Across the globe COVID-19 has led to the closure of schools for weeks and sometimes months on end. In many cases, distance learning turned out to be an imperfect substitute to live, on campus, classes and the school closures deepened existing inequalities, disproportionally affecting those who had already fallen behind: girls and women, poor people, refugees and ethnic minorities.
Belgium’s all-party parliamentary group ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ hosted a seminar on 25 years ICPD Programme of Action in the Belgian Senate, days after the ICPD Nairobi Summit of 12-14 November.
UNFPA Brussels Director, Sietske Steneker, introduced the MPs to the successes as well as the unfinished business in realising the ICPD Programme of Action. In the past 25 years, maternal mortality dropped by 40%, adolescent birth rates by one third, early marriages by one fourth and more women had access to family planning.
At the same time, progress has been slow and uneven. In Sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality remains an enormous challenge. Worldwide, only 50% of all women have the right to decide to use family planning. The barriers are multiple, including the out-of-pocket costs, the mentality of service providers, and, at the core of it all, the persistence of gender inequality.
More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, with one in three living in slums. By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, most of them in developing regions. While one in eight people currently live in 33 megacities worldwide, close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in secondary cities with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. These secondary cities, particularly in Africa and Asia, are also expected to grow very fast. Reason enough for Be-cause Health, Belgium’s platform on international health, to take the urban turn, and put the spotlight on how to ensure the right to health in cities. In tandem with the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Sensoa organised two panels that took on the challenges of health service delivery in mega-cities and urban slums.
Thursday May 11th, Federal Parliament, Belgium. MPs played ‘snakes and ladders’, a life-size game on the health and rights of girls worldwide. The MPs were the pawns in the game and found themselves confronted with the obstacles girls in developing countries face.
There are about 1 billion girls in the world, many of which face discrimination and inequalities. Each year 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth. Complications related to pregnancies and delivery are the 2nd most important cause of death for girls in that age group. Every year 3 million girls run the risk of mutilation and every day 39,000 girls are subject to child or forced marriage.
The Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda want girls’ health and rights to be high on the political agenda. They call upon the Belgian development cooperation to continue focusing on this particular group.
As part of the She Decides-Initiative, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo visited Benin and Senegal, partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. In Benin, the Minister signed two programmes promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.
At the Commission’s 50th session, the UN Member States failed to reach an agreement. The Commission for Population and Development is the most important UN Commission for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The theme of the Commission’s 50th session was ‘Changing population age structures and sustainable development’. Special attention was thus going to the needs of over 1.8 billion young people in the world.
Member states spent more than 10 days negotiating. The final version of the draft resolution contained important references to the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people and comprehensive sexuality education. The final version was rejected though when the US and a number of African countries, more particularly Egypt, Cameroon and Djibouti wanted to have sections on SRHR deleted.