‘Women have no say in number of children’

. . . UNFPA puts planned pregnancies in the limelight


MASERU – In rural areas, many women lack the freedom to decide the number and timing of their children’s birth. Additionally, numerous girls miss out on schooling due to unintended pregnancies, an issue that has persisted for centuries. This situation underscores the need to advocate for planned pregnancies.

This concern was highlighted by Innocent Modisaotsile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative, during a media capacity-building workshop this week. The workshop emphasised the media’s role in reducing high maternal mortality rates in Lesotho, among other issues.

Modisaotsile said in many countries, including Lesotho, children are often forced into adulthood through means such as forced marriages and early childbearing, leaving them without control over their own bodies.

He also noted the tragic reality of women dying during childbirth. He said the media, with its powerful tools, can document and share stories of the sufferings that women and girls endure, thereby sensitising policymakers to these issues and the positive changes that are emerging.

He acknowledged the progress made but stressed that significant challenges remain, particularly concerning gender-based violence. “We call upon you to help us reflect on and understand the issues driving such behaviour and to explore ways to end the high levels of gender-based violence in this country,” he pleaded.

He noted that HIV has been a persistent issue, with new infections occurring almost daily, highlighting the urgent need for increased awareness. “We trust that through your powerful communication, you can help us create critical awareness to stop the transmission of HIV,” he said.

Modisaotsile noted that the media can uncover hidden challenges and raise awareness about these issues. He pointed out that the media can also identify some of the nation’s challenges and reflect on them to increase general awareness, particularly concerning sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

He further stated that he values the media’s role in amplifying the voices of marginalised individuals, who often suffer in silence, unable to communicate the issues threatening their lives. He also emphasised the media’s role in ensuring accountability from duty-bearers.

“We know, for instance, that governments make commitments at the national level through the national strategic development plan, regionally through SADC, continentally, and globally. It is really up to the media to help ensure accountability,” he said.

“But it is not only the government that makes commitments; other stakeholders, such as civil society organisations, also make commitments. We count on the media to help ensure that these promises are fulfilled,” he added.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which in 1994 set a bold agenda prioritising human rights and dignity in sustainable development. To commemorate this milestone, UNFPA facilitated a review process to celebrate achievements, assess challenges, and reflect on the future of the ICPD agenda. The media has been identified as a critical force capable of transforming and influencing the implementation of the ICPD agenda.