SEPTEMBER 2 — Recently, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights claimed that Malaysia’s poverty rate at 0.4 per cent was inaccurate, and pointed out an indication of poverty rate between 15 to 20 per cent was more realistic.
From the layman’s view point on the street, we see many hardly surviving with their meagre income till the end of the month, many people flocking to government health facilities until the healthcare staff are totally overwhelmed, many children who are poorly nourish despite living among the cities’ skyscrapers in particular the segment termed the urban poor and many who have just too many mouths to feed but hardly surviving.
Poverty is a result of many factors among them lack of education, large families, lack of job opportunities, low economic productivity and ill health.
Critical to reversing all these factors is access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Prioritising the sexual healthcare of adolescent girls and women in particular give rise to many economic benefits.
A girl who is able to complete her education unhindered by unplanned pregnancy for example, can continue to contribute to society by further job training, be an expert in her area of work, increase her productivity and earn much higher income. She can also enjoy a higher quality of life which in turn can encourage creativity, ingenuity and further the nation’s pool of talent.
A women unhindered by unplanned pregnancy can similarly stay in the work force longer, contribute more to productivity and better able to afford childcare with a smaller family.
Many women are able to lead in complex fields and become key opinion leaders in their area of expertise. Women’s contribution to double income family in the household often lead to better quality of life for themselves and their families and in turn better educated children with a more rewarding future for each child.
For all these to occur, we need to start with comprehensive sexual education in schools by imparting critical and accurate information to all students.
On that same note, emphasis must be placed on critical family planning services, training of healthcare professionals in contraceptive provisions and community engagements on the importance of planned pregnancy for all women and their families.
When families are smaller, there are less dependants for each family to take care, women are better able to contribute to critical workforce.
When women are healthy with each pregnancy carefully planned, the economic benefits are tremendous. This is termed the economic dividend which can contribute to significant economic growth in the nation.
In short, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and in particular family planning is one of the most effective and cost efficient means of tackling poverty.
The government, policy makers and the public must place family planning as well as sexual and reproductive health as the central tenets of all our policies.
By prioritising the reproductive health of women and girls, only then will Malaysia see a healthier, more economically advanced and vibrant society surpassing what even Vision 2020 ever envisioned.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.