- Balanced population growth must to achieve health, education, economic goals; Speakers
By Hamid Khan Wazir
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: “Integration of health and population welfare services is critical for improving the quality of life and wellbeing of our people. Pakistan’s rapid population growth poses serious challenges for achieving our development prospects.
The government continues to advocate for population stabilization to achieve a balance between population and resources. We are taking special measures to meet the country’s development prospects and improving the health and wellbeing of our people.”
This was stated by Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Member National Assembly and Parliamentary Secretary for Health in her keynote remarks while addressing Young Parliamentarians at an advocacy seminar on Pakistan’s population issue.
The meeting was organized by the Population Center Pakistan in collaboration with the Young Parliamentarians Forum (YPF), the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), and Population Council.
The seminar was held to facilitate young legislators to broaden their understanding of Pakistan’s population dynamics and its impact on national development indicators.
Young Parliamentarians, representing major political parties from the National and Provincial Assemblies, and members from the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan attended the meeting here on Wednesday.
Addressing Members of Parliament at the meeting, MNA Dr. Nausheen Hamid pointed out parliamentarians’ role as pivotal for oversight and accountability to address the population challenge. Dr. Nausheen called out to Young Parliamentarians to become role models for their young constituents and advocate for change in fertility behaviors amongst youth.
In his welcome remarks, Farooq Azam, CEO, Population Centre Pakistan shed light on the impact of rapid population growth and asked the elected representatives from National and Provincial Assemblies to take immediate measures for reducing the growth rate to a sustainable level. “The critical mass of young, dynamic legislators can help increase the acceptability and dissemination of the rationale behind the Council of Common Interests decisions to check population growth and the new messaging on balance between population and resources amongst youth,” he said. In her remarks, General Secretary of the Young Parliamentarians Forum and Member, National Assembly, Uzma Riaz said that multifarious challenges of a rapidly growing population call for stronger political commitment and investment in family planning programs in Pakistan.
She further stated that ensuring universal access to family planning is not just critical but also a cost-effective intervention for attaining sustainable population growth and poverty alleviation.
Citing Pakistan’s high population growth rate, Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council said sustainable population growth will result in less children out of school and fewer people living in poverty. “The Council of Common Interests recommendations of 2018 provide an excellent roadmap for achieving sustainable population growth and need to be implemented in their true letter and spirit. Parliamentarians, both at the federal and provincial levels, have a critical role in creating a conducive environment through grass-root accountability; advocacy for population stabilization and strong policy reforms centered on capturing the demographic dividend in the country.”
Recognizing that population growth is a cross-sectoral issue that impacts all aspects of life, legislators expressed their enthusiastic support for urgent and substantial improvement in accessing to family planning and maternal health services for women and young people. Elected representatives said the resource distribution under the NFC award should not be based only on population size but additional development indicators such as progress on reducing out of school children, the status of nutrition, infant and maternal mortality rate and incidence of poverty should be made part of the criteria for additional development funds for better performing provinces.
Legislators called to take radical steps to promote delivery, access, and uptake of family planning services to manage Pakistan’s high population growth rate. They stressed the need for enhancing support for universal education especially girls education and said family planning and birth spacing is critical for saving mothers’ lives as Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
Parliamentarians were of the view that greater involvement of grass root religious leaders was required to spread the word that balanced family size and birth spacing was in conformity with Islamic teachings. A large-scale national awareness campaign amongst citizens on keeping their family sizes small is need of the hour that builds on a national narrative of balance or tawazun between family size and resources, said the legislators on suggesting the way forward.
The participants reaffirmed their commitment to drive the political discourse on the population issue in the assembly floors by regularly dedicating time to discuss its impact on the country’s development and work collectively to prioritize Pakistan’s population as a critical issue amongst policymakers, government, and the general populace.