Q: Where did this idea come from?
Initiated by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and International Development, Lilianne Ploumen, SheDecides responded to US President Donald Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule in January 2017. Her call for action immediately mobilised other progressive and feminist governments. The Global Gag Rule, officially known as the Mexico City Policy (and now re-named by the US government), forces non-US NGOs to choose between receiving U.S. global health assistance and providing the full range of care that women need. In order to receive US funds, providers must declare that they will not give information and referrals for abortion or providing abortion care, even with their own non-U.S. funds. More on that here.
Unless significant new resources are found, the Global Gag Rule will force healthcare clinics to close and prevent women from getting life-saving care – contributing to more unintended pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, more illness and more deaths. These clinics are life-lines for women and girls because many provide a full range of care and support, including access to a full range of contraceptive choices, HIV prevention, advice and literacy about sexual health, prenatal and maternal health care as well as safe abortions. It doesn’t just affect organisations who provide these services, but also those that provide information and counselling about abortion. It is clear that this policy will have devastating consequences for girls and women and their communities. This was the spark that lit the SheDecides movement.
On 2nd March 2017, as an immediate response, the first SheDecides conference was held in Brussels and was co-organised by the governments of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. More than 50 governments attended the conference, among 450 participants including youth leaders, parliamentarians and representatives from UN agencies, NGOs, private foundations and the private sector. This gathering enabled global leaders to raise their voices in support of the full rights of girls and women, and pledge their commitment to ensure that SheDecides. This outpouring of support included €181 million (approx. US$ 200 million) of new pledges and a new generation of Torchbearers. SheDecides continues to evolve as movement uniting citizens, businesses, governments, parliamentarians, young people, international organisations, foundations, collectives, NGOs, grassroots activists, health and legal professionals, academics, artists and more, who work independently and collectively to promote a new normal where every girl and woman can fulfil her right to decide about her body, her future and her life; to make sure that sexual and reproductive rights are a priority at local and global levels.