Realising Young Urban Women’s Rights to SRHR and Decent Work

48th Session of the Commission on Population and Development logo

This is a speech which was given by Susmita Choudrey, one of IPPF’s Advocacy Project Specialists, at CPD.   

“It’s a common phenomenon around the world for many girls to be married by 16, to have had their first child by 18 followed by many more children. Often by 25 these young women have huge responsibilities for raising the children, taking care of household chores and also working to feed many mouths.

Women everywhere have almost total responsibility for housework and child care. Even though we see an increase of women working in formal sector, the majority are still in the informal economy. Also the number of young women in the informal sector is dictated by gender norms. Discrimination on the basis of gender denies her access to education, forcing early marriage and become pregnant.  Across all cultures and economies it is found that women bear the highest share of unpaid care work.  This affects women’s access to sexual reproductive health services or reversely without access to SRH services women cannot choose when and how many children to have which actually increases their care burden.  It worsens the existing inequalities in women’s share of care-giving and has health and economic consequences.

Again women are unable to take jobs in the formal sector as they are supposed to be at home, taking care of the children and other household tasks. Work in the informal economy is insecure and unstable. The lack of regulation results in low wage, limited access to health care services, discrimination and  workplace sexual harassment etc. Migrant women are even more vulnerable due to their immigration status.

Simultaneously when women work in the formal economy it impacts on the care roles which means demand for other women to undertake these roles including cleaning, child caring etc. This then leads to a growth in the paid care sector.

It is a fact that that young women in poor urban areas will continue to work in the informal economy. Thus support for care work is critical for women to be able to access decent work. Policies and practices supporting and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights must be available to ensure that women get access to services whenever or wherever they need.  Programmes supporting economic rights and SRHR of young women are imperative to address young women’s needs.

IPPF works in 170 countries supporting economic rights and SRHR for poor marginalized girls and women. In Sri Lanka, IPPF along with its Member Association works with foreign employment bureaus and employment agencies targeting women who leave the country for domestic work by providing them with long term family planning methods and information on sexually transmitted diseases. Within the country, the Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka works closely with women working in the plantation sectors providing them with information and services on sexual reproductive health. In Cambodia, IPPF has established formal relationships with 30 factories in 3 major urban areas delivering interactive events during lunch time with information on SRH and workers are given vouchers for clinics. We meet the young women’s needs where they are: for example, young women factory workers work 6 days a week so we make sure our clinics are open on Sundays when these young women have their days off and the factories also have on site clinics. In Nepal, youth-led classes on SRHR for female factory workers help them gain knowledge and decide of their own body. All these support women to continue their work, making informed choices about their bodies.

But these are just few examples of innovations and efforts that are underway. It’s important that we advocate with governments to include SRHR in regulatory frameworks that supports women decent works.

These areas need to be priorities in the post 2015 framework and we urge donors and civil society partners to include SRHR in women’s economic empowerment programmes supporting women access to decent work.

We need to tackle harmful gender norms that restrict young people from accessing SRH services without judgment. Confidentiality must be maintained while providing services to them.

There needs to be participation from young people when it comes to designing, implementing and monitoring these programmes to ensure that their needs are addressed in a non-judgmental manner. 

Without ensuring that young women can realize their SRHR- they will not be able to access decent work and therefore no sustainable development.”