This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Cairo Conference
for Population and Development. As such, many organizations are calling
upon governments to reignite their commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action.
A letter sent by dozens of women’s right organizations in Latin America to President Barack Obama and Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton does just that.
Last week, 1,600 women from all over Latin America came together for
the 11th annual Latin American and Caribbean Feminist Meeting in Mexico. The
delegates convened to develop strategies for eliminating gender discrimination
and violence against women throughout the region. Among the delegates were
representatives of the Latin American network of Católicas por
el Derecho a Decidir, partners of Catholics for Choice.
To further their mission, the delegates prepared a letter to President
Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. The message applauded the administration’s
commitment to women’s rights displayed in measures such as the
elimination of the Global Gag Rule and the restoration of funding to the United
Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA).
Aside from this expression of gratitude, the letter largely focused on
the 42nd Session of the United Nations Commission of Population and
Development which is being held this week to evaluate the progress and
implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action. The delegates included nine
"asks" for President Obama to ensure the implementation of the
Cairo Programme of Action:
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1. Allocate more resources to Latin
America and the Caribbean, including in the
field of women’s health and rights, as it is no longer a priority region
for the majority of donor countries. This has created serious problems with
regard to access to services and resources, especially for the poorest and most
2. Promote integrated policies to
reduce maternal mortality and morbidity.
3. Recognize adolescents and youth as
rights holders by promoting their participation in the creation of policies,
especially those policies designed to serve their needs.
4. Promote universal access to
quality education, including comprehensive sexuality education.
5. Improve conditions for the
exercise of sexual and reproductive rights and guarantee universal access to
the full range of contraceptive methods.
6. Guarantee access to safe abortion
services where abortion is legal and advocate for legal change in those
countries where abortion bans continue to cause grave harm to women’s
health and hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
7. Implement integrated policies to
eradicate violence against women, particularly sexual violence, that promote
access to justice for the victims.
8. Guarantee universal access to
HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
9. Assign political and budgetary
priority to the most vulnerable groups.
concluded: "With five years remaining to fulfill the commitments made
at Cairo, we believe that the humanist spirit and integrated
perspective of the Cairo
agenda can help to effectively overcome the challenges of the current
socioeconomic crisis that the world faces today. For this reason, we
is of utmost importance that the United States Government takes an
in reaffirming the Cairo Programme of Action, signaling to the world a
leadership on women’s human rights."
In the last 15
years, we have seen a shift from the initial spirit of the Cairo Programme of
Action. Policies like the Global Gag Rule (now overturned by the Obama administration)
and the fact that the Millennium Development Goals are silent on issues of
sexual and reproductive health mean that the progress made on reproductive
rights is imperiled. During this 15th anniversary year of the Cairo meeting, Catholics
for Choice and our Latin American partners are committed to working to redirect
the governments throughout the world towards the original goals of the Programme