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"Peace is not just the absence of war. Many women under lockdown for #COVID19 face violence where they should be safest: in their own homes. Today I appeal for peace in homes around the world. I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic." - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 5 April, 2020.

For more on what UNFPA does to protect women from gender-based violence, including in the context of COVID-19, here's our special technical brief on this crucial issue:

For all our key COVID-19 material, visit:


Doctors, nurses and midwives are critical in the fight to contain COVID-19 in hard-hit Iran. Listen to their stories of courage and sacrifice in this International Women's Day 2020 special on Generation Equality! Today and every day, UNFPA honours the work of all women health care providers, in Iran and globally.


Do you know which country has committed to ensuring all women and girls can access quality information and services aimed at ending gender-based violence by 2030?

Or which country has committed to reducing its maternal mortality ratio from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births over the next decade?

At the landmark ICPD25 Nairobi Summit, 26 governments from Asia and the Pacific were joined by civil society representatives and the private sector, resulting in 152 commitments towards accelerating and achieving the Programme of Action.

Our new video spells it all out!


We are working hard, day after day, to ensure rights and choices for all and we won't give up until no one is left behind, because at UNFPA we believe everyone counts. Here is a glimpse of what we did in 2018 to help advance rights and choices for all. 




The UNFPA Asia-Pacific Regional Office presents a special "ICPD25: What's Changed?" panel discussion on midwifery, to commemorate the International Day of the Midwife 2019, recorded in Bangkok on April 30, on the sidelines of the APRO Workshop on Roadmaps to End Preventable Maternal Mortality in the 12 highest burden countries.

The panellists: 

From the significant changes in midwifery practice across Asia-Pacific and globally since the ICPD Programme of Action in 1994 to the unfinished business in ending maternal mortality as we seek to accelerate ICPD and achieve the SDGs, our panelists share their experiences and contributions to UNFPA's Transformational Result of zero maternal deaths - including deeply-felt personal stories of what they've witnessed in the field, not only in numerous countries across Asia-Pacific but also through their work in other regions, including Africa.

This inspiring panel discussion explains what UNFPA and its partners have done to end maternal and newborn deaths, including in humanitarian settings such as Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, and to strengthen midwifery as a profession by working with governments and civil society partners to empower and elevate midwives in the sphere of public health.

We dedicate this edition of What's Changed? to all the midwives and skilled birth attendants the world over, resonating with this year's IDM theme: Midwives - Defenders of Human Rights!


Reproductive rights and choices have become a reality for more women than ever. Although continuing our success is by no means a certainty: rights are still out of reach for too many women. Our challenge is to finish the unfinished business of guaranteeing rights and choices for all. Watch this companion video to our 2019 flagship State of World Population report "Unfinished Business: Ensuring Rights and Choices for All."


Getting 179 governments to agree on something is never easy.

But that’s exactly what happened at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. After four years of comprehensive consultations and heated negotiations leading up to the Conference, the result was a Programme of Action that, for the first time, placed individual dignity and human rights firmly at the heart of human development.

It did so by reconciling diverse views on population and development, gender equality, sexual and reproductive health, and sustainable development; acknowledging rights and choices for all; and recognising that these interlinked pillars are key to shaping and implementing policies that will empower individuals and, by extension, entire societies and nations.

Truly revolutionary at the time, ICPD remains all the more urgent and relevant a quarter-century later in this era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.

This video - created for the 2018 Mid-Term Review of the Asian Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development -  demonstrates why.


The biggest joy in her life is her son. But Sara Ghorbani remembers the time when motherhood seemed like a distant dream.

Two years into her marriage, Sara’s husband Fouad lost his job at a time when the Iranian economy was suffering from severe stagnation, inflation, and unemployment. “At first, I was against having a child,” said the 35-year-old beautician, who lives with her husband in a two-bedroom apartment just outside the capital Tehran. “I kept saying, it’s hard. We weren’t sure if we could care for a child or provide the proper upbringing.” But the couple never gave up the dream of having a child and decided they would no longer wait for things to improve.

“In our hearts, we knew we wanted a child – a child who belongs to us. The thought never left our minds,” said Sara. “We decided if we want it, we can make it happen.” Five years ago, Sara and Fouad became proud parents to a baby boy named Caren. The couple says raising a child has been the biggest challenge of their lives, but they have never been happier.

“Sure, it’s hard, but it becomes habit,” said Sara. “It’s like God gives us the energy and stamina. When I look at Caren and how he’s growing, I really enjoy it,” said Fouad. “I wanted a child before I got too old. That’s why I’ve never regretted this.”

Sara and Fouad are happy with their decision to have a child, but the Iranian government would be happier if they had more. That’s because for the past three decades Iran’s married couples have had fewer babies and analysts say the trend is threatening the country’s economy and cultural stability.

“It makes us very concerned,” said Doctor Ali Reza Marandi, a professor of pediatrics and Iran’s former Health Minister. “Low fertility rates can cause severe damage to a country’s future.” During the 1980s, Iran faced a much different problem. Population experts say married couple were having too many children.

It was Marandi who led a successful campaign to curb Iran’s growing fertility rate which stood at nearly seven babies per woman – the country’s highest level ever recorded.

Under the government-funded family planning campaign designed to counter the 1980s baby boom, family size in Iran dropped from nearly seven children to less than two by 2003. It was the largest drop in fertility rate ever recorded.

Today Iran’s total fertility rate is 2.01 births per woman- the lowest among Islamic countries, and slightly less than the target of 2.1. Some population experts say a fertility rate of 2.1 is required to keep the population stable – neither rising or falling.

Marandi says the future health of Iran’s economy depends in large part on married couples having more children, otherwise there may not be enough young workers to drive the economy, and health workers to care for the elderly.

“If this trend continues, it will be tremendously expensive for the economy to sustain,” said Marandi. “Those who produce in an economy are the young people. If the young continue to decrease and the elderly continue to increase, we may reach a point, in just a few years, when we will not be able to feed and care for the elderly.”

In 2014, the Iranian government launched an advertising campaign urging young couples to have more babies. Outdoor billboards posted throughout Tehran read, ‘More children, happier life.’ Iran’s Supreme Leader called on Iranians to have “four or five children” to contribute to the development of the country.

Since the campaign, Iran’s total fertility rate has increased slightly, but analysts and government officials say they still face challenges.

Many young Iranian women are postponing plans to marry to get an education instead. An increasing number of men say they can’t afford to get married and are waiting for the economy to improve. Many Iranians who do marry choose to pursue careers instead of having children.

Sara and Fouad both work full-time jobs to provide for their son and they still worry about the future of Iran’s economy, but they say they are proof that, even when circumstances are not ideal, you can get married, have children, and live a happy life. “I think whenever you want something, you can make it happen. The important thing is you have to want it,” said. Sara.

“The fact that we have a child who comes from me, this is a wonderful thing. It takes away the entire day’s troubles.”


“I started dancing when I was 15,” Kate says. While performing at a fair in the Thai town of Nonthaburi then, she met a man. “He was older than me. He was funny and handsome. I didn’t like him at first, but he grew on me.”

Back then, Kate didn’t know about contraception or the risks of having sex without it and eventually became pregnant. Now 17, she lives in a in Bangkok shelter for teenage mothers.

About 1.6 million babies were born to teenage mothers in Thailand over the last 15 years, with a 54 per cent increase from 2000 to 2014. In 2016 alone, over 14 per cent of all pregnancies in the country were to adolescents.

To help girls like Kate prevent pregnancy until they are older and decide to start a family, the Government of Thailand passed a law making contraception and information available to all people between the ages of 10 and 19.

In Thailand, comprehensive sexuality education, crucial to ensuring young people can make well-informed decisions about their bodies and relationships, is taught in almost all high schools across the country, but the quality varies widely. A new law requires all high schools in Thailand to adopt the curriculum, although implementation remains a challenge.

“We can’t stop teenagers from having sex, but we can help them make it safer for them,” says Dr. Jetn Sirathranont, Chairman of the Committee on Public Health in Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly.

Kate's story represents one end of Thailand’s fertility challenge.  

On one hand, adolescents lack access to information and sexual and reproductive health services and are seeing their futures diminished through unintended pregnancies. On the other hand, women are aiming to start families later in life and finding that their reproductive years have passed.



“My parents were farmers. They didn’t have money to send me to school, so I came to Bangkok to work when I was 12,” says Sanit, now 40, as she opens the dressmaking shop where he has worked for years.

“I’ve lived in a disciplined way,” Sanit says. “I worked hard and finished high-school outside of my job. I didn’t have time to find a husband, let alone have children.”

“So, when I married last year, I knew I had to have kids quickly. But the doctor found a growth in my womb, which, combined with my age, had made it hard for us to conceive.”

Sanit is like an increasing number of women in Thailand who pursued jobs at the expense of marriages and having children. By the time they are ready to start a family, it is often too late for them to become pregnant or deliver without complications. Fertility treatments are available in Thailand but are too expensive most people.

“Increasing numbers of people are putting economic security and stability ahead of starting families,” says Dr. Sorapop Kiatpongsan, a physician specializing in fertility at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “Women who have passed their peak fertility years need correct information and affordable treatment options,” he says.

Sanit’s story represents one end of Thailand’s fertility challenge. On one hand, adolescents lack access to information and sexual and reproductive health services and are seeing their futures diminished through unintended pregnancies. On the other hand, more and more women are aiming to start families later in life and finding that they’re reproductive years have passed.