Every January, we like to take stock of the gains we’ve made to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls around the world. Without a doubt, 2014 was a difficult year: U.S. lawmakers in several states limited access to abortion for poor and rural women, extremists in Nigeria and Iraq made heinous attacks on adolescent girls, and sexual violence cases dominated headlines across the globe.
Still, despite these setbacks, we saw many reasons for optimism: the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai, a brave champion for girls’ education in Pakistan, several governments committed funds to end child marriage and female genital mutilation, and more women than ever before hold seats in national parliaments.
Thanks to your support, IWHC and our partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America played a critical role in advancing women’s and girls’ human rights. Here are a few of our highlights from 2014. Please spread the word. Together, we can make 2015 a momentous year for women and girls!
U.S. Congress Votes to Permit Abortion Coverage for Peace Corps Volunteers
In December, Congress ended the long-standing injustice of denying abortion coverage to women serving in the Peace Corps, even in cases of rape and life endangerment. This is a significant win, as nearly 10 percent of Peace Corps volunteers say they were raped during their service.
Sindh Province in Pakistan Outlaws Child Marriage
Despite opposition by religious forces, the Sindh Provincial Assembly passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, outlawing the marriage of anyone under the age of 18. The new law allows for fines and imprisonment up to three years of anyone who “performs, conducts, directs, brings about or in any way facilitates any child marriage.” Sindh Province has the highest rates of child marriage in Pakistan.
Governments Include Gender Equality, Reproductive Rights, and Sexual Health in Development Goals
After sustained advocacy by women’s rights organizations, the UN General Assembly proposed a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include measures to promote gender equality, reproductive rights, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health care. The General Assembly will finalize the SDGs in September.
Abortion Legislation Advances in Argentina
After years of stalling, Argentina’s Congress began debating a bill that would legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, without exception, and require public facilities to provide the service free of charge. More than 70 members of Congress have publicly expressed support for the bill. Debates on the legislation will continue this year.
Girl Summit Marshalls Funds, Support to End Child Marriage and Female Genital Mutilation
Convened by the UK government and UNICEF, the Girl Summit held in July saw unprecedented government support to end female genital mutilation and child marriage. Financial commitments from the UK, Canada, Netherlands, and other countries totaling more than $65 million will support programs to end child marriage.
Peru Releases Protocols for Legal Abortion Services
Abortion to save the life or health of a woman has been legal in Peru since 1924, but the absence of national guidelines meant doctors could not provide this life-saving treatment. New protocols now allow medical staff to perform an abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy to protect a woman’s health.
United Nations Adopts Progressive Resolution on Child Marriage
In November, the UN General Assembly adopted a forward-looking resolution on the elimination of child, early, and forced marriage—a practice that each year deprives 15 million girls of their rights. Led by Zambia and Canada, the resolution was co-sponsored by 118 governments, demonstrating strong political will to eliminate this harmful practice.