Countries that invest in family planning are laying the groundwork for sustainable development and a healthier, more prosperous future. Rights-based family planning is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which envision a world where women and girls are empowered to shape their own lives; where families are healthier and children flourish; where an educated labor force supports a vibrant modern economy; and where prosperity and stability serve as antidotes to extremism.

The FP2020 goal of enabling 120 million additional women and girls to use contraceptives is a critical global milestone on the path to meeting Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5, which call for universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality. But FP2020 progress also contributes to the entire Sustainable Development Goal agenda. Rights-based family planning is a powerful intervention with ripple effects across the whole of society. When women are able to use modern contraception, their quality of life improves and their families and communities prosper. When countries ensure that rights-based family planning is available to all, the result is a cascade of benefits across multiple sectors.


For many countries, the long-term prospects for a more prosperous future are linked with the demographic transition: the shift from high rates of mortality and fertility to low rates. Most FP2020 countries are in the early stages of the transition. Mortality rates have fallen significantly—especially infant mortality—but fertility rates are still high. The result is rapid population growth and an enormous youth bulge.

This rising generation of young people represents a tremendous opportunity. If they choose to have fewer children than their parents and grandparents did, that will unlock the possibility of a demographic dividend: the burst of economic growth that can happen when the ratio of working adults to dependent children increases. With fewer dependents to support, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right investments in health, education, and jobs are made.


In view of the demographic dividend’s pivotal importance to the future of the continent, the African Union dedicated 2017 to the theme. In January the AU adopted the “Roadmap to Harness the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth,” developed in collaboration with UNFPA and other partners. The Roadmap is built around four thematic pillars, with key actions and deliverables defined for each:

  • Employment and entrepreneurship
  • Education and skills development
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Rights, governance, and youth empowerment

African member states have subsequently begun to prepare their own national roadmaps, outlining the investments in youth they will undertake to realize the demographic dividend. FP2020 countries that have launched demographic dividend roadmaps include Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.

But in order for this to happen, women and girls need to be able to use contraception. Girls need access to education, freedom from early and forced marriage, and an equal chance in life. As they reach adulthood they need to be able to decide for themselves whether, when, and how many children they want, and to participate in the paid labor force if they choose. They need full, unfettered access to family planning and other sexual and reproductive health services.

This is why rights-based family planning is essential. It’s the fundamental building block—the basic first step—that positions countries to reap the demographic dividend while respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the rights of their citizens.