September 22 - at the UN headquarters in NY, along with world leaders, I joined colleagues from the CSOs and public / private sectors, at the 69th session of the UN's General Assembly and Special Session to the follow-up of the ICPD PoA, to listen to member states renew their promises - to invest in girls education, promote their SRHR services and need, as well commit to the further implementation of the ICPD PoA review, including the findings of the Secretary General & regional ICPD review outcomes into the post2015 framework.
This is not the first time, we have listened and heard governments make promises. 20 years ago, 179 member states assembled in Cairo and in a consensus they committed to promote gender equality and women's empowerment, as well as protecting and promoting women’s reproductive health and rights.
SO - what happened to the promise? Research shows that in some regions, substantial progress has been achieved in terms of reducing maternal mortality, teen pregnancy and providing universal access to antenatal care. With these, one might be tempted to rejoice that all is going well. But far from it, much work is still to be done.
“Our work is not finish until every human can fully enjoy their sexuality, and sexual rights”, says Finland President at the 69th UNGASS ICPD PoA follow-up.
VAWg (violence against women and girls) remains one of the leading and greatest hindrance to achieving human rights, experts allude. Over the years, research has shown that globally, at least 1 in 3 women have suffer violence in their life time (W.H.O Report ) and in Africa, Cameroon included, around 45% of women have experienced at least one form of violence (The Guardian). Annually, 14.2 million girls, or approximately 39000 girls are married off every single day; young people continue to lack access to comprehensive sexuality education to enable them make informed choices and healthy decisions about their lives. With all these facts impeding young people's wellbeing, for sure there is nothing to rejoice for.
Like one speaker at the UNGA said: Development cant be achieved without addressing existing multi-forms of inequalities and discrimination within and across regions. In order words, global development can’t occur when VAWg, sex and gender based discrimination remains prevalent. Same too will Africa not achieve the dividend if measures aren't taken to address VAWg, Youth Unemployment and gender equality.
It is worth noting that Africa remains the one continent with least progress towards attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Interesting at UNGA, many of them made progressive statements, demonstrating their zeal to how they shall commit and promote the achievement of the post-2015 goals.
Excerpts from Country's Statements at the 69th UNGASS
Uganda & Burundi: “We share the views of the Secretary General that in order to eradicate [extreme] poverty and achieve equality, it is important to advance social inclusion and higher level of education”.
Ghana: “Young people are great entrepreneurs and managers. Open data in the hands of young people can effectively drive accountability and transparency / development of a country”
Togo: “We endorse the position of the African Union to the SDGs and urge for step-up efforts and strengthen synergies to achieve the realisation of ICPD PoA”.
Swaziland: “We reaffirms the full commitment of Swazi government to the ICPD PoA and would work tirelessly to ensure that the gaps are addressed”
It was interesting and somewhat encouraging to watched how member states acknowledged in their statements the fact that gender equality and social justice remains a key component to development. And how ensuring equality for all is ensuring respect for the rule of law, enjoyment of basic human rights, as well as advancing social inclusion and also providing quality health care and education for all.
I hope their promises will actually translate into meaningful actions and not just end as mere words.
Further readings & related articles
- Five Reasons Why Cameroon should take the Post-2015 Important
Gender Equality, Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights #SRHR
- UNGASS ICPD PoA