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A pledge to close the fertility gap


Meet The Why Wait Agenda, a pro-choice perspective on the issue of low birth rates


A pledge to act to close the fertility gap, the imbalance between how many children people would like to have and how many they actually have, has been launched today at the European Parliament in Brussels by The Why Wait Agenda, a European initiative focusing on the topic of parenthood and birth rate from a lay and progressive standpoint. 


Journalist and social entrepreneur Eleonora Voltolina, the founder of The Why Wait Agenda, is calling upon current members of the EP and candidates in the upcoming European elections to join the effort to make the fertility gap a European priority: ‘Almost everywhere in Europe people would like to have slightly more than 2 children; but the total fertility rate in Europe is currently only 1.53 children per woman. Our main goal is to reduce this gap’. 


Unlike other initiatives dedicated to the issue of low birth rates, The Why Wait Agenda has a profoundly secular and pro-choice perspective and identity. ‘It is not about convincing anyone to have children, or to have more children’ Voltolina points out: ‘We simply want to create the conditions so that everyone can be free to have the number of children they would like, and to have them, or at least start trying to, when they want. Too many people feel compelled to postpone parenthood – hence the name of the initiative, why wait? – due to external factors’. These go from fertility issues (according to WHO, one in six people of childbearing age worldwide are infertile) to discrimination against women in the workplace for being potentially “at risk of motherhood”, inequality in care activities within the family, non-inclusive access to medically assisted reproduction, and many others.


The main points of the pledge, that already has the support of Equimundo: Center for Masculinities and Social Justice and the MenCare Global Campaign, are: fertility awareness and education, equal parental leave policies, a cultural shift towards equal parenting, action against the “motherhood penalty” in the labor market, and universal access to medically assisted reproduction to all citizens, no matter their marital status or sexual orientation. The pledge also rejects restrictions to contraception and abortion as a policy strategy to increase birthrate, and lists having children as a reproductive right.


‘‘I am glad to be signing this pledge which express a thoughtful and well-structured stance on the crucial issue of birth rate’’ stated MEP Brando Benifei at the launching event, hosted by the association Journalism for Social Change – with its initiative The Why Wait Agenda – and the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats at The European Parliament.


During the event Joyce Harper, professor of Reproductive Science at the Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, and Jakub Dejewski, chairman at The European Fertility Society, both stressed the importance of information, education and fertility awareness, in order to be able to make informed decisions about having a family.


For those who dismiss low birth rates as a non-issue, citing the global population of 8 billion, the Italian demographer Alessandra Minello from the University of Padova recalls that ‘this narrative does not acknowledge that declining fertility is the result of unfulfilled desires for parenthood’.


Jens Van Tricht, founder and director of the Emancipator Foundation, endorsed the MenCare Global Fatherhood Campaign and stressed the need ‘for a profound cultural change and transformation, liberating everyone from gender stereotypes that are limiting us all’; and Yannick Fischer, Changemaker Europe Co-Lead at Ashoka Belgium, outlined Ashoka’s work on systemic change.


‘As a woman, I really hope that the next European Parliament will not consider the falling birth rate only as a women’s issue’ says Voltolina, also editor-in-chief of the Journalism for Social Change association, through which she coordinates The Why Wait Agenda: ‘On the contrary, in order to reach gender equality we need to consider children as a shared responsibility, inside the family and out. That’s why we ask EP candidates of all political groups who agree with this modern way of looking at birth rates to sign our pledge. Let’s create a more inclusive and equal world, starting at parenthood.’



Brussels, January 24th, 2024

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