(VIDEO) A Woman’s Right to Choose

Alexa Dougherty

I am a woman who can choose from many paths. Perhaps most importantly, I can choose whether or not I want to have sex, if I want to use a form of contraception, if I want to get married, and how many children I want to have. I know I am fortunate. In many developing countries, women are without these choices.  

Last week, Pamela Merritt blogged about the importance of an individual’s right to make choices about her reproductive health. Merritt believes that everyone should have the right to discuss their particular needs with a doctor to make decisions that are right for them, and I agree.

I am keenly aware of the choices I have in my life—and that these choices don’t exist in some areas of the world.  I am a woman who can choose from many paths. Perhaps most importantly, I can choose whether or not I want to have sex, if I want to use a form of contraception during intercourse, if I want to get married, and how many children I want to have. Not only do I have choices related to my sexual and reproductive health, but I have choices related to my education and career. I am often overwhelmed by the number of options or opportunities I have. Choosing which one is best for me is not always easy. Still, I know I am fortunate. In many developing countries, women are without these choices.

The UN recently released the World’s Women 2010 report and it showed this need. While there has been a decline in fertility rates over the past 50 years, much of sub-Saharan Africa lingers on the line of 5 children or more. In Western Europe, contraceptive use is about 74% compared to 22% in sub-Saharan Africa, and the lifetime risk of maternal death in Western Europe is just 1 in 11,000 compared to 1 in 61 in parts of Africa. These are just a few of the statistics that highlight reproductive health as a severe public health concern.

But these statistics are people. Take Georgette’s story, a mother in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was pregnant 20 times before the age of 38. Truly shocking. She had no choices. And sadly, she lost seven of her children due to starvation and has struggled to support other children. I am struck by how far developed countries have come since 1950 in relation to the progress of Western, Eastern, and central Africa and that there are still many stories like Georgette’s.

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That’s one of the reasons I recently started working at Pathfinder International. Since joining, I have been constantly amazed at the work that is being done to help support women, men, adolescents, and communities have opportunity to choose. Georgette’s story is a powerful example of someone impacted by Pathfinder’s work. See her story and the work Pathfinder is doing by clicking here.

I hope you’ll help more women like Georgette by sharing this blog, Georgette’s story or Pathfinder’s Make a Choice campaign. Together, we can do a lot to change the course of women’s lives and ensure no woman goes without a choice.

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