Zonta International is partnering with UNFPA to strengthen the national capacities of the health sector and deliver a survivor-centered response to gender-based violence survivors in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Zonta International statement on World Population Day 2021

World Population Day has been observed for more than 30 years to enhance awareness of population issues and their relationship to the environment and development. Today, parts of the world are emerging from the depths of the pandemic while others are still fiercely battling COVID-19 as access to vaccines is still a faraway possibility.

Health care systems—particularly in the area of sexual and reproductive health—have been compromised by the pandemic, which has also revealed and intensified gender-based violence and the risk of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Additionally, many women's finances have been disrupted after leaving the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities or because their low-paying jobs were eliminated.

At the same time, many countries are increasingly concerned over changing fertility rates—which in the past has led to violations of human rights. UNFPA advises against reactionary policy responses, which it says can be "extremely harmful if they violate rights, health and choices," and instead calls for prioritizing reproductive health and rights for all through access to information and services in the face of fertility and demographic shifts.

Globally, only 55% of women have the power to make their own decisions about their bodies. This should be a wake-up call to governments, policymakers and development institutions.

"Bodily autonomy is directly linked to women's ability to make decisions about their own healthcare," says Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck. "Violations of bodily autonomy can be seen in the form of forced and child marriage, female genital mutilation, marital rape and 'marry your rapist' laws, honor killings and more."

UNFPA's 2021 State of the World's Population report outlines the challenges women across the globe face when their bodily autonomy is violated. The actions and results of Zonta International's service projects work to counteract these challenges, proving that our members' work and donations are making a difference for the better.

Zonta International encourages our members to donate to our international service projects and to advocate for women's rights and gender equality both locally and globally.

"Together, we have the power to change the individual lives of women and girls around the world by combatting laws and societal norms that perpetuate any inequality women face," Langenbeck said. "It is our duty to stay educated on vital topics surrounding the mission of Zonta."

11 JULY 2021