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Women and girls at the center: Nairobi Summit aims to settle unfinished business

Stevie Emilia

The Jakarta Post

Nairobi, Kenya  /  Wed, November 13, 2019  /  01:27 pm
Women and girls at the center: Nairobi Summit aims to settle unfinished business

New lease of life: Over 6,000 participants attend the start of the Nairobi Summit in Kenya on Tuesday where they will unveil commitments to end preventable maternal death, meet all women’s demands for family planning and stop violence against women and girls by 2030. (JP/Stevie Emilia)

Young people took center stage at the start of the three-day Nairobi Summit on Tuesday, speaking up and calling on governments to speed up in fulfilling the promises they made 25 years ago at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo.

In Cairo, 179 governments, including Indonesia, adopted an action plan for women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health for all — a groundbreaking move that has transformed the way in which the linkages between population, poverty reduction and sustainable development were addressed: by putting the rights, needs and aspirations of individual human beings at the center of sustainable development.

In Nairobi, these young people were voicing their demands while blending in with world leaders, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N’Dour along with representative of nongovernmental groups, business leaders and community leaders attending the Summit, which was opened by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Within three days, over 6,000 participants to the summit will unveil their commitments to end preventable maternal death, meet all women’s demands for family planning and stop violence against women and girls by 2030.

“Since the Cairo ICPD, we have put women and girls at the center of global development. This has paid off time and again. That ICPD vision is still far from reality, and that journey that began 25 years ago in Cairo is far from over,” said Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which is cohosting the summit with the governments of Kenya and Denmark, at the start of the Summit on Tuesday.

“It’s now time to finish that unfinished business.”

Despite remarkable progress in strengthening maternal health care and expanding access to quality contraceptive information and services over the past 25 years, the promise remains a distant reality for millions still being left behind.

Over 800 women die each day from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth while some 232 million women want to prevent pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.

The Summit aims to tackle these problems as well as put a stop to gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“The bold, rights-based vision of the ICPD — that development must put people first, that attention must be paid to strengthening equal access to health, education and human dignity for all persons — anticipated the bold, ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.

“As critical accelerators for the Sustainable Development Goals, the outcomes of ICPD must be carried forward. The success of the global agenda for sustainable development, our common framework for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, depends on it.”

Strong backing came from Denmark, with Minister for Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn saying his country will continue to be among the major donors in the world in support of the ICPD Agenda, in particular, of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“Denmark will continue to work at the very front together with partners. If we want to reach the 2030 agenda, we must fulfill the promise of Cairo,” he said.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country with over 270 million people, sent a some 30-member delegation, led by National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) chairman Hasto Wardoyo, to the summit.

Delegation members include officials from different ministries and agencies as well as young representatives and activists along with Haryono Suyono, a former coordinating minister for people’s welfare and BKKBN chairman under former president Soeharto’s era.

Haryono was praised for making Indonesia’s completely voluntary family planning program a success story and is a living witness to the 1994 Cairo summit. The success, mainly in bringing down the country’s population growth rate, gave Indonesia the 1989 UN Population Award in New York, the United States.

“President Soeharto received the award,” recalled Haryono, who contributed the program’s success to community involvement and strong political will to get everyone involved. “From then on, many countries came to us to learn about the family planning program.”

The Nairobi Summit puts focus on five main issues: sexual and reproductive health as part of universal health coverage, the funding required to realize all goals of the ICPD’s Program of Action, demographic diversity and its power to drive economic growth and sustainable development, measures to end gender-based violence and harmful practices and the right to sexual and reproductive health care, even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.

UNFPA’s director of communications and strategic partnerships, Arthur Erken, said a day ahead of the summit they had come a long way since the ICPD in living up to the global commitment to make sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights a reality for all.

“But we still have a long way to go before we can say that we have achieved that goal,” he said. “We must step up our efforts to make modern contraceptives available to all who want and need it, improve maternal health care and protect women and girls from gender-based violence and harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.”



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