Imagine a world where no woman dies giving life, where unwanted pregnancies are a thing of the past, where every girl is able to attend school and receive a quality education, and where everybody -- including girls and women -- can exercise their rights and have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. That world is within reach, and the time to fight for it is now.
For those who care about maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights -- whether advocates, activists, private sector representatives, or policymakers -- we're approaching a very crucial time in a process that will affect girls and women around the world for decades to come. It's time to take a deep breath, and to come together for a next-to-final push through this last mile.
This week, negotiations on the future architecture of international development, known as the post-2015 development agenda, are entering a critical phase at the UN. The current global development framework, the Millennium Development Goals, expires at the end of 2015, and the international community has been engaged in a process to develop a new global framework over the last year. This week, the Open Working Group (OWG) for Sustainable Development Goals, a group of 70 countries who have been tasked with developing the sustainable development goals, is convening their last meeting before they hand over their suggestions and report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later in July.
This is not just another report that will end up collecting dust on a shelf somewhere. This report will provide part of the foundation for the new global framework that will guide national and international action and investment in development over the next 15 years, and will thus drive progress or lack thereof.
Getting the right language into the report will be tremendously important. If appropriate goals and targets are not included over the next week, if minds and positions are not changed, we risk getting a post-2015 global development framework where sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, including young people, and the rights and well-being of girls and women are excluded.
Throughout the negotiations, the majority of governments have identified sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as a priority to get the world on a sustainable path. However, there is push back from more conservative forces and in the latest version of the OWG's zero draft report from last week, sexual and reproductive health lost ground and was removed from the Health Goal (Goal #3 -- attain healthy lives for all). References to the health of young people are also non-existent.
This is a step backwards -- for the global process, for girls and women, and for the world as a whole -- for several reasons:
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to the health and well-being of all, but especially of girls and women. Without the ability to make fundamental decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives, including when and if to have children and how many, girls and women cannot fully exercise their most basic human rights. This includes the impact it would have on their equal access to education, employment and social and political participation. So if the world is serious about health and equal opportunities for women -- SRHR needs to be included.
- Also, it is difficult to talk about the planet and sustainability without talking about people, and it is very difficult to talk about people without addressing rights and reproduction. Voluntary family planning is a proven strategy to prevent thousands of maternal and newborn deaths, to positively affect population dynamics, as well as to help break the vicious cycle of poverty. Research shows that SRHR are essential for economic development -- and that it is a good investment. If the world is serious about both people and planet -- SRHR needs to be included.
- Finally, if we don't get targets and subsequent indicators related to sexual and reproductive health and rights - and on how young people are faring -- there is a risk that the issues won't be properly measured and will lose attention, action and accountability. What gets measured, gets done, so if the world is serious about creating a new development framework FOR ALL -- SRHR needs to be included.
Here are the issues we would like to see included in the Open Working Group's report -- and in the new Sustainable Development Goals:
- By 2030, end preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.
- By 2030, achieve sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health information, education, services and commodities, particularly for adolescents and youth.
- Achieve universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, in and out of school.
- By 2030, eliminate all harmful practices, especially child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations.
- By 2030, ensure the respect, promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, especially women and girls.
Organizations and individuals around the world are hard at work to make sure these targets are included and that the new development framework is "people centered." Women Deliver is supporting them, and so should you. We know from the lessons of the past that it takes more time correcting a wrong than it takes getting it right in the first place. And, we know that when you invest in girls and women - everybody wins.
Here is what you can do:
1. Write a letter to your government: The Open Working Group (OWG) released their draft report on June 30th with no targets for sexual and reproductive health and rights, other than maternal mortality and essential medicines (reproductive health supplies are not explicitly mentioned). Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights is mentioned under the Gender goal, but this is not good enough. If your government is represented in the OWG, write them a letter (download a template letter here) before July 18! Contact details for co-chairs - firstname.lastname@example.org and CsKorosi@mfa.gov.hu (Bulgaria / Croatia)
2. Contribute to the World We Want dialogues to add your voice to the online consultation - feel free to add Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
3. Add your name to the #IDecide petition from IPPF to be presented to the UN Secretary-General
4. Download the Women Deliver advocacy toolkit and infographics to make sure you have the latest data and rationale for investing in girls and women.
5. Watch Esther Agbarakwe, co-founder of the Youth Climate Coalition of Nigeria and Women Deliver Young Leader, speak about SRHR at the opening of the High-level Segment of ECOSOC
Organizations to follow on Twitter - tweet to #OWG13:
IWHC - https://twitter.com/IntlWomen
IPPF-Western Hemisphere - https://twitter.com/IPPF_WHR
IPPF-Global - https://twitter.com/ippf
Post2015.org - https://twitter.com/post2015
High-Level Task Force for ICPD - https://twitter.com/ICPDTaskForce
Beyond 2015 - https://twitter.com/Beyond2015
Women's Major Group - https://twitter.com/Women_Rio20
Major Group on Children and Youth - https://twitter.com/UNMGCY
Youth Coalition for SRR - https://twitter.com/youth_coalition
Resurj - https://twitter.com/RESURJ
Key Documents and Resources:
Letter from OWG13 Co-chairs
Open Working Group Overview
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Sustainable Development Goals -- position paper from SRHR organizations
Speech from Esther Agbarakwe, co-founder of the Youth Climate Coalition of Nigeria and Women Deliver Young Leader, at the opening of the High-level Segment of ECOSOC