Our Rationale

Why have we chosen to work with the ICPD and the MDGs?


In 1994, representatives from 179 countries gathered in Cairo, Egypt for the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).  A 20-year plan was adopted to address key population issues. Central to this was the recognition of universal human and reproductive rights.  In particular that: 
 
“All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and have the information and means to do so, and the right to obtain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health…”
 
Six years later, 189 countries signed the Millennium Declaration and committed to the attainment of eight national Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 5 was focused on improving maternal health.  However, in recognition of slow and uneven progress across regions towards this goal; and the failure to integrate vital related SRHR issues into policies and programmes; a new target-‘Universal access to reproductive health'- was added in 2007. In 2011, there remains a long way to go to reach these goals. For example, access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health services remains poor in many developing countries. 
 
Whilst we recognise the many shortcomings of both the MDGs and the ICPD; the former, for example, was primarily an initiative led by developed countries and focuses on women as mothers, and they both fail to substantively include sexual rights or women’s full sexual and human rights; we believe that these two documents provide useful opportunities for policy advocacy at national, local and regional levels. They represent concrete commitments which signatory governments are obligated to uphold and which advocates can hold them accountable to. Monitoring and reporting processes are in place, which highlight individual country status and offer opportunities for civil society engagement.  By enhancing these processes with our member-generated SRHR index, we can push for the most holistic interpretation of these frameworks and ensure meaningful inclusion of a human right’s approach and the wide breadth of SRHR issues. 
 

Why a Reproductive Justice approach?

WGNRR’s work is based on the foundation belief that SRR are Human Rights, and that these should be respected, protected and fulfilled, as articulated in numerous Human Rights treaties and consensus documents.  WGNRR also recognises the connection between social, economic, cultural and religious issues and the ability of people to fulfill their sexual and reproductive rights. We, therefore, constantly seek to provide a comprehensive view of SRHR, including issues of social justice and the socio-economic conditions which need to change to enable rights to be realised. We believe this requires transformative social change and will work with our members to identify and demand the changes required within their different social contexts. The concept of reproductive justice encompasses this understanding.

 
WGNRR rejects Population Control theories and strongly condemn coercive methods of population control as a violation of Human Rights.  Evidence shows that when women have social, political and economic power, and resources to make decisions about their bodies and sexual health for themselves; their families and their communities; with education and opportunities most women will reduce the number of pregnancies they have.  However, it is their fundamental human right to have control over these choices and access to the resources, information and knowledge needed for this. 
 

Why we chose our five Programme Areas?

As a network, our strength lies in our members, and therefore, ensuring a cohesive; engaged membership is vital to the achievement of our goals relating to access to contraceptives, safe abortion, sexual rights and youth. 
 
One in six married women are estimated to have an unmet need for family planning, meaning they want to postpone their next pregnancy or stop having children, but they are not using a method of contraception or are unable to.  Many unmarried women face the same challenge. Despite recognition of this problem in ICPD and the MDGs; progress remains slow and we believe it still requires a special focus from the SRHR community.  
 
Meanwhile, 40% of women of childbearing age live in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws and one in ten pregnancies end in an unsafe abortion; meaning that every seven minutes a woman dies as a result of an unsafe abortion. This extraordinary mortality rate leaves few lives untouched in some way by this catastrophe, but the issue remains rarely talked about and chronically neglected. We therefore see access to safe abortion as central in our work towards realising SRHR for all.   
 
Sexual rights are too often talked about only in the context of reproduction, and the right of each person to express their sexual orientation and identity safely and happily is often neglected.  This area is particularly relevant to young people who often face barriers to  express their sexuality, and discrimination in accessing information and services, including redress for sexual violence. Nearly 20% of the world’s population is aged between 15 and 24 years and 85% of these live in developing countries.  We believe this group has specific unmet needs and the right to social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their gender, bodies and sexuality for ourselves, their families and their communities. We believe that comprehensive SRHR awareness programming that is gender-sensitive, non-discriminatory and particularly relevant to young people’s lives should be integrated into school curricula, in non-formal community-based education programmes, and specific initiatives developed for marginalised, out-of-school youth.
 
In these contexts, youth leadership development is especially important in order to ensure that youth needs and youth voices are adequately represented and included.
 
Over the next 5 years WGNRR will be networking and campaigning with its members on these key programme areas. We will support capacity development through knowledge sharing and skills development, and place a focus on community mobilisation, policy analysis and advocacy.  Together we will strive for to support change at the global and local levels, utilising the ICPD PoA, MDGs, Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, ICESCR and CRC as well as social justice frameworks to demand full realisation of SRHR for all people

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