Women’s health rights under the spotlight at ICPD conference

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu says the promotion of women and girls’ health rights has been one of the highlights in the 25 years since the first International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held.

Many laws and policies that held [women and girls] back have been abolished or amended. Millions of women have contributed to the well-being of their families and are now more fully participating and leading in all sectors in their communities and countries.

This extraordinary progress was possible because we prioritised access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Education, health, food security and jobs can bring about gender equality only if women are also able to determine their childbearing, as a basic human right, Mthembu said on Tuesday at the 25th ICPD Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.

Held under the theme ‘Accelerating the Promise’, the summit saw representatives of the governments of 55 countries recommitting to ICPD goals, which should be fully achieved within the next decade.

The summit seeks to galvanise change and mobilise both political will and financial commitment to push forward the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action, as well as build momentum for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission, fulfilling the SRHR promise that was made in Cairo in 1994 has been impeded in part by persistent discrimination against women and girls.

Furthermore, women and girls across the world continue to experience sexual and gender-based violence (GBV).

Mthembu said the nations of the world agreed to the ICPD Programme of Action because their own experiences showed that major population and development challenges could not be solved without the meaningful participation of women and girls.

One hundred and seventy-nine countries once stood together to bring us to this point. Today, 4.3 billion people will have limited or no access to sexual and reproductive health services throughout their childbearing years unless we accelerate action now. So, we must urgently finish what we began.

We know what the world would be like if SRHR was provided to all. There would be 67 million fewer unintended pregnancies annually, 2.2 million fewer new-born deaths, and 224 000 fewer maternal deaths.

Women and adolescent girls in the poorest regions would have equal access to opportunities, services and rights available elsewhere. Universal health coverage schemes would accelerate accessibility and affordability of SRHR, including for young people, the Minister said.

The summit takes place from 12-14 November 2019. The South African delegation includes government officials from the Departments of Social Development, Health, International Relations and Cooperation, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Basic Education, Statistics South Africa and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.

Source: South African Government News Agency