Negotiations are in full swing this week at the African Regional Conference on Population and Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This conference, convened by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), will serve as the regional contribution to the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Beyond 2014 Review. Experts and government representatives from 52 African countries are expected to develop a common African position on ICPD Beyond 2014 by Friday, October 4.
The discussions to shape the ICPD Beyond 2014 African agenda (as well as the post-2015 development agenda) offer a real opportunity to drive lasting change for gender equality and the rights of women and girls, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women and youth must be meaningfully engaged in these processes to ensure that governments are addressing their needs.
IWHC, along with our partners DAWN and RESURJ, held an Advocacy in Practice (AiP) workshop this weekend in advance of the conference. Like our AiP in Montevideo a few months ago, the workshop was an intense, multiday event that helped participants strengthen their skills to effectively advocate for sexual and reproductive rights and health at the national and international levels. AiPs coincide with important regional conferences or UN negotiations, which gives participants the opportunity to take what they’ve learned and put it into immediate action.
More than 20 feminist and youth activists from Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, and Zambia participated in this AiP. Among the priorities identified by the activists are ensuring the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents, including access to safe and legal abortion, modern contraception, and comprehensive sexuality education; ending harmful cultural, traditional, and religious practices such as female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage; eliminating gender-based violence, including marital rape and intimate partner violence; and ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The activists also want to ensure that governments are held accountable for promoting and protecting the rights and health of their citizens.
Despite much progress since the ICPD conference held in Cairo 20 years ago, African women and girls continue to face discrimination and human rights violations throughout the region. This is especially true for women and girls who are already marginalized. Young, rural, and poor women are more likely to undergo unsafe abortion procedures, which result in serious complications and sometimes death. Civil society organizations are calling for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to be freely available through the primary health care system, accessible to all without discrimination, and provided in a way that respects human rights, including the rights to privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and bodily integrity.
The IWHC team and our AiP partners will be at the conference all week and keeping a close eye on how governments address these critical issues. Follow the live updates on Twitter using the #ARCPD hashtag.