I was pretty excited to hear that self-made global development guru Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Millennium Project, announced yesterday that investing in sexual and reproductive health is the key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Stop traffic! Way to go Jeffrey Sachs!
The 178-page report accompanying this momentous announcement, Public Choices, Private Decisions: Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals, kind of reminds me of the Cairo Programme of Action, a beautifully comprehensive global action plan that puts women's reproductive health and rights at the center of international development. The Programme of Action was adopted by the world's governments at a conference back in 1994, and reaffirmed and extended at numerous regional and global meetings thereafter, including the 1995 Beijing conference on women, which itself produced a totally fantastic internationally agreed comprehensive action plan on women's health and rights.
Last I checked, a bunch of people were still out there implementing those plans — at least until the MDGs came along. But it's good to know that the Millennium Project is on board now too. When it comes to admitting the importance sexual and reproductive health and rights, the more the merrier, especially given the current U.S. administration's nasty habit of systematically removing phrases like "reproductive health services," "adolescent health and rights," "consistent condom use," "sexual rights," "reproductive rights," and even in some cases just plain "services" and "rights" (since these are obviously code words for abortion, homosexuality, and God knows what else!) from every UN document it comes near.
You can download the whole report on the Millennium Project website — just try not to look at the spooky illustration of a despondent hugely pregnant woman watching a presumably un-pregnant woman collect a diploma as her family and friends look on with pride.
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Come on guys, didn't you read your own report?? Realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights is about creating a supportive environment for women to make their own decisions — not making them feel bad for getting pregnant. But I guess that when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights, those two steps forward just wouldn't feel quite right without taking at least one step back…