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Jakarta Post

After Nairobi, the only way forward is ‘three zeros’

  • Stevie Emilia

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, November 30, 2019   /   09:17 am
After Nairobi, the only way forward is ‘three zeros’ New lease of life: Over 6,000 participants attend the start of the Nairobi Summit in Kenya where they will unveil commitments to end preventable maternal death, meet all women’s demand for family planning and stop violence against women and girls by 2030. (JP/Stevie Emilia)

Within the next decade, no longer should mothers die while giving life; and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls should be out of the picture.

That is if the government stays true to its commitment announced at the Nairobi Summit in the Kenyan capital from Nov. 12 to 14.

At the summit, the Indonesian government announced its non-negotiable commitment to keep its promise made when adopting the landmark International Conference on Population and Development’s (ICPD) program of action in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994.

The Cairo summit was groundbreaking in transforming how the links between population, poverty reduction and sustainable development were addressed — by putting the rights, needs and aspirations of individuals, especially women and girls, at the center of sustainable development. By putting people first.

In Nairobi, 25 years later, the promise was given a fresh lease of life with the Nairobi Statement — a forward-looking framework of commitments to complete Cairo’s unfinished business.

The statement calls for the achievement of “three zeros” — zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls — by 2030, the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

While Indonesia does not endorse the Nairobi Statement, citing it was not in a position to do so due to national regulations and policies, it insists on its strong and nonnegotiable commitment toward meeting the goals.

The government delegates disclosed that in the past 25 years, Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country and home to over 270 million people, had shown progress, with regulations, policies and strategies on reproductive health, family planning and prevention of violence against women and girls in place.

The use of modern contraceptives has increased from 52.1 percent in 1994 to 57.2 percent in 2017, while skilled birth attendance has reached 90 percent, official figures show.

The total fertility rate was reduced from 2.85 percent in 1994 to 2.38 in 2017; while during the same period, the age-specific fertility rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 decreased from 61 to 36.

The progress, however, is far too slow given the high maternal mortality, violence and child marriage. Millions of women and girls in Indonesia still cannot exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The maternal mortality rate remains high at 305 per 100,000 live births as of 2018/2019; in 2015 alone, around 15,509 women died of preventable causes linked to pregnancy and childbirth.

The high rate is blamed mainly on low quality of care, poor access to information and services and three delays: delay in decisions to seek care, delay in reaching care and delay in receiving adequate care.

Violence against women remains high, as one out of three women experience violence in their lifetime, not just at home but also in public spaces.

Child marriage remains a big issue, with one out of nine women married before their 18th birthday in 2016 alone.

Every year around 10.6 percent of women who do not want to have any more children do not use contraceptives for various reasons — for fear of side effects, lack of access to information and services, lacking money to pay for the services; or being hindered by cultural or religious beliefs.

In Nairobi, the Indonesian government announced it was pushing forward the ICPD commitments into national priorities and planning to, among other things, increase the budget on family planning and endorsing laws on fighting sexual violence in all aspects of life. Indonesia also committed to attaining 100 percent standardized antenatal care and skilled birth attendance for all mothers in Indonesia, as well as improving public-private partnerships to support the commitments.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has announced his commitment on “human capital” as partially reflected in the increased health budget by 13 percent to Rp 132.2 trillion (US$9.4 billion).

But to make the most of the plan, the government should do more, such as fully implementing regulations and policies that put people first and getting the much-awaited ones, like the sexual violence bill, in place.

Even in Kenya, the Indonesian delegation stopped short of endorsing the Nairobi Statement — likely to avoid controversy back home, mainly with conservative groups, since some think the statement calls for the legalization of abortion and allows the provision of contraceptives to unmarried couples. It does not.

The nonbinding statement clearly states the legality of abortion is the prerogative of each sovereign state, and only where abortion is not against the law, it should be safe and accessible.

With only 10 years left to reach the goals, and progress being unacceptably slow even after 25 years, can Indonesia step up efforts to keep its promise to reach the three zeros?

Does the government have the political will to fight for a better future for girls, for women, for everyone against all odds?

Can the government deal with the challenges to live up to the global commitment to make sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights a reality for us all?

As time is short, bold and innovative plans are urgently needed to spark change and meet unmet needs through strategic partnerships involving all stakeholders — from youth, civil society groups and communities to the private sector, and increasing financing to ensure effective and accelerated implementation of all efforts.

It is best to never lose sight of who we are fighting for — to protect and promote the rights of all people, especially women and girls. We better make sure that promises made are promises kept.

***

Journalist at The Jakarta Post who covered the International Conference on Population and Development in Nairobi, Kenya, from Nov. 12 to 14.