THE BLOG

A Golden Opportunity to Tackle Gender Inequality

04/17/2015 08:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 17, 2015

Every day around the world, 800 mothers die from preventable causes, 225 million women who want contraception can't get access it and we have an unprecedented 1.8 billion youth in the world.

The global challenges we face are huge, but at this moment, we have the chance to make huge changes to the world we live in, to make it the kind of world we want to live in.

We have the chance to ensure that women can plan the number of children they want to have, we have the chance to stop women having to face unsafe and illegal abortions and to try to bring about gender equality.

At IPPF, we don't believe that we will ever eradicate poverty or create sustainable development if we don't stamp out inequality between men and women. This is both practical and political.

Women and girls need access to the sexual and reproductive medical services they need but they also need access to their sexual and reproductive rights.

At this moment we stand on the brink -- we have the chance to ensure these fundamental services and rights are included in the next global blueprint which will shape the world over the next 15 years. The stakes couldn't be higher.

The timing is crucial, because at this moment global leaders are finalising the post 2015 framework. These targets that are agreed by world leaders over the next few months will replace the Millennium Development Goals which were agreed in 2000 to last until this year.

This month, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD 48) -- which tracks progress of the Programme of Action laid out in the ground-breaking International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) -- is taking place. It's theme, 'Realizing the future we want: integrating population issues into sustainable development, including the post-2015 development agenda,' and its timing couldn't be more significant.

The original ICPD put women's rights, empowerment and well-being at the centre of discussions about population growth and development and this year -- more than ever -- it's critically important that we stay true to those goals.

Over the last 15 years huge progress has been made. Contraceptive use has increased dramatically, but there remains a huge unmet need and fertility rates remain high in some of the poorest places in the world. In 18 countries, they stand at five children or more per woman, higher than desired fertility rates.

Deaths related to complications in pregnancy and childbirth have dropped by 47 per cent since 1994. Back then, more than half a million maternal deaths occurred each year. But even so, 800 mothers still die each day and the leading causes of those deaths are all preventable.

Life expectancy grew from 64.8 years in 1990-1995 to 70 years in 2010-2015. The greatest increases were in the least developed countries. However, many women continue to die early - often from causes related to pregnancy or poverty and their lower status throughout the world.

But there are grounds for optimism. One being the first ever BRICS (Federal Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, Republic of India, People's Republic of China, and Republic of South Africa) Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Population Matters. IPPF has been working with BRICS governments and with 40% of the world living in BRICS countries, these countries' approach to sexual and reproductive health will make a difference to hundreds of millions of lives.

But many challenges still lie ahead.

Many adolescents lack basic sexuality education, including how to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS. Fifteen million girls each year married as children. Still women are vulnerable to gender-based violence -- including FGM -- and endure fistula, and are at risk of being infected with HIV. They still suffer and die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and unsafe abortion is still a major cause of maternal death and disability.

We think we need to move the debate even further so we can try to tackle these challenges and at this moment, we have a golden opportunity to do that. Global leaders are joining forces to agree the next set of poverty reduction targets which will replace the ones Millennium Development Goals.

We are asking them to recognize that the right to sexual and reproductive health and rights are preconditions for social and economic development. And to address the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and young people.

We know that until these conditions are met, the goal of gender equality with full human rights for all won't be reached.