Why do Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights matter?

Universal Access is integral to achieving the SDGs

Reinhard Krapp (German Mission to the UN), Mina Tenorio (Likhaan), Bob Munyati (Aids Accountability International), Sai Racherla (ARROW), Shanta Shrestha (Beyond Beijing Committee)

How to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights was discussed at a Side Event held during the High-Level Political Forum, hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Center for Women.

Almost one year after the historic adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development last year in September, the first round of national voluntary reviews of implementation took place at this year’s session of the High Level Political Forum – the central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A perfect opportunity to highlight the significance of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for achieving the full and effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The panelists – representatives from different Asian non-governmental organizations, as well as African and Latin American regional networks – shared experiences of their work at national and regional level and gave recommendations on the way forward to improve access for women and youth in particular.

Many achievements – but a lot of work remains to be done

Minister Plenipotentiary, Reinhard Krapp, of the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, opened the event by underlining that countries worldwide have made remarkable strides in reducing child and maternal mortality, but a lot of work remains to be done. More than 6 million children are still dying every year before they reach their fifth birthday and 225 million women have no access to modern forms of contraception. He pointed out that, “realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights is one of the priorities of German development cooperation in the area of health and population policy. Together with our partners we will continue our efforts to achieve universal access to SRHR.”

Political and religious barriers limit access to SRHR services for women

The Asia-Pacific region has shown significant improvements, however the progress is uneven, both across and within countries. Shanta Shresta from Beyond Beijing Committee explained, “Nepal has very progressive policies in place and the constitution guarantees SRHR for all. But it is difficult for women to obtain those services because the stigma is still very high for cultural and religious reasons. And even though the government decided to make safe abortion free for all, there are not enough resources to implement this.” In the Philippines, the picture is even grimmer: “There has been no progress at all in reducing maternal mortality since 2011. It remains very high and teenage pregnancies are still rising,” Mina Tenorio from Likhaan says. “This is mostly because of poverty and religious barriers. Poor women have no access to SRHR services like modern contraceptives.”

Panelists agreed that adolescents are among those that are furthest left behind and that to achieve the SDGs it will be important to ensure access to SRHR and comprehensive sexuality education for all youth and adolescents.

The event was broadcasted via periscope and can be watched here.

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