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Rutgers has its origins in concern for population growth, one of the underlying causes of poverty worldwide. Population growth also has strong influence on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally.

Smaller families are good for women, for their children, for their communities and for the planet

Roy Brown
Roy Brown
Founder World Population Foundation (predecessor of Rutgers)

Impact population growth

By the close of this century, our planet will be home to some 11.2 billion people, which is a 50% increase compared to today. This growth will take place disproportionately: the population in developed countries, including the Netherlands will remain stable or even slightly decline, while the population in Sub-Saharan Africa may quadruple. This rapid population growth is caused by declining mortality rates, increasing life expectancy, high fertility rates, and early pregnancies. 

Africa’s rapid population growth not only affects the opportunities of parents and children, it also influences the economic development of countries, as it leads to greater demand for education, healthcare and employment, provisions that are often lacking. These are, however, important conditions for sustainable economic development, especially in countries with a young and fertile population.

The importance of freedom of choice

In many countries, the desired number of children reduces, increasing the need for contraceptive methods. Yet, the uptake of contraceptives remains low, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa: one in eight sexually active women does not want to get pregnant, but is not using any contraceptive method. As a result, approximately 39% of the pregnancies in developing countries is unintended. Among the causes of this “unmet need” for family planning are: low education, costs, lack of knowledge about contraceptive methods, fear of side effects, opposition from spouse and family, social and religious norms, low empowerment, and limited access to and availability of contraceptives. 


To address these issues, Rutgers stands for a human rights perspective. Providing comprehensive sexuality education, working on empowerment and gender justice, and improving access to contraception are essential. This will enable people to choose for themselves if they want to have children, how many, when, and with whom and will more often choose to have smaller families. Research shows that every US$1 spent on improving access to contraceptive methods, will yield US$120 in overall benefits, including health benefits, reduced pressure on public spending and the environment. Hence, investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights can have broader benefits and will contribute to sustainable development of both women and economies.

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