Beyondheadlines Foreign Reporter
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), launching a movement called “7 billion Actions,” said the milestone was an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and health crises in nations where huge gender inequalities exist. The world’s population will surge to seven billion next month and the challenge is not a lack of living space but how to empower disenfranchised women and girls, the United Nations said Tuesday.
Global population has surged in recent decades. It took 123 years for the world to double from one billion in 1804 to two billion in 1927. From 1987, when the number hit five billion, it took just 11 years to add a billion more.
The rate of increase appears to be slowing, however, with 14 years expected between now and the next billion, and 18 years after that for the next, according to UN forecasts.
Ninety percent of the world’s young people are in the developing world, including about 900 million girls and young women who have little or no access to education and reproductive health, fund chief Babatunde Osotimehin said.
But policies implemented today on maternal health care, access to family planning and girls’ education, as well as eradicating female genital mutilation or the betrothing girls as young as five — are crucial to progress.
Many of them want to go to high school and university, delay marriage, improve their health care and have smaller families, but it will take “unprecedented cooperation,” according to Osotimehin.
“They are married away too often, too early and they bear children too early. So they never meet their potential,” he said. It’s not about space, it’s about equity, it’s about social justice and about proper distribution,” Osotimehin, who estimated that the seven billion figure will be reached on October 31, told a forum in Washington.
Lois Quam, who heads the US State Department’s Global Health Initiative, said investing in greater opportunities for girls was “essential” to solving the world’s top challenges.
“When women and girls’ rights are protected and promoted, when women and girls are healthy and educated… can participate fully in society, then progress is triggered in their families, their communities and their nations,” she said.