IPPF addresses General Debate of Commission on the Status of Women

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IPPF was accepted to make an oral statement in the General Debate of CSW, a golden opportunity to put our issues on the record and to directly address member states. The statement was presented by IPPF’s Estelle Wagner, International Advocacy Coordinator in our Western Hemisphere Regional office in New York. She addressed the 'Interactive Panel - 'Building the evidence and monitoring results—gender statistics and indicators'.

Women and girls around the world are still being denied fundamental rights: the right to control their bodies, the right to decide the size and spacing of their families, and the right to decide their futures. Twenty years after all member states recognised that reproductive rights were central to women’s and girls’ lives. Twenty years after the world agreed “the human rights of women include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

Twenty years later, I am shocked that 225 million women who want to control their fertility do not have access to modern contraception. On behalf of every girl who is denied the opportunity for empowerment through schooling and comprehensive sexuality education, on behalf of the one in three women worldwide who experience violence,  I stand before you, and call for urgent change.

And the change we are waiting for is a matter of life and death. The Declaration itself noted: “The prevalence among women of poverty and economic dependence, their experience of violence, negative attitudes towards women and girls, discrimination due to race and other forms of discrimination, the limited power many women have over their sexual and reproductive lives and lack of influence in decision-making are social realities which have an adverse impact on their health. Good health is essential to leading a productive and fulfilling life, and the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility, is basic to their empowerment."

 Without access to reproductive rights and health, as the Declaration noted women’s opportunities to contribute in public and private life, including opportunities for education and economic and political empowerment are severely restricted.

So the challenges are both severe and clear. As we look towards the post-2015 development agenda, the global community needs to put women and girls at the centre and to prioritise their access to sexual and reproductive rights and health. When women have control over their bodies, access to good health and education, decision-making roles and meaningful employment, and can live lives free of violence, they can contribute to the sustainable development of their communities and progress towards gender equality is accelerated.

For the post-2015 framework to deliver the structural change required to eliminate poverty, it must build on the framing principles of the Declaration, including the understanding of the interrelationship between gender inequality, access to sexual and reproductive rights and health, and poverty eradication. We must have an ambitious, transformative goal on gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment and women’s human rights.

We must protect the consensus of the Member State lead Open Working Group process and retain specific targets on sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights under both the gender and health goals. Retaining these targets on both service delivery under the health goal, and access to reproductive rights under the gender equality goal is an essential stepping stone towards sustainable development. Only by fulfilling these rights will women, men and young people be able to make  informed decisions about critical aspects of their lives, which determine their individual, communities’ and their country’s future. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action clearly defines the scope of women’s human rights and these principles must be clearly reflected in the post-2015 framework. Women’s lives and the future of our world depend on it.