Everyone's social life is affected by the corona epidemic. However, many women are forced to work from home now, often in combination with children at home. Even before the crisis, statistics showed that women generally do more unpaid domestic work and have more caring responsibilities than men, including caring for children, the sick and the elderly. With increasing pressure on hospitals and health services, women will inevitably have to meet even more of the growing unpaid care needs. This includes cleaning, preparing food or looking after seriously ill or disabled people.
In the Flemish government agreement for 2019-2023, the government is committed to combating sexual and gender based violence, with particular attention for the prevention of forced marriages, honour-related crimes and female genital mutilation. Sexual health should equally receive the needed attention. In Flanders’ international cooperation the government is also quoted as being committed to projects that improve equality between the sexes, with a special focus on women’s education and the promotion of SRHR.
The promise of 0.7%
The new Flemish government will contribute to the realisation of the SDG Agenda 2030 in developing countries. Belgium currently spends only 0.4% of its GNI on development cooperation, despite the legal obligation of 0.7%. In the coming legislature, the Flemish government promises to make further efforts to finally reach the 0.7% standard at Belgian level.
Flanders' bilateral cooperation plans
The Flemish government is to continue its bilateral cooperation with Malawi and Mozambique, whereas cooperation with South Africa will be reoriented from development to “strong political-economic diplomatic cooperation”. The new Flemish Prime Minister Jambon also expressed the intention to set up a new cooperation with one or more countries in the North and East Africa region. The future partner country is said to be selected based on its current cooperation with the EU in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration. The new government is thus joining the trend of using development cooperation funds for the management of migration flows.
Should we be counting on the private sector?
In addition, the new government is looking at the private sector to step in with development cooperation through public-private partnerships. Public funds are only deemed needed where private partners cannot bear the risk (alone), or when they fail to deliver a suitable solution. The call for private sector support for development should not come at the cost of social sectors, including SRHR, as these are traditionally dependent on ODA support. Mechanisms seeking to mobilise private sector resources are primarily focused on non-social sectors such as infrastructural projects. Moving away from traditional ODA support and towards private sector mechanisms thus brings a real risk of reducing donor investments in sectors such as health, education and SRHR.
Finally, the government sets out to move part of the development cooperation resources towards more Flemish emergency aid. Increasing support for humanitarian aid is welcome, but it should not come at the cost of development cooperation, which could help prevent disasters from happening in the first place.
2018 Educaid-Because Health Conference puts spotlight on sexual and gender-based violence and comprehensive sexuality education at school
How can comprehensive sexuality education and programmes addressing school-related gender-based violence contribute to better sexual and reproductive health and education outcomes? These questions were at the heart of the ‘Two birds, one stone’ Panel, at the Educaid-Because Health conference “Health and Education: Stronger Together” at the Egmont Palace, on May 17th, co-organised by Sensoa.
On 17 May 2018, the Belgian platforms Be-cause health and Educaid.be jointly organise an international conference on the intersection between health and education in international cooperation at the Egmont Palace, Brussels.
“In too many contexts, she has actually never decided anything. Telling her that she decides WITHOUT giving her the foundation upon which to do so, could be naïve at best – and irresponsible at worst. We cannot raise expectations of autonomy and agency without providing a foundation for this to actually happen.” Lina Abirafeh, Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University in Lebanon and She Decides Champion’s message was clear. Abirafeh delivered the key note at the She Decides’ anniversary event in the Belgium parliament, which sought to answer the question ‘Can She Decide in times of crisis?’, focusing on women’s and girls’ access to SRHR during humanitarian crises.