|Top Ten Wins for Women's Health and Rights in 2010|
Each year, the International Women's Health Coalition issues the "Top Ten Wins for Women's Health and Rights."
Scroll down to view the list, and click on the title of any item to learn more:
More than 20 years ago, the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC) convened 44 women from 20 countries who conceived of a substance, like contraceptive foam or jelly, which could be inserted vaginally to prevent HIV infection. We named it a "microbicide," and set out to find scientists and money to develop it. Until recently, progress has been slow, but in July, results from a clinical trial in South Africa found a new gel to be nearly 40 percent effective in protecting women against HIV during intercourse.
What's next: Making microbicides widely available to women will require political will and additional funding; donors have only committed about half of the funds necessary for follow-up research. While we will continue to advocate for further development, we must also help women protect themselves now through the only existing woman-initiated HIV prevention tool-the female condom. In Cameroun, IWHC's longtime partner Society for Women and AIDS in Africa-Cameroun (SWAAC) now distributes over 150,000 female condoms throughout the country each year-and intends to generate even greater demand in the future. Visit blog.iwhc.org/fc to learn more about female condoms, and to watch a video on female condom demand and distribution.
In December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion violates the rights of pregnant women to receive proper medical care in life-threatening cases. Each year, more than 6,000 women travel abroad from Ireland to obtain abortion services, often at costs of over $1,500 per trip. In a statement on the ruling, the Irish Family Planning Association-the IWHC partner that helped bring about this decision-said the court sent "a very strong message that the State can no longer ignore the imperative to legislate for abortion."
What's next: Each year, an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions occur worldwide. IWHC will continue to support the Irish Family Planning Association and other local leaders across Africa, Asia, and Latin America working to expand access to safe abortion services. Click here to learn more about the efforts of IWHC partner Mujer y Salud en Uruguay (MYSU), which is working to gain the support of newly-elected President José Mujica and sympathetic members of Congress for a new bill legalizing abortion. Click here for a factsheet on the dangers of unsafe abortion.
In July, the United Nations consolidated the four existing UN bodies on women (UNIFEM, DAW, INSTRAW and OSAGI) into one new organization-UN Women- and appointed Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as its head. And in yet another victory for women and girls, the United Nations Secretary General appointed Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, a longstanding advocate for women's sexual and reproductive rights and health, as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
What's next: As President Bachelet and Dr. Osotimehin officially begin their duties, IWHC looks forward to working with both agencies to secure implementation of a "package" of integrated health services (contraception, safe abortion, maternity care, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS), buttressed by sexuality and gender education and protection of human rights. Join us as we follow the progress of UN Women and of Dr. Osotimehin in his new role at UNFPA here, and here, respectively.
Summer 2010 marked the beginning of the United Nations Year of Youth. Fittingly, IWHC's courageous partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America scaled up their exemplary comprehensive sexuality education programs to provide young people with vital information about their bodies, their rights, and their responsibilities. In Pakistan, the Ministry of Education asked Aahung to pilot their curriculum in public schools across Sindh Province. IWHC partner Femmes, Sante, et Developpement (FESADE) in Cameroun secured approval from their government to pilot their comprehensive sexuality education curriculum in 50 schools in two districts. In Brazil, IWHC partner Comunicação em Sexualidade (ECOS) was appointed to a governmental working group that will make recommendations on sexuality education programs for middle school and high school students throughout the country.
What's next: IWHC will continue its support of organizations and networks that work to secure young people's health and human rights, including our participation in a new group "Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice-RESURJ" and Advocacy in Practice trainings, which support young people to effectively advocate for sexual and reproductive rights and health at the national and international levels. Find out more with our factsheet on youth health and rights, "Overlooked and Uninformed".
In the United States, after years of persistent advocacy and media work by IWHC and colleagues, the Senate unanimously passed The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act on December 1. Two weeks later, the bill was taken up for consideration by the House of Representatives where it failed to garner "super majority" needed of 2/3 of the members supporting it (the vote was 241 for it and 166 against). In April, a coalition of Nigerian activists and academics signed and delivered a petition to the national Senate calling for an investigation into the marriage of Senator Yerima, who allegedly paid $100,000 to marry the 13-year- old daughter of his Egyptian driver. In their petition, advocates requested that Yerima be suspended, pointing to the Nigerian government's "violation of known laws, conventions and standards" of human rights.
What's next: The International Women's Health Coalition looks forward to working with the U.S. Administration to ensure that the United States develops and implements a strategic approach to combating child marriage as part of its international development efforts. In Nigeria, efforts to prevent child marriage Click here to read a factsheet on child marriage, and here to read a blog post with a young person's take on the dangers of child marriage.
The U.S. Administration and Congress showed strong leadership on women's human rights and health in 2010. In January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commemorated the 15th anniversary of a major international agreement on health and human rights, stating a renewed U.S. commitment to making access to reproductive health care a "basic right." And in Congress, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) introduced the Global Sexual and Reproductive Health Act to ensure a more comprehensive U.S. approach to addressing the range of the sexual and reproductive health needs of individuals.
What's next: In close collaboration with 50 colleague organizations, IWHC continues to work with U.S. Administration officials to ensure that foreign assistance best meets the needs of women and girls. Keep up-to-date on the latest news from Washington by following IWHC's web feature Capital Critiques and sign up for action alerts at actionalerts.iwhc.org.
Early this year, UNAIDS released guidelines to help governments better prevent new HIV infections among women and girls. The UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls contains possible actions for AIDS programs to choose from, according to their local contexts, that protect women's human rights within the context of HIV/AIDS; to invest HIV/AIDS funds nationally in integrated sexual and reproductive health services; and to provide comprehensive sexuality education, among others.
What's next: IWHC is working with local organizations, governments, and donors in South Africa, Peru, and Nigeria to accelerate implementation of this Agenda. IWHC's local partners are working tirelessly to ensure equal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support for women and young people.
For months, IWHC worked with colleagues inside the UN system and several governments to help shape the UN Secretary General's Global Strategy on Women's and Children's Health. The brand new strategy promotes comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, not just maternity care; takes a country-up perspective; and recommends utilizing existing health resources more efficiently and effectively.
What's Next: IWHC and our partners will continue to advocate on behalf of strategies and programs that promote a full package of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services. Click here to download the "Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health." Click here to learn more about IWHC's work with the United Nations.
This September, new data found that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by one third since 1990. The September report, "Trends in Maternal Mortality", attributes this decline in part to regional efforts to reduce maternal deaths, and notes that "such efforts need to be expanded and intensified, to accelerate progress towards reducing the still very wide disparities between developing and developed worlds."
What's next: In order to achieve maternal health, women must have access to a comprehensive range of services, including contraception, maternity care, safe abortion, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, along with comprehensive sexuality education and human rights protections. Read IWHC's Factsheet, Five Sexual and Reproductive Health Services that Will Make Pregnancy Safer for All and watch a video featuring IWHC policy consultant Jennifer Redner to learn more.
On March 12, 2010, Mexico City legalized same-sex marriage, as well as adoption by same-sex couples. In early August, Mexico's Supreme Court took the victory one step further when it issued a near-unanimous vote that gay marriages performed in the capital must be recognized by all 31 states in the republic. And in July, advocates received more good news when Argentina legalized same-sex marriage.
What's next: IWHC will continue to work with human rights advocates throughout Latin America and across the globe to advocate for the expansion of LGBTQ rights and the decriminalization of homosexuality, and ensure that LGBTQ communities are better informed about their rights. To learn more about IWHC's work on human rights and sexuality, click here.