Body&Rights, the e-learning on sexual and reproductive health and rights internationally, developed by Sensoa and the SRHR Working Group of Be-cause Health, the Belgian platform for international health, is fully up-to-date.
Five years after the successful international She Decides conference, launched in response to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule (GGR) under former US President Donald Trump, Belgium and the She Decides Support Unit reconvened sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates from around the world in Brussels, 19-20th May.
Lack of information, misinformation, myths about sex and contraception, poor access or even no access to contraception, but also the lack of dialogue about contraception use and pregnancy between partners cause many (young) women to become pregnant unplanned. These challenges mean that one of the most fundamental choices, to become pregnant or not, is not a free and informed choice for many women worldwide. This is the gist of the State of The World Population report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2022.
Belgium’s international support for sexual and reproductive health rises, but lacks systematic attention for HIV
Sensoa's annual review of the expenditure of the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) shows that expenditures for health and reproductive health increased from €133 million in 2019 to €141 million in 2020. This is mainly due to an increase in the expenditures for reproductive health from €24.86 million to €33.45 million, and particularly due to the increased investment in sexual and reproductive health in Belgium's existing governmental cooperation programmes with partner countries.
Sensoa asks Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir to continue on this growth path, established during the previous legislature. Maintaining and expanding this level requires that sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV, systematically receive the necessary attention and resources within the new bilateral cooperation programmes.
What happens when Antwerp youth and Palestinian teenagers (virtually) sit together? Curiosity, recognition and humbleness. That is what we were witness to. On September 22-23rd Sensoa co-organised an exchange with UNFPA Palestine for young people from 15 Palestinian schools in Jerusalem and a class of 3rd graders of Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen.
The youngsters talked about their lives during the lockdowns – “My life was put on hold” -, their expectations as to marriage and relationships – ‘love’ and ‘spending time together’ ranked highest - and their ideas about gender and situations of sexual transgressive behaviour.
The parliamentarians for the 2030 agenda and UNFPA Brussels co-hosted the Belgian launch of UNFPA’s 2021 State of the World Population report that carries the meaningful title ‘My Body is Own’/ ‘Mon Corps m’Appartient’. UNFPA presented its report that discusses what bodily autonomy is and how we can measure it. It poses the question how we can achieve bodily autonomy for everyone.
A new version of the e-tutorial on sexual and reproductive health and rights is available. The E-tutorial Body & Rights is aimed at anyone active in international cooperation. It is a platform that houses a wealth of information on sexual and reproductive health and rights
(SRHR). Both experienced and new people can learn a lot from it. From understanding what SRHR is actually about getting and keeping SRHR on the agenda. The platform provides a course entitled “Body & Rights, Themes” and “Body & Rights, Testimonials”.
Sensoa International's annual audit of the expenditures by the Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) shows that spending on health and reproductive health in 2019 was at its lowest level in four years. DGD spent a total of 11.08% of its budget on health and reproductive health in 2019, whereas support halted at 13.29% in 2017 and 12.84% in 2016.
Particularly worrying is DGD's declining support for HIV prevention and treatment, for which the budget was cut in half during the previous government term. Support has been falling since 2017, with substantially less attention for HIV in Belgium’s bilateral cooperation and less support for multilateral organisations that take the lead in the global 'HIV response', such as UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). Multilateral support did increase in 2019, but not enough to turn the tide.
The policy declaration and note of new Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir builds on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis demonstrates the importance of strong public sectors, such as health care, education and social protection.
ODA makes up a crucial lever to ensure sustainable recovery, so the declaration reads. The Belgian government has committed to a growth path to reach 0.7% by 2030.
The new Minister of Development Cooperation is Meryame Kitir, member of the Flemish social-democratic party and a popular politician from the province of Limburg. She has a migration and working-class background and grew into politics through her involvement as a labour unionist. Her parliamentary work focused on social affairs, which will be an asset when engaging with Belgium’s international development cooperation.