Family Planning and Education – Two Keys to a Sustainable Future
If humanity is to succeed in a multigenerational effort to achieve a sustainable living scenario with planet Earth and its climate, the increased uptake of family planning, along with improving girls’ education around the world, will be key factors in such a victory. As Project Drawdown has quantified, the combined effect of these two imperatives are one of the most powerful emissions reductions strategies known: offering the possibility of avoiding 85.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide between 2020 and 2050.
Expert United Nations demographers currently project that global population will increase from around 8 billion today to 9.7 billion people by 2050 — a 20% increase. By 2100, the projections calculate an increase to 10.8 billion — a 35% increase.
These projections are built on expert assumptions about childbearing and human longevity trends. The most influential variable in these models is the total fertility rate. The good news is that by making immediate and transformative improvements in people’s lives today, history shows us that we can optimize the chances of population growth ending sooner rather than later.
Family planning and girls’ education have significant influences on fertility, or average number of births per woman, per lifetime. Population Media Center seeks to help global fertility, or average number of births per woman, per lifetime, decrease at least 14% from its current level of 2.4, down to 2.1 or lower. A global fertility rate of 2.1 would, eventually, cause population growth to stop.
For example, in Rwanda, we produced Umurage Urukwiye (Rwanda’s Brighter Future), a 312-episode radio show, which aired from October, 2012 through October, 2014. Endline research found that the likelihood of respondents saying they “currently use something to delay or avoid pregnancy” was 1.6 times greater compared to baseline. Moreover:
- Listeners were 1.6 times more likely than non-listeners to say they talked to their spouse or partner “once or twice” or “more often” about family planning in the last three months.
- Listeners were 1.5 times more likely than non-listeners to want three or fewer children.
- Listeners were 2.1 times more likely than non-listeners to know of a place to get a female condom.
Population Media Center also produced Pambazuko (New Dawn) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This 156-episode show originally aired from February, 2016 to August, 2017 and was rebroadcast from 2018 to 2019.
- Listeners were 2.4 times more likely than non-listeners to say “Yes” when asked “In general, do you approve of family planning?”
- Listeners were 1.8 times more likely than non-listeners to say that their ideal family size is three children or fewer
- Listeners were 2 times more likely than non-listeners to say “Yes” when asked “Do you think you will use a contraceptive method to delay or avoid pregnancy in the next six months?”
- Listeners were 3.2 times more likely than non-listeners to say that girls should be encouraged to pursue their education to a high level
- Listeners were 2.1 times more likely than non-listeners to say they strongly agree with the statement “Investing in a girl’s education benefits the entire family”
- Listeners were 1.9 times more likely than non-listeners to say that they strongly agree with the statement “Girls should have equal opportunity in education as boys”