the latest. 

Here is where we highlight the latest developments and stories of the movement. We call people to account, we applaud others who do the same and we amplify the voices of those who often get locked out of global conversations. You can also find the latest editions of our newsletter. If you've got a story to share - get in touch by email, Twitter or Facebook.

dr alvaro bermejo appointed as next director general of ippf

IPPF (the International Planned Parenthood Federation) announced the appointment of their next Director General – Dr Alvaro Bermejo. Alvaro is a tireless, committed champion for girls and women, a bold and brave advocate for human rights, who puts sexual and reproductive health and rights at the forefront of the global agenda. He has played a central role in SheDecides in his current role as Executive Director of the Survive and Thrive portfolio at CIFF, and we look forward to his continuing leadership as a SheDecides champion at IPPF.

Massive congratulations to Dr Alvaro Bermejo!

Read IPPF’s full statement here.

 

 

news roundup.

october

  • The Lancet recently published an editorial highlighting why girls and women must have agency over their bodies, including their sexual and reproductive rights. The editorial captures the heart and soul of why SheDecides exists as a movement – our energy, our anger and our unwillingness to sit down until all of the barriers facing girls and women are overcome, rules are changed and oppressive systems are dismantled. As the article says, the health community can ‘co-create sustained momentum to support each girl today to fulfil her full potential in life, free from objectification and fear. But only if we change the narrative to allow dreams of a future that are uniquely hers to decide’. Click here to read the full editorial.

  • Recently appointed UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem has launched the ‘State of the World’s Population’ report. The flagship report reveals the not so surprising link between economic inequality and reproductive justice, and correctly puts the rights of girls and women as central to global equality, development and social progress. As a way forward the report establishes 10 actions we need to take to guarantee a more equal world such as tearing down barriers like discriminatory laws, norms or service gaps which prevent adolescent girls and young women from accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services. Access the full report here and listen back to Natalia Kanem on The Today Programme here.

  • India's Supreme Court has ruled that sex with a child bride is rape, striking down a legal clause which formerly permitted men to have sex with their underage wives. India's government says the practice of child marriage is "an obstacle to nearly every developmental goal: eradicating poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; protecting children's lives; and improving women's health". SheDecides welcomes this landmark judgement and calls for the abolition of laws which stop women and girls everywhere from deciding. Let’s fight for laws that enable her decide whether, when and with whom to have sex, to fall in love, to have children. Read the full article here.
     
  • On the International Day of The Girl, SheDecides Founder and Champion, Minister Lilianne Ploumen called on world leaders to fight together to counter regressive laws on abortion and stand up for a world where SheDecides. She added that ‘This so-called “pro-life” policy will result in deaths on a massive scale. According to the World Health Organization, “deaths due to unsafe abortion remain close to 13 per cent of all maternal deaths”. Each decrease of $10 million in US funding would result in 250 more maternal deaths, the Guttmacher Institute predicts. Find the rest of the article in the Financial Times here.
     

  • On Wednesday, October 11, the world observed the International Day of the Girl Child, which has the mission “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.”

    In advance of this day, SheDecides Champion and youth leader from Uganda, Patrick Mwesigye hosted a SheDecides Open House in Kampala to spotlight how the energy of SheDecides can be used to broaden the sexual and reproductive health and rights and adolescent contraception debate among policy makers, legislators and CSO advocates in Uganda, plus how it can change the narrative and lead to real change for girls and women’s health.

    The SheDecides event is organised by the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF) in partnership with the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs and the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association with support from FP2020.
     

  • SheDecides welcomes the appointment of Dr Natalia Kanem as the new Executive Director of the UNFPA. Right now – possibly more than ever – we need bold, brave leadership on a global level to accelerate progress toward a new normal where #SheDecides, without question. We know from her moving contribution at the SheDecides Open House, and her support for our manifesto that Dr Kanem is personally and professionally committed to this vision. We have high hopes that she will commit to ensuring every woman has access to the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive rights and health, including safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education, so that every girl and women, every where decides about her body, her life, her future. Congratulations, Dr Natalia Kanem – we look forward to working with you!
     
  • Big week for global health! SheDecides congratulates the World Health Organisation's dynamic new Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom for his forward-sighted appointment of a remarkably talented and diverse cabinet. We welcome all, especially Princess Simelela and look forward to working with the team so #SheDecides. Read the full announcement here.  

SEPTEMBER, 2017

  • ‘As a matter of urgency, France must make a financial effort to counteract the disastrous effects of the US Global Gag Rule, by participating in the SheDecides Initiative and Increasing Funding for UNFPA'. Co-lead of the SheDecides Support Unit Rebekka van Roemburg gave a speech at a colloquium organised by a group of sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations in France. As a result, an online petition has been set in motion calling on citizens to demand more investment in women and girls sexual rights. It calls for the ‘Massive funding of policies and projects which promote sexual and reproductive rights and health, the cornerstone of women's rights’. French citizens and civil society are storming social media demanding their Government to commit to the SheDecides initiative.
     

  • It was full house at the SheDecides Open House New York on Friday September 22nd as friends of the movement convened for an interactive evening of real talk about the global movement to create a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life and with her future. Without Question. Speakers included Genesis Luigi, Tikhala Itaye, Alejandra Cardenas, Halima Lila as MC plus a special performance by Sa-Roc. 
     

  • In a speech delivered to the General Assembly, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid reaffirmed her country’s support for the SheDecides initiative and called on the UN to do more for women and girls' rights. ‘Estonia continues to support actions addressing gender-based violence and the reproductive health needs of the most vulnerable women and adolescent girls, for example via UNFPA in Ukraine 2017, and by supporting the #SheDecides initiative’. Full speech available here.

     

  • Lilianne Ploumen has been awarded the Aletta Jacobs Prize 2018 for her commitment to and successful endeavours for the rights of women and girls all over the world, including setting up SheDecides. Every other year, the University of Groningen awards the Aletta Jacobs Prize to a woman with an academic background who has contributed to women’s emancipation in the national or international arena. The prize was established in 1990 by Prof. Erik Bleumink, former president of the Board of the University. More here.
     

  • Georgia Arnold, SheDecides Torchbearer and Executive Director of MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, and Robin Gorna, co-lead of the SheDecides Support Unit have been featured as ‘Experts to Watch’ on women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health. News Deeply Magazine highlighted their efforts at leading global sexual and reproductive rights policy with a focus on their roles in employing research, policy and interventions to advance the rights of women and girls worldwide. They feature alongside several others who are working tirelessly toward a world where every woman and girl can choose what to do with her body and her life without question. Find a link to the article here.
     

  • 5th September, 2017 marks 6 months since the International Women's Day protest against the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule. To mark this moment, and to raise our voices loud and clear that we are still fighting, SheDecides joined the #TrumpGlobalGag 'Tweetstorm'. Check out the highlights by heading to our Twitter account or by searching #TrumpGlobalGag and #SheDecides. 

AUGUST, 2017

  • In August alone, thanks to the tireless work of activists and lawyers, India has banned instant divorce; Jordan and Lebanon have ended "marry-your-rapist" laws; Chile has lifted its total abortion ban and Nepal has outlawed menstrual discrimination. A time to celebrate, but also a time to stay vigilant, to ensure that laws are upheld and progress continues so that #SheDecides, everywhere. Click here for the wrap. 
     
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has once again attacked the rights, health and livelihoods of young people. Abruptly cutting short grants to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, 80+ organisations won't be able to support teens who are most in need. SheDecides calls for these evidence based, life saving programmes to be expanded, not cut. Read more on The Hill.

 

  • International Planned Parenthood Foundation (IPPF), global service provider and leading advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, is directly affected by the Global Gag Rule. They released this policy briefing to assert their position on the Trump administration's expanded Global Gag Rule and outline what it means for service providers and, therefore, what it means for the livelihood of girls and women worldwide. This briefing is intended for advocates and professionals working within the sexual and reproductive health and rights and women's sectors. 

 

 

 

SheDecides newsletters:

Champion Spotlight

Meet the shedecides champions who are leading the charge toward a reality where every girl and every woman has power over her own body. without question.

 
 
 
 

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, South Africa

Aaron-Motsoaledi.jpg

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is the Minister of Health of the Republic of South Africa. He is one of the three Leading SheDecides Champions, alongside Victoria Fuentes, Executive Director for MEXFAM and Mr Kai Mykkänen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Finland.

Minister Motsoaledi draws the strong link between SheDecides and the She Conquers campaign, led by South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. She Conquers is a campaign focused on 22 Districts with the worst outcomes for young women with high rates of HIV, early pregnancy, violence and drop-out rates from school. It aims to empower young women to make decisions that will improve their sexual and reproductive health, to reduce their vulnerability to violence and improve their educational and economic position.

Talking about the SDGs he says ‘we cannot achieve these global goals if women and girls are not an active part of development. And for women to be an active part of development, they must have control over their own bodies.’

Read Minister Motsoaledi’s full interview below.

 

1. Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides.

I believe in the fundamental concept of SheDecides, which is a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life, her future. The SheDecides movement is shaping itself into something that is more powerful than words, policies or slogans. It can be the defining change in how we address gender equality. The Sustainable Development Goals demand real change – we know that we cannot achieve these global goals if women and girls are not an active part of development. And for women to be an active part of development, they must have control over their own bodies.

2. Briefly describe how the South African Government is working hard so women and girls can make decisions themselves about their bodies.

The principles of South African democracy are enshrined in our Constitution, which among other things enjoins the government to provide good quality health care to all citizens and guarantees all citizens the right to reproductive health. SheDecides builds upon the She Conquers campaign, which was launched by our Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2016. She Conquers is a campaign focused initially on 22 sub-districts with the worst outcomes for young women, with high rates of HIV, early pregnancy, violence and drop-out rates from school. It aims to empower adolescent girls and young women to make decisions that will improve their sexual and reproductive health, to reduce their vulnerability to violence and improve their educational and economic position.

3. What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls? Why?

The rights of women and gender equality have always been central in our policies and we worked hard to protect the rights of girls and women. Unfortunately, women and girls continue to face many challenges and barriers and many fail to reach their full potential. While HIV is being well managed in the country, rates of new HIV infection are stubbornly high among young women, as is poor access to contraception and high rates of early pregnancy. And the levels of violence against women and girls are unacceptably high. We must do more to involve men and boys in the effort to end this. South Africa recognises that there are areas in which we have further to go in achieving equality for women in our own country, and we will join arms with others to achieve this essential change.

4. How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question - in the South African context?

The government of South Africa will strive to protect the rights of women and girls to make decisions about her body, to ensure these rights are fulfilled and to continue to move the agenda forward. We are guided by our constitution and we will redouble our efforts to protect the rights and health of women and girls. And we will work in partnership with all stakeholders - at national, regional and global level to ensure that barriers and challenges are confronted and addressed. Only last week  we circulated to the SADC Ministers of Health a new scorecard to track progress towards the vision of SheDecides which provides a set of core indicators to track progress of the Maputo Plan of Action, 2016-2030 for the Operationalisation of the Continental Policy Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. We are firmly committed to showing leadership at home, and in our region. We know that lasting change will only happen when we achieve a new normal, a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life, her future.

MR. KAI MYKKÄNEN, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT, FINLAND

Mykkanen.jpg

Minister Mykkänen makes a direct link between Finland’s domestic success - moving from poverty to prosperity – and the country’s strong support for the values and vision of SheDecides. One of the largest donors to the SheDecides movement, contributing €20m at the conference in March 2017, Finland sees gender equality as the core driver of successful societies. In his interview, looking back at Finland’s progress towards becoming one of the world’s strongest promoters and defenders of gender equality, the Minister credits the success to his country’s fierce commitment by establishing a determined gender policy through the decades, and also for passing and implementing laws which have advanced the rights of women and girls. ‘Today’ he says, ‘Finland is a high income country where all citizens have access to services. At the dawn of our independence a hundred years ago, we started to make investments to improve the status of women as well as maternal and child care. For example, maternity and child health clinics were introduced.’

Read the rest of his Interview below.

 

1.       Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides.

SheDecides is a powerful initiative to build global political support and rally funds for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. The idea of governments, foundations, CSOs, individuals and other stakeholders joining forces to advocate for the right of women to decide freely and for themselves whether, when, and how many children to have, has tremendous potential to empower all women and girls. Globally gender inequality is one of the greatest problems hindering the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Every two minutes, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth, and globally over 200 million women do not have access to contraceptives. Maternal mortality is one of the leading causes of death among 15-19 year olds. Almost all these women and girls could be saved if they had access to Sexual and Reproductive Health services and rights.   

 

2.       Briefly describe how the Finnish Government is working hard so women and girls can make decisions themselves about their bodies.

 

The key factor for Finland’s success in its rise from poverty to prosperity was the emphasis on gender equality. Our history shows that enhancing the rights and the status of women and girls and their opportunities to participate strengthens the society as a whole, and is a key factor for sustainable development. Finland´s actions are diverse in this field ranging from promoting women and girls´ education and skills development, promoting active participation in the labor force, providing women with better access to basic services, improving their involvement in political decision-making, and ensuring that women enjoy their right to make decisions, which affect their own lives. In practice, Finland works together with its partners to promote the capacity of countries to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of women and girls including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and to remove obstacles to their realization.   

 

3.       What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls? Why?

It is the multiplier effect that often takes place when Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are not provided and/or respected, and when women cannot decide for themselves whether, when and with whom they have children. An early marriage or adolescent pregnancy often ends a girl’s education which makes it harder for her to find decent work. When Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are not respected, girls and women miss education and employment opportunities. Concerted efforts are needed to economically empower women. Lack of sufficient Sexual and Reproductive Health services and rights means that for millions of women pregnancy is a serious health risk with potentially long lasting impacts on their opportunities in the future. For girls pregnancy is always a health risk. By providing Sexual and Reproductive Health services and protecting their rights, we save millions of lives, and create an enabling environment for sustainable development.

 

4.       Tell us a story of a moment that drives you to do what you do every day.

One year ago I visited Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi. There I had the possibility to acquaint myself with the project of a local Civil Society Organisation which Finland supported. The project gives legal aid to thousands of women in combating domestic violence. I was deeply moved by hearing the stories and seeing the circumstances where domestic violence is rather a rule than an exception, and where women had no possibility to get any justice for the violent behavior they faced. In the modern world we cannot turn a blind eye to violence against women.

 

5.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question - in the Finnish context.

Some seventy years ago Finland was a post-conflict developing country. Enhancing gender equality, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, has required a determined gender policy through the decades and passing and implementing laws which have advanced the rights of women and girls and promoted gender equality. Today, Finland is a high income country where all citizens have access to services. At the dawn of our independence a hundred years ago, we started to make investments to improve the status of women as well as maternal and child care. For example, maternity and child health clinics were introduced. Today, Finland is among the countries with lowest maternity and infant mortality rates. The clinics also provide family support to both parents. In Finnish schools, children learn about Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as part of the health education. It has brought concrete results. For example, the number of unplanned pregnancies has decreased. We think that Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a human right.

6.       Anything else you'd like to add?

Today, women are actors in the global economy contributing to the economy as workers, entrepreneurs, managers, and leaders in an unprecedented way. If women are given the opportunity to decide whether, when, how many and with whom they have children, they have the potential to be economically empowered. Recent studies show that female labor participation decreases with each additional child by about 15% among women aged between 25 and 39. When women and girls have access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, protection from violence, parental leave and child care support, they are in a better position to find decent work and remain economically active. Women´s education is widely recognized as central to their economic empowerment. For example, the lack of access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights can have significant implications for women´s future economic aspirations. If women and girls do not have access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, we will not achieve sustainable development goals by 2030.

It is good to bear in mind that also in Finland more should be done in achieving gender equality in the labour market, regardless of the fact that the Nordic countries have traditionally been forerunners in gender equality. In Finland, attitudes are changing, but women still do the major part of the household work and they stay far longer at family leaves compared to men, which hinders the possibility for young women to find a job. Additionally, women move on slower in their careers because they still have the main responsibility of taking care of their families. On average, women get smaller pensions than men because the income from their whole career is smaller. At the moment the Government of Finland is preparing a family leave reform. I wish that we will find a way to move forward from the barriers arising from the traditional role models towards truly free choices between the roles of mothers and fathers.

VICTORIA FUENTES - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MEXFAM

VictoriaFuentesImage.jpg

Victoria Fuentes is the Executive Director of Mexfam - a Mexican civil society organisation dedicated to improving the sexual and reproductive health of the Mexican population through provision of quality health services, mainly sexual and reproductive health, and comprehensive sexuality education with a focus on gender, rights and citizenship building. 

Victoria is a Mexican/American citizen with a BA in International Relations (Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal) and a post-graduate degree in Strategic Studies. Her work experience also includes: the National Autonomous University of Mexico, IPPF's Resident Coordinator in Mexico and Senior Programme Officer for UNFPA. 

Victoria is currently one of our three leading SheDecides champions, along with Mr. Kai Mykkänen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Finland and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, Republic of South Africa. She is a fierce, fearless advocate for girls and women - particularly in Mexico and Latin America. She answered the below questions about her activities in support or girls and women, and what drives her to do what she does everydayThank you, Victoria Fuentes, for your commitment as a SheDecides champion.

    1.       Tell us briefly why you are passionate about being involved with SheDecides.

In my particular case, this incredible movement presents a unique opportunity to once again place the needs and context of women and girls from Latin America and the Caribbean in the international thoughts and commitments.

    2.       Briefly describe how MEXFAM is working hard so women and girls can make decisions themselves about their bodies. 

Mexfam has been a key actor for many years in terms of advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescents, not only by helping track government commitments, but by ensuring that necessary funds are allocated and actually disbursed for planned operations.

Mexfam has been key for many decades in the design of educational materials that address avant-garde and current issues in the field of SRHR, also working with the government for the inclusion of integral sexuality education in the primary school curricula at the national level. 

Most recently the Foundation has engaged in the area of legal interruption of pregnancies, today only legal in Mexico City, but we are working in other 4 states of the country towards its recognition and legalization. Mexfam was also invited to participate in the design of the National Strategy for the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy where we ensured placing a special focus in the field of rights.  

    3.       What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls in your region? Why?

Information, access to contraception, eradication of gender-based violence, recognition of reproductive rights, conservative groups, most of all integral sexual education.

    4.       Tell us a story of a moment that drives you to do what you do every day.

The moment one of my family´s domestic employees, an indigenous 13 year old girl who barely spoke Spanish delivered her baby in one of our bedrooms, unknowing that she was pregnant, unable to recall how she got pregnant, speechless for having a baby coming out of her body when all she thought was that she had an upset stomach for months. Marcela had been the victim of abuse and rape by one of her own relatives and all she could recall was thinking that the "heavy man smelled of alcohol when he beat her and was on top of her", but she did not realise that there had been some type of sexual intercourse (at age 12), what that meant, or that she was the victim of violence, to her, it was "normal".

    5.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question - in the Mexican (and greater Latin American) context.

By investing hard in advocacy and communication efforts, by making noise via civil society to get to legislators and have them make changes in favor of our issues, by proving that this is an unstoppable global movement, by making the Mexican government understand that we, ourselves, are an important laboratory for the rest of Latin America in many senses, by engaging strong civil society voices and key figures to help us lead the movement among the young and adolescents, by not allowing this relevant political and social capital fade. 

    7.       Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you for the space to express myself, on behalf of girls and women in Latin America and the Caribbean, thank you.

 

 

SheDecides: Creating the New Normal

On July 12, 2017, the SheDecides manifesto was launched to the world. In the wake of the Family Planning Summit in London, Friends and Torchbearers of SheDecides gathered at an Open House event to conspire about how people in positions of influence can stand up, speak out; change the rules; and unlock the resources required to create a new normal where every girl and woman everywhere is free; and has access to education and information about her body, modern contraception and safe abortion. Without question. 

 

This video is a live reading of The Manifesto at the Open House, performed by London-based poet Ana Paz. Video by Dorothy Allen-Pickard.