ICPD25: Beyond the key takeaways

Women in Global Health has organized several meetings and attended inexhaustible conferences. ICPD25 was one of those that addressed its core mandates; gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights. Our objective was to meet and engage with women’s groups and gender advocates. With over 6,000 attendees, including at least 200 civil society institutions, ICPD25 far exceeded the expectations of likeminded advocates of women’s rights. It has taken long, and it might even take longer for the world to come to terms with the fact that women’s rights are human rights.

“A great deal of progress has been made since the original ICPD… But many of its aims have yet to be met” -- UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.

Remarkably, the President of the host country, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta said, “Empowering women essentially empowers all our families. It empowers our societies. It empowers our nations. It empowers our world.” The timely statement reinforces what we, at Women in Global Health, always strive to achieve since 2015. We believe that empowering women and advancing their rights will enhance sexual and reproductive health, promote gender transformative leadership, encourage healthy family planning practices, and improve maternal health.

In the 25th International Conference on Population and Development we discussed the need to address violence against women and girls. We shared actions of accelerating change contrary to the annual key takeaways that lack feat and often exacerbate the situation.

We at Women in Global Health:

  • Are elated to know that we have contributed effectively in addressing issues of Universal Health Coverage of which Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights play a significant role. Gender Equality and Women’s Rights are central to the attainment of UHC. Notably, several countries now realize that everyone has the right to access quality and affordable care without experiencing any financial hardship. WGH annually recognizes the contributions made by medical professionals including midwives in achieving SRHR as a UHC package. It does this by organizing the Heroines of Health conferences and award ceremonies in which the contributions of women medical professionals are recognized. ICPD25 explained the significance of allowing midwives to lead primary care by working with NGOs, governments, and the private sector. Several HoHs are midwives who work closely with their communities to provide affordable and quality care. With our efforts, we are ensuring that the interdisciplinary teams work together to enhance maternal and childcare. It is saddening that at least 37% of 240 million women of the reproductive age lack access to quality antenatal care. Also, at least 390,000 women die from unassisted birth. Changing the narrative is not a single person/organization’s affair. Alongside the Dream Team Health Workforce, WGH remains committed to ensuring that SRHR is part of the UHC benefits package.

  • Are working towards the empowerment of women. We believe that gender transformative leadership can empower. For us, economic empowerment in health workforce and compensation for contributions made by women will make them more productive. Investing in women leadership means that the world is prepared for human centered development. The concept of “delivered by women, led by men” denies women basic services that are suited for their needs. Women make up 70% of health workforce but only 25% of leaders. It is unfortunate that the world is likely to face a deficit of 18 million health workers by 2030 and 50% are nurses and midwives as the ICPD25 confirmed. WGH is a strong proponent of gender equality and women empowerment. Our narrative of using women as change agents slowly came to realization after listening to insights to remarkable women doing great things in SRHR. Even though most of them are not frontiers in leadership within the health system, they understand critical issues including maternal mortality rates and the significance of vaccines. Some of the strategies suggested included the use of political strategies to leverage the development of women-centered policies.

  • Are committed to the development of networks that protect. We strongly condemn violence against women and have always advocated for the education of women because this offers them a layer of support against oppressive structures. Gender based violence and harmful practices are linked to high rates of homicides and suicides. GBV occurs in homes, communities, workplaces, and streets. Sexual violence is common and at least 120 million girls have experienced it. Also, 14% girls and 3% boys experience sexual experience without consent. The statistics are scary especially when the perpetrators go unscathed. Existing social norms occasionally promote GBV and the situation is not any better for the LGBTQ. Besides lack of acceptance, they are victims of violence and discrimination. At the ICPD25, some countries used socio-cultural frames to condemn LGBTQ rights besides protesting against abortion and contraception as critical aspects of SRHR. Despite the challenges, WGH is positive that over 1,000 commitments submitted ahead of the ICPD25 will be realized within the shortest time possible.

We came to terms with the realities of participants from at least 100 countries. Their stories were compelling and initiatives motivating. We are not about to stop because we are driven by the successes of women across the globe because when they are empowered and equality is achieved, the rest of the world will understand why we do what we do!

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