30 Years Later, Still a Bold and Independent Voice for Women and Girls

This year, the International Women’s Health Coalition turns 30. Many distinguished friends have celebrated with us, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and partners from countries as far ranging as Nigeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

I have been personally touched by the expressions of support to IWHC, from government leaders and activists alike. It is a testament to IWHC’s role as a bold and independent voice for the health and rights of women and girls. We passionately believe that women and girls must have full and unfettered access to sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services to fully realize their potential. This is a fundamental human right and a critical dimension of women’s equality.

We have transformed that passion into action every day for the past 30 years (click here for a timeline of IWHC highlights). Since our beginning, we have supported some of the most formidable women’s groups and networks fighting for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. These brave and visionary women work in extremely difficult settings and accomplish what few think is possible. We share a vision of a better future for women, and we don’t take no for an answer!.

Consider some of the highlights over the years: in Brazil, we worked with Reprolatina to improve sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents in the mining community of Barro Alto, reducing the percentage of births to adolescent girls from 40 percent to 10 percent in the span of two years. In Pakistan, we partnered with Aahung to bring a groundbreaking sexuality education curriculum into more than 250 public and private schools. And in Uruguay, our long-time partner MYSU successfully campaigned to decriminalize abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.  These are only some of the more than 80 organizations we have supported over 30 years.

Decisions made at the United Nations and in Washington, D.C. can significantly impact the lives of women and girls around the world. That’s why we work with government leaders and UN agencies to make sure they adopt policies and fund programs that help women and girls thrive, no matter where they live. We played a key role in mobilizing women’s rights activists during the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 and World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995—two watershed moments for the global women’s movement.

We continue to defend and expand these rights at the national, regional, and global levels—often in the face of tremendous opposition. Today, we are at a critically important moment as world leaders negotiate “Sustainable Development Goals” that will shape investments after 2015. We know that women’s rights are essential to a more peaceful, just, and sustainable planet. In fact, suppoting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women is a “phenomenal” investment, in the words of the economists at the Copenhagen Consensus Center. With years of experience in UN advocacy, IWHC staff and partners are on the frontlines of this debate.

The work is challenging, but we are not alone. Thanks to the commitment of our partners around the world and the unfailing dedication of our Board and staff, we have come very far. Together, we are an irresistible force for the rights of women and girls, and will continue to be so for the next 30 years and beyond.

This is what our partners and colleagues have to say about IWHC.



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