Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR – an important, although not particularly smooth, acronym) are on the agenda today more than ever. These rights – specifically access to family planning and abortion – have been highly contested in recent years, and are currently threatened now more than ever, thanks to Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule in his first full day in office.
And in every day since then, he has demonstrated that he is no supporter of women, and no fan of equality. His expansion of the ban included all health programs, not just family planning. In doing so, he put the lives of women and girls worldwide at risk on that day – and on virtually every day since.
But, these actions gave birth to the resistance. And a global movement I’m so proud to be part of. SheDecides was born out of this massive setback, fueled by the Dutch, the Gates Foundation and others.
And now here I am in Pretoria for the one-year anniversary of this movement, the SheDecides flagship event – SheDecidesDay.
Today, and every day, we reaffirm our belief that she DOES decide – without exception, without question.
This event has brought together close to 300 supporters, advocates, champions, activists worldwide including members of parliament and youth activists, and everyone in between. The event focuses on the three action areas of the SheDecides movement:
Stand Up, Speak Out: Leaders in all countries standing up and speaking out for girls and women to decide about their bodies, their lives, their futures.
Change the Rules: Taking action to change the laws, policies and practices that stop girls and women from deciding for themselves.
Unlock Resources: Building capacity and unlocking the human, technical and financial resources from governments, foundations and citizens so that the services and education needed are available.
I’m facilitating the action area on changing the rules. There’s much to learn from this that I can take back to the region. It is obvious that politicians – parliamentarians, ministers, policy-makers – play a role in forming (or reforming) policies that help or hinder the ability of women and girls to make their own decisions. At the same time, individuals and advocacy groups play a critical role in taking action to ensure that laws and policies enable women’s agency and allow for women and girls to decide. These individuals and groups also have to hold these decision-makers to account. Ultimately, laws and policies that ensure and protect women’s rights to decide also enable women and girls to have access to information, services, support they need to govern their own lives.
Our challenge was this: to discuss what politicians can do to speak out and stand up for women and girls to decide. We can of course talk about problems, challenges, bottlenecks, and loopholes all day. But we know what those are. Instead, we were tasked with being solution-driven, and prioritizing actions that have worked, or could work.
Because we can’t afford to fail.
More from me as discussions progress…