Join women’s rights activists around the world in the re-launch of May 28th International Day of Action for Women’s Health, by calling on governments and the international community to ensure a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach to women and girls’ health in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
In 1987, women’s rights activists declared May 28 as the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, as a means to speak out on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues faced by women1 and girls all over the world.
Nearly 30 years on, while the challenges obstructing the full realization of all women’s health and wellbeing remain varied and often unaddressed, a disturbing paradigm has persisted: namely, an often limited, narrow and imposed understanding of women’s health, as well as the actual needs of all women and girls in all their diversities.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),2 a set of eight development goals that UN member states and development institutions committed to in 2000, perpetuated this limited understanding by focusing almost exclusively on maternal health, itself defined narrowly by survival numbers and the presence of skilled birth attendants, as opposed to a comprehensive definition which includes women and girls’ autonomy, privacy and dignity rights. By narrowly focusing on maternal health, the MDGs effectively omitted and ignored the commitments governments made at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which placed gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights at the heart of sustainable development.3
As we all know, women are not just mothers – we are women and girls of all ages and diverse sexualities; we are women with or without children; women who are single, married or unmarried; women who are living with or are affected by HIV; women with different abilities and disabilities. We are cis-women,4 trans-women, and gender-non-conforming women; we are indigenous women, migrant women, sex workers, and women who work in formal and informal sectors. We are women of different socioeconomic statuses, and women belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; women, in effect, of multiple and intersecting identities, with diverse health needs over the course of our lives.
In spite of these realities, there is a lack of meaningful commitment on the part of governments to address the diverse nature of women’s sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as promote, protect, and respect our sexual rights and reproductive rights to decide freely upon all aspects of our body, our sexuality and our lives, free form coercion, discrimination and violence.
We need to hold governments accountable to their existing commitments, ensuring that national policies effectively guarantee and support women’s choices and rights. These obligations are not just about governments reaffirming past commitments and repeating words; they are about implementation and taking action towards progressive realization. They are also about addressing existing realities in order to fulfill the rights of women and girls that for too long have been disregarded and even explicitly denied.
As such, it is vital that existing commitments on women and girls’ SRHR not only be included but also strengthened in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The new development agenda MUST firmly establish a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach to women’s health.
Governments around the world are currently involved in the process of evaluating achievements under the present global development agenda expressed in the MDGs. We cannot talk of sustainable development without the respect of human rights of women and girls in all their diversities, and without the meaningful participation of women and girls in the creation of the Post-2015 development framework.
If one hopes to have a holistic, inclusive, forward-looking, and relevant Post-2015 Development Agenda, we believe women’s health for all, particularly in terms of their SRHR, must be central to the goals and targets, and draw on existing international and regional human rights treaties such as CEDAW,5 Belem do Pará Convention6 and Maputo Protocol,7 and the most progressive international and regional documents and consensus such as the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration,8 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development9 and the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development.10
Human rights must be explicitly referenced, with the understanding that “the promotion and protection of sexual rights and reproductive rights are essential for the achievement of social justice and the national, regional and global commitments to the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental,”11 and that any meaningful efforts towards transformative and sustainable development must posit people as the drivers of development rather than passive receivers of aid priorities and programming.
As recently asserted by CEDAW, the “failure of a State to provide services and the criminalization of some services that only women require is a violation of women’s reproductive rights and constitutes discrimination against them.”12 Not only is women and girls’ SRHR a human rights issue in and of itself, it is central to their empowerment and achievement of other rights.
When states fail to recognize full sexual rights and reproductive rights, they not only compromise women’s health, they both tolerate and endorse institutional and structural violence towards women and girls, abusing their human rights and perpetuating their marginalization and social exclusion. Any Post-2015 Development Agenda will fail to be transformative if women and girls’ sexual rights and reproductive rights are not meaningfully included as an integral component for equitable and sustainable development. Governments are capable of more, and women and girls in all of their diversities deserve more.
We call on governments to ensure a comprehensive, high-quality, and integrated approach to SRHR, including but not limited to:
- The recognition of the SRHR of young people, ensuring access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services, as well as comprehensive sexuality education that is gender sensitive, non-discriminatory and life-skills based, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacity of adolescents and young people;
- The recognition of the sexual rights (including the right to pleasure) of all people, including those who are most marginalized;
- Universal access to a full range of voluntary contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, that is of high quality and variety, is also user-friendly and appropriate to the needs of girls, adolescents and women, and ensures their confidentiality;
- Universal access to safe and legal abortion, urging governments to review and repeal laws that criminalize voluntary abortion, and remove all legal and implementation barriers to ensuring access to safe, comprehensive, free, sensitive and high-quality procedures for pregnancy termination, free of marital and/or parental consent requirements;
- The integration of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in SRHR services, where such integration is also bi-directional and ensures comprehensive SRHR in HIV related programming and services;
- The recognition of and respect for women’s reproductive rights regarding access, bodily integrity, autonomy, and decision-making in various contexts, including surrogacy, New Reproductive Technologies, and Human Rights in Childbirth, among others;
- The eradication of all forms of violence and discrimination based on age, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, occupation, class, ethnicity, religion, disability, migrant or HIV status, among other grounds.
THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!
It’s time for a new narrative on women’s health issues, a narrative drafted and voiced by women themselves, in all their diversities. This May 28, SPEAK OUT AND MOBILIZE in your community about what you see as the urgent priorities for realizing women’s holistic sexual and reproductive health, rights and wellbeing.
Join us and SRHR advocates worldwide in showing governments that a holistic approach to women’s health is about recognizing women’s sexual rights and reproductive rights, and supporting women of all ages in all their diversities as they make sexual and reproductive choices for themselves, throughout their whole lives.
Empowered and respected choices! Recognized needs and realized rights in the POST2015 agenda now!
JOIN the May 28th Campaign re-launch by endorsing the Call for Action at www.may28.org
Your contributions will help inform your government’s understanding of women’s SRHR issues and influence the high level discussions at the United Nations on the New Development Agenda in the following months. We want to make sure your voice will be heard!! JOIN US NOW!
This May28th SPEAK OUT:
- Host an awareness raising activity: forum, meeting, workshop/training, or cultural event on the need of a holistic, inclusive, and human rights-based approach to women’s health, including SRHR for all women and girls in all their diversities.
This May28th MOBILIZE:
- Mobilize your network of reproductive justice activists for a public action: press conference, street demonstration, banner-drops, information stands, street play, flash mob, photo/art exhibit.
- Check out the May 28 Campaign toolkit for more mobilization ideas and messages you can use in your activities!
This May28th CONNECT:
- Engage other partners and allies in May 28th Campaign
- Share the Call for Action and the Campaign toolkit
- Share the May 28th Campaign Action Alerts we will be sending throughout the whole month with more ideas and messages.
- Share with us your campaign plans for May 28th to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will make sure to inform others about your events!
This May28th SPREAD THE WORD:
- Download, print and distribute the Day of Action materials among your allies, partners, colleagues and all those who support women’s right to health and SRHR.
- Spread the news about the Global Day of Action and tell the world about what you are doing on this day through social media – Facebook and Twitter.
- Tweet! For twitter use the following hash tags – #May28, #WomensHealth #SRHRtargetNow!. Check the Campaign Toolkit for more ideas about social media engagement and sample tweets!
This May 28th ADVOCATE:
- Send your government and the UN agencies in charge of drafting the Post-2015 Development Agenda a statement explaining the need for the inclusion of SRHR language and specific targets. You can find statement templates on the May 28th website later this month!
- Send your demands through Twitter to your National Delegates before the UN and UN representatives. Find more tweet examples in the Campaign toolkit.
Visit and share www.may28.org and learn more about the campaign and learn what you can do in your community!
Mobilize, Assert, Demand!
Download the letter version of the Call for Action sent on 6 June 2014 to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin at UNFPA, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at UN Women, and the two OWG co-chairs here May-28-Civil-Society-Letter-to-Secretary-General-Ban-Ki-moon-2.pdf
List of Organizations Endorsing the Call to Action as of May 28, 2014
May 28 Partners
AIDS Accountability International
Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA)
Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP)
ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for SRHR
Center for Reproductive Rights
Consorcio Latino Americano Contra el Aborto Inseguro (CLACAI)
Decidir Nos Hace Libres
Human Rights in Childbirth
International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion
International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH)
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW Global)
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF – Western Hemisphere)
PopDev, Hampshire College
Sonke Gender Justice Network
Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI)
Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRDIC)
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
Women’s Networking Zone for the AIDS 2014 Conference
Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)
Advocates for Youth
African Life Centre
Aitemad Research & Development Organization
Alliance Genève Droits Homme
Alliances for Africa
Austrian Family Planning Association
Asociación Promoción y Desarrollo de la Mujer
Asociación de Mujeres Meretrices de Argentina (AMMAR)
Association des mamans célibataire pour la paix et le developpement
Association pour le developpement et de la promotion des droits humains
Ateneo Public Interest And Legal Advocacy, Philippines
Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud A.C.
Beyond 2015 Africa
Brokenshire Women Center, Philippines
Catholics 4 Reproductive Health Mindanao, Philippines
Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
Centre for Human Rights and Climate Change Research
Centro de Investigación para la Acción Femenina (CIPAF)
COALITION POUR LE DEVELOPPEMENT ET LA REHABILITATION SOCIALE, CODR UBUNTU
CHOICE for Youth Sexuality
Colectiva Mujer y Salud
Colectivo Feminista Panteras Rosas
Corporación Red Nacional de Mujeres Comunales, Comunitarias, Indígenas y Campesinas de la República
de Colombia (REDCOMUINCACOL)
Defense for Human and Civil Rights (DHCR)
Development of Institution & Youth Alliance – DIYA
Development of Peoples Foundation
Equidad de Género, Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia, Mexico
FAMEDEV-Inter Africa Network for Women
Family Planning Organization of The Phil. Davao City Chapter
Federacion de Planificación Familiar Estatal
FEDERATION OF WOMEN LAWYERS- FIDA KENYA
FEMNET (African Women’s Development & Communication Network)
FOKUS – Forum for Women and Development
Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaise
Fortress of Hope Africa
French Family Planning Movement (MFPF)
Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM)
Gabriela Southern Mindanao
Generation Initiative For Women and Youth Network (GIWYN)
GIRLS’ POWER INITIATIVE (GPI)
Global Fund for Women
GOOD LIVING INITIATIVE
HIV/AIDS Education & Development Centre, Rivers State
Ibis Reproductive Health
International AIDS Women Caucus (IAWC)
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
Kaugmaon Children Center, Philippines
Kyetume Community Based Health Care Programme
Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity
Local Development Agency on Reproductive and Maternal Health (LODARMAH)
MEDECINS DU MONDE
Mindanao Migrants Center On Empowering Action, Philippines
Moremi Initiative for Women’s Leadership in Africa
National Development Committee, Janakpur
National Network of Abortion Funds
Noor Pakistan (NOOR)
Nnabagereka Development Foundation (NDF)
Orissa State Volunteers Social Workers Association
PARA EL MEJORAMIENTO Y LA CALIDAD DE VIDA DE TRABAJADORAS SEXUALES (LA SALA) COSTA RICA
Participatory Human Rights Advancement Society
Peace Foundation Pakistan
People’s Health Movement Nepal Students’ Circle
PLANNED PARENTHOOD ASSOCIATION OF LIBERIA (PPAL)
PLATAFORMA DECIDIR NOS HACE LIBRES
Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamerica y El Caribe (REDTRASEX)
Red Nacional de Mujeres
Reproductive Health Network of Davao City, Philippines
Rozaria Memorial Trust
RURAL-URBAN WOMEN AND CHILDREN DEVELOPMENT AGENCY (RUWACDA)
Rutgers WPF Pakistan
Sama Resource Group for Women and Health, India
SARYN (IPPF South Asia)
SI Mujer – Nicaragua
South African National AIDS Council Women’s Sector [SANACWS]
SRHR Coalition Nepal
STOP AIDS NOW!
Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), Thailand
Unión de Asociaciones Familiares (UNAF)
Union Women Center
Wakiso Muslim Youth Development Foundation
WOMEN AGAINST RAPE INC. (W.A.R.)
Women For A Change, Cameroon
Women for peace and ecology
Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways
Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, Ghana
Women in Science and Engineering (WISE India)
Women’s Promotion Centre
World Assembly of Youth (WAY)
Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)
Youth Action Nepal
Youth Advocacy Network (YAN) Pakistan
Y PEER Sri Lanka
YSAFE IPPF EN
Aiste Dackauskaite, Lithuania
Annelise Petlock, Canada
Annmarie Leonard, Ireland
Anooshay Shaigan, Pakistan
Ashok Pandev, Nepal
Atty. Romeo Cabarde, Philippines
Blandine Boulekone, Vanuatu
Catherine Afker, France
Cecilia Bowerman, Australia
Charlotte Blot, France
Christian Noah, Tanzania
Christina Villarreal, Colombia
Cindya Coria, Mexico
Claire Buller, United Kingdom
Connie Crawford, United States
Corazon Espinosa, Philippines
Darleen Estuart, Philippines
Dorothy Akinyi, Kenya
Emily Barcklow, Mexico
Emmanouil Athanasiou, France
Erika Weckström, Finland
Eugenia Rodriguez, Puerto Rico
Eva Hall, Australia
Eva Quistorp, Germany
Fakhra Hassan, Pakistan
Hanna Lindley-Jones, United Kingdom
Heather Gold, United States
Hope Basiao-Abella, Philippines
Jacqui Mulville, United Kingdom
Jasmine Palmer, United Kingdom
Dr.Jean Lindo, Philippines
Jean Lindo Philippines
Jeannette Vicencio Patirro, Chile
Jeff Fuentes, Philippines
Johanna Marquardt, Austria
Judith van Arkel, Suriname
Judy Gold, United Kingdom
Julia McDonald, Canada
Kathleen Clark, United States
Lara Cousins, Canada
Leena Hasan, Canada
Lorna Mandin, Philippines
Lyda J.Canson, Philippines
Marcelo Ferrari, Brazil
Marevic Parcon, Philippines
Marta Garbarino, Italy
Mary Ann Zapar, Philippines
Mary Helen Pombo, United States
Muhammad Aslam Panhwar, Pakistan
Musimbi Kanyoro, United States
Nicolas Guihard, France
Norie Soliana, Philippines
Pam Wortley, United Kingdom
Paul Robert, Bangladesh
Penny McKee, United Kingdom
Phuong Nguyen, Vietnam
Reeza Tigle, Philippines
Rolando Borja, Philippines
Romeo Cabarde, Philippines
Rosena Sanchez, Philippines
Saba Ansari, Pakistan
Sarah Graham, Australia
Shannon Cousins, Canada
Solome Nakaweesi-Kimbugwe, Uganda
Sulochana Pednekar, India
Susan Steckler, United States
Theingi Myint, Myanmar
Vanessa Coria, Mexico
Velimir Saveski, Macedonia
Yulia Syvokon, Ukraine
Zonibel Woods, Canada
While we use the term ‘woman/women’ we do so with a critical reflexivity that recognizes the nuances and right to people’s unique sexual and gender identities and expressions. We also recognize that ‘women’ are not a monolithic group and that they have diverse identities that vary due to their social location and the socio-economic, political, and multicultural contexts in which their lives are embedded.↩
- United Nations, General Assembly, United Nations Millennium Declaration, A/RES/55/2 (18 September 2000), available from http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.pdf↩
- International Conference on Population and Development – ICPD – Programme of Action
A/CONF.171/13/Rev.1 — Report of the International Conference on Population and Development, available from https://www.unfpa.org/public/cache/offonce/home/publications/pid/1973;jsessionid=8FD210A26BB5A9F0C51F0A944D77CF5D.jahia01↩
- Cis-woman: A ciswoman, shorthand for “cissexual woman” or “cisgender woman,” is a non-transsexual woman–a woman whose assigned gender is female, and whose assigned female gender is more or less consistent with her personal sense of self. Definition borrowed from about.com. Civil Liberties available from http://civilliberty.about.com/od/gendersexuality/g/Ciswoman-Cissexual-Woman.htm↩
- United Nations, General Assembly, The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (18 December 1979) available from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm↩
- United Nations, General Assembly, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belem Do Para” (9 June 1994), available from http://www.cidh.org/Basicos/English/basic13.Conv%20of%20Belem%20Do%20Para.htm↩
- African Union, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, (March 1995), available from http://www.africa-union.org/root/au/Documents/Treaties/Text/Protocol%20on%20the%20Rights%20of%20Women.pdf↩
- Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration (December 2012) available from http://www.icpdyouth.org/↩
- Report of the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference, Bangkok, 16-20 September 2013 available from http://www.unescap.org/resources/sixth-appc-report↩
- United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, LC/L.3697 (23 September 2013), available from http://www.cepal.org/celade/noticias/documentosdetrabajo/9/50709/2013-596-montevideo_consensus_pyd.pdf↩
- Ibid, page 4.↩
- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2014). Statement of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on sexual and reproductive health and rights: beyond 2014 ICPD review, p. 1-2.↩