ago this month, at the International Conference on Population and Development
in Cairo, 179 world leaders pledged that women’s rights are human rights that
ensure the full participation of women in society. While progress has been
made, the results are far from sufficient. Of the 22 billion dollars needed
globally in 2009 to ensure adequate family planning and maternal and newborn
health services, less than half the amount is being made available.
At the NGO Forum on Sexual and
Reproductive Health and Development conference in
Berlin last week, we met to discuss the Plan of Action put forth 15 years
ago. While there are significant shortfalls in several areas, progress has been
made in others. For example, there is more equity in education today than there
was 15 years ago.
Cairo there was little, if any, discussion that more than one billion children
would be reaching adolescence and sexual maturity during the 20 years in which
the Plan of Action would be undertaken.
It’s not just an
interesting demographic trend. Women ages 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die complications
of pregnancy and childbirth as older women. Currently, 5,000 young people age 15–24 become infected with
HIV every day – almost two million new infections each year.
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one-third of the attendees are under the age of 30 – many of them from
economically developing countries – and they’re serious about the need for (and
their commitment to) providing youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health
services. Over dinner the first night I spoke to a Pakistani women in her early
20s who works with an HIV prevention program in Peshwar, a seriously
politically destabilized area. That takes dedication and some bravery.
In most parts
of the world, young people’s access to family planning and HIV prevention
programs is limited by poverty and access. Further, where there are programs,
they are often not designed with young people in mind. I’m impressed and gratified by the
dedication of so many of them who are attending this conference to push for
policies that change that reality.