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SheDecides Flagship Event marks a year of accelerated global support for women and girls to realise their sexual and reproductive health rights

2 March 2018

It has been a year since SheDecides, a global movement to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of every girl and woman was launched. The movement is about getting women and girls to be the ones to make decisions about their bodies, lives, health and futures.

On 1 March 2018 SheDecides Champions and partners hosted by the Danish Government, the South African Department of Health and the United Nations Population Fund, gathered in Pretoria, South Africa to reflect on how the movement is building sustainable change.  

Laura Londén, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director Management, affirmed UNFPA’s commitment to the campaign, which was born out of a global need to support every girl and woman’s right to make independent and free decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

UNFPA’s three transformative goals – to end unmet need for family planning, end preventable maternal deaths and end gender-based violence and other harmful practices – are at the core of the movement, she said, and she called for a strong sense of urgency towards action.

Lack of access to modern family planning reinforces intergenerational poverty and leaves girls and women vulnerable to violence and harmful practices. “Fundamental human rights and sexual and reproductive rights must apply to women and girls everywhere, without relativity and without compromise,” she said in a firm call to action.

SheDecides Champion, South African Health Minister, Hon Dr Aaron Motsoaledi affirmed the impact of the movement and its role in fast tracking sustainable development. “She Conquers (a three-year national campaign that aims to improve the lives of adolescent girls and young women in South Africa) and SheDecides will be able to help us achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In health we won’t be able to achieve SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives for all), if we can’t get SDG 5 correct [which is] to achieve Gender Equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Dr Motsoaledi also called for galvanised action to achieve the aspirations of the movement. “Our deliberations should focus on the three pillars of action: Stand Up, Speak Out; Change the Rules and Unlock Resources.” He also called on men to become engaged in the SheDecides movement. “We must not bring [She Decides] as a project for women because men must be part of this movement; it’s a movement of humanity.”

The SheDecides currently has over 40,000 members (or friends) who have signed the manifesto and the movement is growing. To date SheDecides has raised $450 million in new funding to support women’s sexual health and reproductive rights.

Lerato Morulane a Youth Champion from She Conquers, called for SheDecides to be a game-changer. She highlighted that as all sectors now know what needs to be done to advance women’s rights, it was now time for concrete action. “It’s about high time that we wear our gloves and take a stand and say, ‘we stand tall, we are changing the rules’.”

Minister of Development Cooperation Hon Ms Ulla Tørnæs addressed the need for those who recognise the centrality of women’s right to development globally to lead with conviction. “As champions of human rights, we must speak up – loud. And we have to get to a place where the respect and fulfilment of such rights for everyone is normal.”

Ms Tørnæs also cautioned that attaining the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals would be in jeopardy if women and girls continued to have their rights curtailed. The She Decides flagship event and the movement were therefore critical to realising the goals.  “Our fight today is your future tomorrow. Our vision is clear: A world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, with her life, with her future. We want her to be able to make these decisions freely and safely.”

Following the opening statements, participants took part in talk-show style sessions on each of the key action tracks (Stand Up, Speak Out; Change the Rules; and Unlock Resources). Speakers discussed solutions and key actions that government, the private sector and civil society can take to ensure women and girls rights are promoted and protected.

Responding to the question of how to unlock resources to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls, UN Women Executive Director, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called on those with the capability of such funding to acknowledge the need for this movement. “It starts by us ensuring that the agenda is fully embraced by all of those who can make resources available. If there is one action government can take it is to legislate and regulate the private sector to invest in this agenda.”

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka also tasked countries with building evidence to show why sexual and health and reproductive rights require such investment.  “One of the critical steps for all our countries is to collate data and make it visible and available so that we can make the case and make the linkages, because failure to invest in this agenda takes away resources. We have to put a price on gender equality and on taking away the rights of women to empower themselves. If we are unable to address Gender Based Violence, Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and we end up with the majority of women poor and trodden, there is a price to be paid.”