Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine more then 4,6 million Ukrainians or no less then a quarter of the population have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Poland, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Belarus. Over 7 million Ukranians are internally displaced. Women and children make up the majority of Ukranian refugees and their human rights are at risk.
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.
The 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women concluded on March 25th with a landmark agreement on gender and climate change. The Priority theme was Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.
It was the first time CSW addressed this theme and it was of particular importance as gender equality and gender responsive matters had been sidelined in recent climate change negotiations.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women negotiated the relations between climate change and gender inequality. This was a perfect opportunity for the Parliamentarians of the 2030 Agenda and the Advisory Board on Gender and Development to organise a seminar on the impact of climate change on women and girls’ SRHR.
40 participants, including parliamentary assistants, cabinet members and experts of the Directorate General for Development (DGD) as well as civil society stakeholders and academics were provided with a window into the challenges that climate change poses for the health and rights of women and girls in low income countries (LIC).
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.
40 years ago the first people dying of aids were registered. At a seminar with the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, Prof. Marie Laga (ITM) explained how the epidemic grew at an alarming speed in the 1990s and 2000s. As it hit countries in Southern Africa, life-expectancy in countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa dropped below the level of the 1960s. Things started to change when in 1996 anti-retroviral treatment (ART) became available for people in the wealthy North. However, the drugs were unaffordable for patients living in the South. It was only thanks to activists’ campaigns that political recognition and action came about, and brought about fundamental change with the creation of international coordination through UNAIDS, and increased funding through the Global Fund and PEPFAR. This led to a rapid scale-up of people’s access to ART, standing at 2% in 2001 and amounting to 73% today. However, with 1.5 million new infections in 2020, we are not seeing ‘the end of aids’ yet and HIV prevention remains the biggest challenge.
One year after the highly controversial changes to the Polish abortion law making Poland one of the EU-countries with the most restrictive access to abortion care, the human rights and rule of law situation in Poland continues to deteriorate.
Two members of the parliamentary group Parliamentarians for 2030 Agenda, Séverine de Laveleye and Orry Van de Wauwer witnessed this when they participated in the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive rights’ annual Conference in Warsaw, Poland on 21-22 October. At the end of a first day of panel discussions on SRHR in Poland and worldwide, the participants signed a statement of commitment with regard to Poland and the global state of SRHR.
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.
“The right to safe and legal abortion is under pressure around the world. We need to make sure the clock is not being turned back.” With these words MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld opened the webinar held on the international day for safe abortion. The webinar launched the new European Abortion policies Atlas. The Atlas compares European countries in women’s access to abortion. Belgium figures in the European top 10 but lags the UK, Scandinavia and neighbouring France and the Netherlands. The obligatory waiting period in Belgium could be shortened and Belgium could do better in tackling disinformation about abortion.
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.