Visiting Norwegian Member of Parliament (MP) Heidi Bordby Lunde has said investing more resources in family planning is key for Malawi’s economic growth.
Lunde was speaking in an interview on Wednesday in Lilongwe after meeting with UNFPA officials on achievements and challenges related to sexual and reproductive health rights.
“If you want to make a hard and sustainable economic growth in Malawi as you see in other countries, you need to have some sort of family planning, whether the authorities wants it or not,” she challenged.
Lunde who is a member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs in the Norwegian Parliament called on Malawi Government to ensure access to family planning services at all levels and suggested that both the Malawi Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education should work closely in the provision of family planning services to youth in schools.
“This is helpful because it is about how you can make Malawi grow economically. When 52 percent of the country’s population is not working because they are carrying children it hurts the economy,” she advised.
The MP said her country, Norway, is performing well economically today because it successfully stopped issues of early pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies by increasing availability of family planning services at all levels which has helped more women have ample time to do some economic activities than staying home caring for babies.
“I think a lot of people think that Norway is a wealthy country because we have oil and natural resources. But looking into the data by the Ministry of Finance, the inclusion of women in the workforce has contributed more to Norwegian economy than the whole income from our natural resources,” she said.
Lunde who is with fellow parliamentarians in Malawi to follow up on sexual and reproductive rights as well as gay rights said she is impressed with some of the results that Malawi has had over the years.
She further applauded Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) for the work they are doing in sexual reproductive health and promotion of youth friendly services. She also commended Senior Chief Kachindamoto who is working with FPAM for ending early marriages in her area, saying political and traditional leaders should emulate the good work the chief is doing.
However, Lunde called on stakeholders to do more in ending some cultural practices that promote early marriages and sexual practices.
Speaking at the same function, Executive Director of Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) Thokozani Mbendera said early pregnancies are rampant due to several factors including self-boarding, cultural practices, and poverty. He said the problem might be worsened by the problem hunger in the country.
According to Mbendera, 50 percent of all adolescent girls are becoming pregnant before they attain their 19th birthday and that most of the teen mothers do not return to school after delivering, which is bad for Malawi economy.
“Statistics are showing that the pregnancy rate has increased from 26 to 29 therefore we have a lot of work to do and we will take on the challenge.
“We will work mainly to continue lobbying the Ministry of Education to soften their policy because their policy does not allow provision of sexual reproductive services in schools yet those are the areas where a lot of youth and girls are found. We think we should be considerate that we should reach out to the youth with services,” Mbendera said.