Yesterday, I spoke to 56 members of Parliament from 28 countries gathered at the G8 International Parliamentarians’ Conference about the immediate actions governments can take to secure the right to a just and healthy life for every woman and girl.
The G8—also known as the Group of Eight—is an economic and political alliance made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which meets annually at the G8 Summit. Prior to the Summit, Parliamentarians from around the world gather to determine key priorities and coordinate and maximize their influence at the G8 Summit.
This year’s G8 Parliamentarians’ Conference focused on “Strategic Investments in Times of Crisis—The Rewards of Making Women’s Health a Priority.” I presented the Parliamentarians with what I see as a blueprint for action—the resolution from the 2009 United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) [cpd.iwhc.org]—and asked the Parliamentarians endorse it, promote it, and encourage their governments to fund it. In passing this resolution last April, the world’s governments reaffirmed their commitment to the Programme of Action agreed to by 179 countries at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development—the ICPD. They also agreed on precise action steps to make faster progress toward the core ICPD goals and, in doing so, the Millennium Development Goals, in the remaining five years of their mandates.
My comments elicited the most support from Parliamentarians from the developing world, where poverty and human rights violations are pervasive and people stand to gain the most from policies and programs that promote and protect health and human rights. For example, the Honorable Marie Rose Nguini Effa from Cameroun urged her fellow Parliamentarians to support programs that distribute female condoms, which give women the power to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The Honorable El Hadji Malick Diop from Senegal lamented the lack of high-quality comprehensive reproductive health services and reinforced the fact the young people want and need comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents. I know comprehensive sexuality education is not an easy subject—not for parents, not for politicians or for policymakers. But like Mr. Diop, I firmly believe that if we are to see lasting change—a world in which women are healthy and their human rights are protected—then we must raise our children differently. The International Women’s Health Coalition supports programs for young people that are reaching national scale in Nigeria, Cameroun, Pakistan, Brazil, and Peru.
I was particularly thrilled by comments from The Honorable James Magara from Kenya, who urged men in positions of power to stand up for women’s rights and health. Today, when fewer than 20 percent of Parliamentarians are women, the importance of having support from brave and visionary men like Mr. Magara cannot be underestimated.
As many of the Parliamentarians recognized, we have a an unprecedented political opportunity before us. Increasingly, world leaders understand that there will be no peace and no security in communities, countries, or the world until we secure every woman’s right to a just and healthy life. Only healthy women whose human rights are protected can be productive workers and full participants in their country’s political processes. Only when women are healthy and empowered can they raise and educate healthy children. These are the building blocks of stable societies.
Click here to learn more about the G8 Summit to be held in L’Aquila, Italy.
Adrienne Germain is President of the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.