The Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Liberia, Babatunde Osotimehin, has said the global community has an obligation to advance the new agenda for sustainable development, which enshrines gender equality as one of its goals.
Osotimehin said the ability of women and girls to exercise their basic human rights, including their right to sexual and reproductive health, is a prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to a statement issued Wednesday on International Women's Day, he said women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and fear, without discrimination, adding that gender equality is also vital to sustainable development, peace and security.
"It is not a women's issue, it's an issue for all humanity and the world still has a long way to achieve full gender equality," Osotimehin noted.
He lamented that every year tens of thousands of girls are forced into child marriage; nearly one third of these before the age 15, adding that some 200 million girls have endured female mutilation.
Osotimehin pointed out that some women want modern family planning but do not have access to it, and therefore are unable to choose whether or when to have children.
He noted that studies have demonstrated clearly that family planning is the best investment countries can make for human development.
Osotimehin said ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning means putting the poorest, most marginalized and excluded women and girls at the forefront of efforts, particularly those in conflict and fragile settings.
"Women and girls who can make choices and control their reproductive lives are better able to get quality education, find decent work, and make free and informed decisions in all spheres of life," he added.
The UNFPA Executive Director urged the global community to make a giant leap forward that saves lives, empowers women and girls, advances gender equality and ensures a more prosperous future for all.
Osotimehin said UNFPA is fully committed to ensuring the rights of women and girls to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning.