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.

job opportunity:

Executive Assistant to the SheDecides Support Unit, London based. Position description here. 

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la france est de retour! france is back!

The Government of France has pledged 10 million euros in the name of SheDecides - unlocking essential resources for women's sexual rights initiatives around the world!

The announcement was made by French Secretary of State in Charge of Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa, at the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) in New York on 14 March.

SheDecides welcomes and salutes the leadership of the French Government in adding their voice to the SheDecides movement by Standing Up and Speaking Out, committing to changing the rules and unlocking resources to ensure that everywhere and everyday SheDecides about her body and her future. Without Question! 

Other leaders must heed the call and also take a bold step to champion the rights of girls and women to decide about their own bodies.

Vivre La France! #SheDecides #ElleDécide #WithoutQuestion

Read more: https://onu.delegfrance.org/La-France-est-de-retour-Le-feminisme-aussi

Le gouvernement de la France a pris la décision audacieuse de rejoindre le mouvement SheDecides, suivant l’exemple de pays tels que le Danemark, la Suède, l'Afrique du Sud, les Pays-Bas, le Canada, la Finlande et beaucoup d'autres pays qui défendent les droits sexuels et reproductifs des femmes et des filles partout dans le monde.

L'annonce a été faite lors de la 62ème session de la Commission sur la Condition de la Femme (CSW62) à New York cette semaine où la Secrétaire d’État Francaise chargée de l’Égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, Marlène Schiappa a promis 10 millions d'euros au nom de SheDecides par  son gouvernement.

SheDecides salue le leadership du gouvernement français qui ajoute sa voix au mouvement SheDecides en se levant et en parlant, en s'engageant à changer les lois et encore plus important, en débloquant des ressources pour assurer que partout et chaque jour, #ElleDecide sur son corps et son avenir. Sans à en repondre! C'est aussi un appel à d'autres Leaders Mondiaux à faire un pas audacieux pour être comptés parmi les Défenseurs des droits des femmes et des filles.

Vivre La France! #SheDécides #ElleDecide #WithoutQuestion

 

 

 

the world puts its weight behind the rights of young women and adolescent girls

8 March 2018

Governments, not-for-profit organisations, community leaders, and business leaders in cities across the world have spent the past few days unpacking and challenging the rules, laws, policies and myths that block young women and adolescent girls from making decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures. Events to celebrate the first ever SheDecides Day were organised in Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, the UK and the US. 

Full media release here.

More about SheDecides Day activities here.

 

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Global gag rule 6 month review - a moment to stand up and speak out

On 15 May 2017 the United States State Department announced that it would conduct a review of the “effectiveness and impact” of the expanded Global Gag Rule (GGR) over the next six-months. Read statement from SheDecides here. 

Dozens of non-governmental organisations, governments and others submitted information and evidence on how, because of this policy, women and girls around the world are being denied their right to decide about their bodies, their lives and their futures.  

The Review was released on 7 February 2018 and can be viewed here.

revised sex ed. guidelines launched.

January 10, 2018

Young people should be provided with all the information they need to learn about their bodies, about healthy relationships and how to have a safe and happy sex life. Without judgement, without question, without fear.

Yesterday the Revised International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education was launched by UNESCO (with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UN Women and World Health Organization (WHO)), presenting evidence-based recommendations advocating for full, comprehensive sex education for all young people. The updated guidance “reaffirms the position of sexuality education within a framework of human rights and gender equality.” It is clear that understanding your body, your rights and your options is essential, and should never be denied. Comprehensive sexuality education is integral to ensuring SheDecides, and we hope these guidelines are embraced and implemented internationally.

Read the full report by UNESCO with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UN Women and World Health Organization (WHO) here.

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Lilianne Ploumen awarded Machiavelli Prize for creating SheDecides 

January 9. 2018

Congratulations to Lilianne Ploumen for winning the Machiavelli Prize for creating the SheDecides movement! The Dutch prize acknowledges remarkable achievements in the field of public communications.

The jury applauded the pace and determination of the movement, saying: "Within less than six weeks, a worldwide movement of countries, funds and individuals in favour of the self-determination of women and girls has arisen". Massive applause for Lilianne for taking the initiative to stand up, speak out and take us closer to a world where #SheDecides, without question.

Full article for Dutch speakers here and English here.

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Happy New Year.

January 1, 2018.

2017 was one rollercoaster of a year. On 21 January, millions of women and men around the world walked in the Women’s March. On 23 January, President Trump signed the expanded Global Gag Rule. The very next day, Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen announced the creation of SheDecides and put €10 million on the table.
Since then, we have moved from having those two words as a uniting rallying cry, to a successful conference on 2 March, to a movement with a crystal clear manifesto, signed by 40,000 Friends and 140 organisations.

SheDecides now is led by 36 Champions from all over the world, ranging from ministers to youth leaders who alongside our Friends are committed to Standing Up and Speaking Out, Changing the Rules and Unlocking Resources (€ 390 million so far!).  The time has never been more right to work together to create a new normal: a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, her life and her future. Without question.

The SheDecides Support Unit wishes all the Friends and Champions a very happy 2018 - filled with action, so that #SheDecides!

 

 

 

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.

 
 
 
 

sigrid kaag - minister for foreign trade and development cooperation for the netherlands

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Sigrid Kaag was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in the third Rutte government of the Netherlands on 26 October 2017. Sigrid quickly declared her commitment to the SheDecides movement, joining the growing list of champions for girls and women everywhere. “I salute the leadership of my predecessor, Lilianne Ploumen, and other champions who responded at the right moment in the right way," she said. "If you don’t have the choice to determine how you will live with your body, how many children you want, then you are fundamentally hampered…. Too many girls and women are placed in a position of limited choice.” These rights are at the core of an equitable, fair society and they are essential for reaching the SDGs. Minister Kaag says: “Of course the Dutch government will continue to finance SheDecides, but I want to stress that it is not just about money. It is awareness, it is politics and it is the politics of change that need to be sustained.  We need to galvanise this movement and make it strong.”  

Read the full interview below.

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

For me the ability and power of choice to decide over one’s own body is so fundamental – and it is a right often denied to women. My predecessor, Lilianne Ploumen, responded at the right moment and in the right way. We have to continue to support this fundamental right.

We need to create opportunities and enable women and girls to decide about their bodies, but also create opportunities for education, work.  Ultimately it’s all about the SDGs. We need investments but we also need a strong advocacy platform that speaks to the urgent issue of women’s and girls’  choice. Family planning is part and parcel of that.

 

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

It is really complex, there is no single challenge. A lot depends on where you are born and under what conditions.  In many development settings, girls and women are placed in a position of limited choice, where their life is being determined by others, mostly the family, and often the males in the household.

What we need to do is to focus on the rights to decide about your body but translate them immediately to the rights to health, education, economic empowermentAn integral package to improve the life of women worldwide. That’s the pathway, because there is never one single and simple answer. The rights that SheDecides focuses on are fundamental. Even if you are highly educated, if you don’t have the choice to determine how you will live with your body, how many children you want, IF you want children, then you are fundamentally hampered.

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

I guess it all goes back to the way my mother raised me: I was reminded on a daily basis by her that education, education, education and family planning are everything in life, particularly for women. You are less vulnerable, more independent and it creates your pathway to determine your own future. We are privileged in the Netherlands, but so many girls and women in other countries don’t have access to these rights and services. I believe in an equitable world, in a fair world. Shared prosperity also means greater collective security –and these are issues we can work towards.  Not everything is geopolitics.  A lot of it is what we aim to do for and with others.

Raised a feminist, I will always remain a feminist.

 

    4.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?

The movement was launched at the right moment, with the right voice and tremendous leadership. Now that we are one year on, it is important to determine together what we need to do and how to take it to the next level. There is still so much work to do, we need to consolidate the movement.  That means involving ALL governments, particularly also those in ‘the South’ – there’s no point if it is only Western voices that speak. We need to have a shared vision, carried by all. Of course, it is not just about governments – there is a role for the private sector, foundations, civil society but above all citizens – women ánd men.  I am a firm believer in the HeforShe movement. Men should play a critical role. This issue is for women but it requires all of society to mobilise.

Of course the Dutch government will continue to finance SheDecides, but I want to stress that it is not just money. It is awareness, it is politics and it is the politics of change that need to be sustained.  We need to galvanise this movement and make it strong.

 

Tikhala Itaye, Co-Founder, Her Liberty

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Meet Tikhala Itaye, a fierce women’s rights activist from Malawi, co-founder of Her Liberty, SheDecides Youth Champion and member of the governing body. As a young woman who has had her worth repeatedly questioned just because she is a woman, Tihkala reflects on one of such experiences—when an older man approached her in a workshop for sexual favours, claiming that it was how she worked her way into leading such meetings. "I felt disgusted and so vulnerable. The reason I was at that meeting is because I had the expertise, I had the qualification and capability to lead on the set agenda of that meeting. I was speechless and I walked away feeling so inferior. I couldn't believe how this old man who I thought I would look up to, to mentor me, guide me as the only young person or young girl in the room sought sexual favours like I was worthless and just a tool to play around with."

"I have faced many more instances like this when I was in university when a Lecturer threatened to fail me if I didn’t do what he said I should do...The fear of Standing Up Speaking Out and reporting such cases drove me to co-found an NGO called Her Liberty, that sought to empower young girls and women to be confident to SPEAK OUT! Because for far too long women and girls have been silenced, suppressed and I dedicated myself to change this status quo."

Read her full interview below.

 

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

I am passionate about SheDecides because I am the "She" in SheDecides who lives everyday working hard to seek those opportunities, education, great health and wellbeing in order to fulfil my potential. SheDecides gives me that boldness to step up, Stand Up and Speak Out on the rights of every girl and woman. We have mothers, aunts, sisters and nieces who we care about and we want to see live healthy and empowered lives but because we live in a world that has made that such a challenge, I am passionate about my involvement in a movement that triggers action for the betterment of women and girls.

2.       What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls?

The biggest challenge is that millions of women and girls all over the world do not have the right to decide what to do with their own lives. Many girls and women have been hindered by patriarchal societies that have defined who they should be and what they can do, what they can say and to whom. Young girls have been forced into early marriages because they didn’t have the right to stay in or go to school or the right to choose because of social, cultural and economic circumstances. 

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

I remember a time when a man, 30 years older than me at a meeting I had attended came up to me and asked me for my number and if I was free in the evening to go to his room. I told him, "No." He looked at me and said, "the only reason you are where you are I am sure is because you slept with one of the organisers of the meetings." I felt disgusted and so vulnerable. The reason I was at that meeting is because I had the expertise, I had the qualification and capability to lead on the set agenda of that meeting.  I was speechless and I walked away feeling so inferior. I couldn't believe how this old man who I thought I would look up to, to mentor me, guide me as the only young person or young girl in the room sought sexual favours like I was worthless and just a tool to play around with. I have faced many more instances like this when I was in university when a Lecturer threatened to fail me if I didn’t do what he said I should do...The fear of Standing Up Speaking Out and reporting such cases drove me to co-found an NGO called Her Liberty, that sought to empower young girls and women to be confident to SPEAK OUT! Because for far too long women and girls have been silenced, suppressed and I dedicated myself to change this status quo.

4.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?

Only when every girl and young women can freely decide what they want to do with they lives. When resources in our respective countries are directed to improving the social wellbeing of girls and young women. When individual mind sets all over the world truly value the life of every girl and woman and treat them as equal citizens in society.

5.       Anything else you would love to add?

The is a "He" in "She" Decides so this is not only about girls and women but men and young boys need to part of this movement and we need equal empowerment of young people (girls and boys) to ensure that we create a future where they are equal partners in the work place, at home, and in leadership. Only then will SheDecide

 

JONA TURALDE - YOUTH ACTIVIST FROM THE PHILIPPINES

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Now we turn the spotlight on Jona Turalde, a young, fearless and powerful voice for women’s bodily autonomy in the Philippines. When Jona is not actively pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology n the University of the Philippines Diliman, she is engaged with the International Youth Council Pilipinas, a youth civil society organization for civic engagement and a member of ACT! 2030 Philippine Alliance.

Jona says she is inspired by the SheDecides movement because it serves as a platform for her to put an end to sexual harassment in public places which she and countless other women and girls face on a daily basis in her country. ‘I know that this does not only happen to me, but also to my friends, my relatives and every woman out there. Even worse. I am strongly eager to work hard because I still hope for a day wherein my 7-year old sister won't experience this kind of harassment. She will never be too scared to fight back.’

She also hopes to see the end of misogyny which according to her is on the rise and quickly becoming the norm. ‘When a young girl or woman is still being told by men what to do about their own body, there is a need to address this kind of thinking…The realization that every woman shall be empowered, is seemed to be neglected by the Filipino people and state. It's always tackled on the side, never been a priority. Equality for women is a long drive to go.’

Read the full interview below.

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

When I first encountered and read the SheDecides manifesto, I said to myself, "Everything that I want to be part of is written in this manifesto". It's the full embodiment of what I believe in and of what I will be doing. SheDecides as a movement covers what a woman shall achieve and shall enjoy in this society. A key to a successful advocacy initiative is inclusivity and sustainability. I can really say that SheDecides as a movement encompasses these all. SheDecides includes everyone from different sectors, cultures, ethnicity, and backgrounds. Every woman from everywhere is being cared for, thought of, and working hard for, so she can freely decide for herself.

It's actually an honor to work with every actor, advocate and stakeholder from all over the world in different regions, standing up and making concrete actions. 

 

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

In my 3 years of being an advocate, I mainly focus on youth policy advocacy, but girls' and women's advocacy can't be disassociated from these. I was thoroughly exposed to a lot of sexual and reproductive health and rights initiatives in the Philippines. That's why I also became active in consultations and policy briefings and lobbying.

Last year I joined 5 other young girls from different parts of the world in a side event at the World Health Assembly in May 2017 representing Act! 2030, wherein my youth organization International Youth Council Pilipinas is a member of the alliance. It is the Citizen Led Accountability event where adolescents and youth representatives like myself were given a chance to tackle our respective country situations on sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Being part of the Reproductive Health Law National Implementation Team have helped me tap far-flung communities and make concrete actions and suggestions as a youth representative inside our Ministry of Health. It has truly helped me represent the youth in women and SRHR issues.

Also, being part of YIELD for AYSRHR , a youth advisory group that targets generating informed guidelines for stakeholders and actors in investing and making future action for SRHR intiatives, made me work by doing focus group discussions here in the Philippines to be included in the international research that the group has been crafting.

Lastly, as part of the Women's Month and SheDecides anniversary, we are working on a summit called #YES4HER to celebrate girls and women, engaging youth actors from different parts of the Philippines. This will be on March 2nd this year.

 

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

In my opinion, the biggest challenge in our country is sustaining the empowerment of young girls and women who will become future leaders who have the ideals of equality, equity and justice especially these times when misogyny is on the rise and has the tendency of becoming a norm. When a young girl or woman is still being told by men what to do about their own body, there is a need to address this kind of thinking.

The realization that every woman shall be empowered seems to be neglected by the Filipino people and state. It's always tackled on the side, and has never been a priority. 

Equality for women has a long drive ahead. 

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

This one is a very personal experience for me. I always commute when I go to a lot of places here in the Metro. We ride jeepneys wherein 8 to 10 people are sitting side by side next to each other. Very close to each other, arm to arm, leg to leg, skin to skin even sweat to sweat. This has not only happened once but a couple of times for many years. When I am seated beside a man, afterawhile I can feel that he slowly touches my leg, and then one time a guy slowly aimed to touch my private part. I can't shout or even fight back for I know i that in this situation, I can be in more trouble. 

I know that this does not only happen to me, but also to my friends, my relatives and every woman out there. Even worse. 

I am strongly eager to work hard because I still hope for a day wherein my 7-year old sister won't experience this kind of harrassment. She will never be too scared to fight back. 

 

    5.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?

This is an open letter to everyone especially to the youth. 

Wisely use social media as a campaign tool to productively make the people realize the need to voice out women's issues. Stregthen and lobby a standardized and well- implemented Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools. Be a catalyst and changemaker in the policy drafting, consultations to further influence stakeholders in prioritizing women issues such as teenage pregnancies, rape, sexual harrassment, violence against women. Tap everyone who are involved from everywhere, from the city, far flung communities to stand up and speak out, share narratives and continously help in capacity building. Plan, initiate, advocate and be part of a movement that ensures that She decides for her future without question. 

 

Lina Abirafeh - Director, Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World, Lebanese American University

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Lina Abirafeh is a SheDecides Champion and Director of the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University. Lina has spent over 20 years working on Gender-Based Violence prevention and response in a range of humanitarian and emergency settings. This is where she came to understand that more than many other emergency services, women and girls need to protect and control their own bodies first. Today she works to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through the intersection of academia and activism across the 22 Arab countries.

Lina laments on the state of gender equality in the Arab region – one plagued by patriarchy, and the rising power of conservative movements. The message of bodily autonomy is urgent here. But in spite of the challenges, she is hopeful about the future. ‘I have to remain cautiously optimistic – with a belief that equality is possible, even if it doesn’t materialize in my lifetime. I will keep finding every possible way to do it – from my work to my activism to my writing and whatever other means available to me…we MUST get to a future where SheDecides’ she says. ‘And to do so we need to take the anger that has been simmering and turn this into action’.

Read her full interview below.

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

Bodily autonomy and integrity for women underlies everything that we do – everything that we are trying to achieve. This is the cornerstone of the feminist movement which is also the most contested and hardest to win. But it opens the door for all the other pieces of work that we must do – ensuring women’s access to health and education, engaging women in politics, decision-making, leadership, the economy – none of which are possible without the right to decide our own bodies FIRST.

I am passionate about this because to me it is a no-brainer – something non-negotiable and not up for discussion. EVERYONE has the rights to their own body. And yet, it seems like since the beginning of time, men have made decisions about women’s bodies – everything ranging from their reproductive functions to the preferred length of their hair. How did we allow it to go this far?! I think it’s time we all stood up and said: ENOUGH! SheDecides.

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

I’ve spent 20 years working on gender-based violence prevention and response in a range of humanitarian emergencies. In those settings, I saw that women and girls need to protect and control their own bodies first – more than many other emergency services. Working on GBV is considered life-saving – and sexual and reproductive health and rights exists together with this life-saving work. And now I’m in academia – at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World. We work at the intersection of academia and activism to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment across the 22 Arab countries. In this context, the message of bodily autonomy is even more urgent.

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

We know that NO country in the world has achieved full gender equality, but look at the Global Gender Gap Report, or the Women Peace and Security Index – this region ranks last all the time. We are challenged by all forms of insecurity, plagued by patriarchy, and suffocating under conservative movements that are gaining power. We’re even seeing a backlash against women’s rights and freedoms.

In the region we are in a state of perpetual insecurity – either full-blown conflict, or socio-political and economic challenges, or all of this combined. In these settings, women’s rights are the first to be stripped and the hardest to revive. Research shows that the biggest predictor of peace in a country is not economics or politics, but how the country treats its women. We have a long way to go!

At the Institute we don’t stop fighting – addressing critical issues like GBV in the region, what’s holding Arab women back from equality, violence, inequalities and challenges for Arab women, and repeal of Lebanon’s Article 522, the so-called “marry-your-rapist” law. We have a lot of work to do.

But the underlying message is this: unless we’re addressing inequalities everywhere, we will achieve equality nowhere.

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

I have a niece – she’s not quite 4. I think when you have a small person in your life – and certainly a small female person! – you want to drive forward change faster. I want to see results in my lifetime – but not for me! I want it for her. I want her to have full freedom and bodily integrity and equality and the ability to have every choice open to her – without socio-cultural expectations, restrictions, limitations. I want her to NEVER question her right to her own body and her own life. She must have access to every place and space – from the highest political office to the street-corner market – with the same sense of entitlement that men feel today. I want her to laugh and think that our lives of inequality are outdated and old-fashioned, and a thing of the past. I want to bury those inequalities in history – and build a future my niece deserves.

5.     How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question – particularly in the Lebanon context.

We have a very young population in the Arab region, which presents a lot of potential for change. We need to reach those people now – quickly! – before we lose them. It’s easy for them to feel disillusioned. The region deals with so many challenges.

And at the same time, we’re facing massive global regress. These setbacks also play out in the region. Last year I examined the implications for women in light of the administration in the US – and the news wasn’t good. One year later, he’s proven to be a catastrophic emergency for women, stripping back rights and denying fundamental freedoms at every turn. And yet, without the beast, we would have not birthed the beauty that was the feminist resistance on 21 January. Of course, our fight was always there, but the Women’s March and SheDecides and MeToo and so many initiatives are now alive - and enraged - because of this political transition.

It has been extraordinary being a part of this new invigorated movement. We MUST get to a future where SheDecides – and to do so we need to take the anger that has been simmering and turn this into action. There is global momentum – and the region is catching on slowly. And there are small tastes of victory. I hope this justice is contagious! I want the young people of this region to see that equality, rights, justice can win. They need to see these victories to believe it is possible – and to have the courage to continue this fight!

6.     Anything else you'd like to add?

It’s easy to be cynical – and I am, quite often! But I have to remain cautiously optimistic – with a belief that equality is possible, even if it doesn’t materialize in my lifetime. I will keep finding every possible way to do it – from my work to my activism to my writing (LinaSays) and whatever other means available to me.

I’ve never done anything but this – and I won’t do anything else. This is a life-commitment – and the only way I’m willing to go is forward.

 

JOVANA RIOS — MEMBER, EWEC STEERING GROUP, PANAMA

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Jovana Rios is a SheDecides Champion and women’s rights advocate from Panama who wears several hats. In addition to serving as Board Chair of IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region, Jovana is also a member of IPPF’s governing council, Vice President of the Panamanian Association of Family Planning (APLAFA) and member of the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Steering Group.

Jovana reflects on her teenage years when many of her classmates got pregnant, faced discrimination and dropped out of school.  “I knew I had to do something and fortunately, I was invited by a young volunteer woman to become a peer educator”. She is passionate about SheDecides because it can help create a life free from any kind of violence for women and girls everywhere. “I cannot stop what I do, because there is still so much to be done”.

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

I am passionate about being involved with SheDecides because it is a movement that represents my values. I am glad to support a movement that is working hard so women and girls exercise their rights; make decisions about their bodies, are able to enjoy a healthy and prosperous live, free from any kind of violence. 

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

I serve as a member of IPPF’s governing council, and I am also the Chair of the Board of Directors for IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region.  In both of these capacities, I have been a steadfast advocate for the health and rights of Young people, particularly for adolescent girls.

In addition, I am also a member of the High Level Steering Group of Every Woman, Every Child, and Every Adolescent, where I lead efforts to place the rights of young women and girls at the center of global efforts to promote gender equity and sustainability. 

At the local level, I am the Vice President of the Panamanian Association of Family Planning (APLAFA).  We all work very hard in APLAFA to promote sexual rights and provide Sexual and Reproductive Health services, particularly for women.

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

In my region women and girls face many challenges, but I think Gender Based Violence and inequality are the biggest ones.

Moreover, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is not available in most schools and while many programs have been put in place, the eradication of inequalities as well as access to CSE in every school are still pending matters.  

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

I remember that when I was a teenager, many of my classmates got pregnant and faced discrimination. Some of them dropped out school. I knew I had to do something and fortunately, I was invited by a young volunteer woman to become a peer educator.

I still remember the plight of my classmates, and I have seen many other young women face the same difficulties. That is why I cannot stop doing what I do, because there is still so much to be done. 

5.       How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question – particularly in the Panama context.

We need to ensure that adolescents in Panama have access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education so they are empowered. APLAFA recently launched a campaign called “#infosexualparatodos” or sexuality education for all, so that young people can access the information they need by taking advantage of social media.

But we need to work even harder with different movements so everybody recognizes that girls, boys and young people are right holders, and ensure they have the opportunities to achieve their full potential.

6.       Anything else you'd like to add?

I am so honored to work with SheDecides and contribute to create a better world, particularly for women and girls.

 

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, South Africa

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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

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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.

patrick mwesigye - Founder and Executive Director of the Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum

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"We shall only get to the future where SheDecides when we learn to promote, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of women and girls and create a supportive policy and social environment that support women and girls to thrive, survive and transform."

Meet Patrick Mwesigye, a tireless activist and youth leader from Uganda who is dedicating his life’s purpose to enhancing the reproductive rights of women and girls.

Read his full interview below

 

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

I believe that all human beings including women and girls should have the freedom to exercise their fundamental rights of deciding freely and for themselves about their sexual lives, including whether, when and with whom and how many children they want to have. Regardless of several efforts by various stakeholder and partners, negative cultural, traditional and beliefs as well as conservative leaders have denied millions of millions of women and girls from exercising their reproductive rights.

SheDecides unlike many other Movements has become a rallying call for activists, young people, leaders and funders to stand up as a matter of urgency, speak out, change the rules and unlock resources to protect the rights, health, safety and livelihoods of millions of women and girls around the world.

It is for this reason that I am passionate on being involved with SheDecides because I want women and girls to decide so we can make the world better, stronger and safer for everybody.

 

2.         What is the biggest challenge facing women and girls?

Today women and girls face multiple devastating challenges both socially and economically which continue to make them vulnerable to stigma and discrimination, preventable deaths disabilities and ill health. Today pregnancy and child birth-related complications are the leading causes of deaths for many adolescent girls and young women.  

Women and girls are denied access to contraceptive services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education while still being undermined, discriminated against by many traditional societies and looked upon at as sex objects without agency. Denying women and girls their sexual rights has made them vulnerable to early and unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection especially among adolescent girls.

Lack of access to menstruation with dignity is also another challenged faced by many unprivileged girls form poor backgrounds. Basic necessities like sanitary towels, washing and disposable facilities are not widely available causing many girls opt to miss school during their periods. These are unacceptable in 2018.

 

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

In 2015, I was in the field for a community drive aimed at creating demand for SRHR services among young women, when I met Nalongo. At 15, Nalongo was already a mother of one year old twins that she had a year earlier. Both the mother and babies looked malnourished and Nalongo had never used any contraceptives, neither did she know her HIV status.   We referred to her to a youth friendly clinic that serves majority of Uganda’s Most at Risk populations. Here, she was tested for and cleared of HIV, as well as educated and put on long lasting reversible contraception.

Nalongo shortly trained for and became one of our peer educators. Today she is healthy, and serves as a senior peer educator, educating other girls on contraception use, pregnancy prevention and HIV. She also teaches her peers through community peer support groups about safe motherhood, breast feeding and proper nutrition for mothers and babies. Nalongo also refers girls to clinics in Uganda that provide safe abortion services and post abortion care support. She has now been trained in fashion design and is currently engaged in the production of re-usable sanitary towel with support from UYAHF.

Nalongo’s story drives me to reach out to many other girls to empower them to live quality lives with equity, dignity and opportunities to realize their full potential.

 

4.    How are we going to get to a future where SheDecides, without question?

We shall only get to the future where SheDecides when we learn to promote, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of women and girls and create a supportive policy and social environment that support women and girls to thrive, survive and transform.

 

 

 

VICTORIA FUENTES - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MEXFAM

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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.