these services, which are crucial to their well-being and success.

This year marks 25 years since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, during which 179 governments recognized the importance of access to reproductive health and gender equality to achieving sustainable development. And while progress has been made in that time, there is still a long way to go to achieve these goals.

These are five ways women, and the world, are held back when both men and women lack access to sexual and reproductive health education and safe, voluntary family planning methods.

  1. Girls and women who are unable to make informed decisions over their own bodies and plan their families face greater health risks.
  2. Girls who become pregnant unintentionally often leave school and miss out on their education.
  3. When women cannot plan their own futures, they lose out on job opportunities.
  4. Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and information most impacts those who are already vulnerable.
  5. When girls and women do not have access to sexual and reproductive health care, gender inequality is perpetuated.

Read the full article about family planning and gender equality by Sushmita Roy at Global Citizen.