Women’s representation in parliaments increases
The representation of women in parliaments around the world increased in 2012 almost 1 % to 20.3 %. This is up from 19.5 % in 2011.
The increase is largely believed to be due to the presence of quotas, with nine out of the 10 countries that saw an increase in women’s representation using quota’s in their lower house of parliament.
The Pacific region continues to be the region in the world with fewest female parliamentarians.
Supreme Court in Philippines delays Reproductive Health Law
The Supreme Court in the Philippines has delayed the implementation of the country’s new Reproductive Health Law, which came into force in January this year. With strong opposition from in particular the Catholic clergy, the Supreme Court has ordered a new hearing on 18 June.
When the Bill was initially passed in parliament it was a significant milestone for women’s rights and reproductive health advocates as itaddressed a number of barriers to women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.
1,000 days left until MDG target date
Friday 8 April marked 1,000 days until the target date of the Millennium Development Goals is reached. The United Nations and other development actors around the world marked the day by calling for renewed attention to the goals and to accelerate action to see the goals met.
The eight Millennium Development Goals were agreed to by 189 global leaders in 2000 as a framework for reducing poverty and improving lives in the world’s poorest countries. While there has been significant progress made on all the goals, goal 5 – to improve maternal health and universal access to reproductive health, lags behind.
Pakistan’s National Assembly passes Reproductive Healthcare and Rights bill
A Private Member’s Bill aiming to improve maternal health and to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare services, particularly in remote areas and to marginalised groups, was unanimously passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly on March 12, 2013.
The Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Act 2013 was introduced by Hon. Dr. Attiya Inayatullah MP, the chair of the Pakistan Parliamentary Group on Population, Reproductive Health and Development (PPGPRD) and also seeks to fulfil international commitments made by the Government of Pakistan under the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
More evidence of the benefits of family planning
A new study conducted in the US by the Guttmacher Institute concludes that the ability of women to be able to time and space their pregnancies is crucial to their social and economic advancement.
The study was a scientific literature review involving 66 studies conducted over the past three decades.
"Contraceptive use, and the ensuing ability to decide whether and when to have children, is linked to a host of benefits for themselves, the quality of their relationships, and the well-being of their children. But the evidence also suggests that the most disadvantaged women in our society do not fully share in these benefits, which is why unintended pregnancy prevention efforts need to be grounded in broader antipoverty and social justice efforts", said lead author Adam Sonfield.
UK confirms 0.7% of GNI for international development from this year
The British Government announced in late March that the United Kingdom will be spending 0.7% of gross national income on international development every year from 2013.
“The Coalition Government has today confirmed that for the first time ever, the UK will spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on international development this year.
We will be the first G8 country to keep our promise to the world’s poorest people,” said International Development Secretary Justine Greening.
Agreement reached at Commission on the Status of Women
The 57th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) concluded on 15 March with an Agreed Conclusions document, to the surprise of some and relief of many.
Throughout the two week Commission, focussed this year on violence against women and girls, there had been strong opposition from some (Egypt, Iran, Holy See, Russia) to wording around sexual and reproductive health and rights and in dismissing the defence of culture and religion as a pretext for gender-based violence, leading to fears of a repeat of last year’s CSW with no agreed conclusions.
However, on the final day the Agreed Conclusions were confirmed, and included wording on access to sexual and reproductive health services and to ensure women’s reproductive rights.
NZ among countries pushing for SRHR on Post-2015 Development Agenda
New Zealand, along with 23 other countries put forth a joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council’s High Level Panel on Human Rights Mainstreaming, stressing the importance of including sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 development framework.
The statement was delivered by Ethiopia at the High Level Panel held on 1 March where the focus this year was on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
One Billion Rising against violence
On February 14th the biggest global action ever taken to end violence against women and girls took place, referred to as One Billion Rising.
Thousands of events were held in 207 countries to strike, dance and rise against the many forms of violence so many women and girls experience every day, ranging from domestic violence to rape to female genital mutilation.
Read about some of the events that took place here.
AusAID leads the way in combating child abuse
AusAID has developed a new Child Protection Policy 2013, in which it requires every individual working under the aid programme to adhere to the policy, refusing funding to anyone who does not.
The policy includes mandatory child protection compliance standards based on stakeholder recommendations and international best-practice on protective environments for children.
The standards follow five key principles - zero tolerance of child exploitation and abuse, recognition of the best interests of the child, sharing responsibility for child protection, procedural fairness, and a risk management approach to reduce the risks of child exploitation and abuse with aid activities.
The Australian Government first implemented a child protection policy in 2008 and was the first international government aid donor to do so.
Access the policy here.
Women Deliver 2013
Women Deliver will be holding its third global conference on maternal and reproductive health from 28 – 30 May 2013.
The conference is being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is expected to be the largest global conference on girls’ and women’s health and empowerment of the decade, bringing together more than 5,000 attendees representing Ministries of Health, Finance and Development Cooperation, Parliaments, leading civil society organisations, global companies, media and more.
Highlights include more than 120 concurrent sessions, high-level plenaries, skills-building workshops, and ministerial and parliamentarian forums. Visit www.wd2013.org for more information.
Have your say on the new global development framework
With the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fast approaching, the international community is very aware of the need to look beyond 2015 and create a new development framework to succeed the MDGs.
A number of initiatives by the United Nations and civil society have been set up to gather recommendations from around the world about how the new development framework should look.
My World is one such initiative encouraging individuals to vote which six of sixteen possible issues they would like to see prioritised under the new development framework.
Go to http://www.myworld2015.org/ to get your voice heard.
The High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda concluded talks in Liberia on the future development goals post-2015 on 1 February and issued a communique which included specific mention of sexual and reproductive health.
The Communique states that the High Level Panel Members, “…recognize the indispensability of economic and social justice, individual choice and opportunity for all. This includes the empowerment of women and girls; investments in young people’s development and expanding social protection schemes; and ensuring universal learning and access to health care — including sexual and reproductive health.”
This explicit mention is a significant achievement for those working to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world, particularly considering there was no initial mention of sexual and reproductive health when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed upon in 2000.
The High Level Panel is co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and will submit a report to the UN Secretary General in May 2013 with recommendations for the global development framework post-2015 when the target date for the Millennium Development Goals is reached.
Access the Communique here.
Women granted seats in King of Saudi Arabia’s top advisory council
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has issued a decree allowing, for the first time, seats for women in the country’s top advisory council, the Shura Council.
The Council will now hold 20 per cent of the 150 seats for women. Upon the announcement 30 women were immediately appointed to the assembly by the King.
While the King’s decision is a positive step for women in Saudi Arabia, and follows his announcement in 2011 that women will be allowed to vote and run in future municipal elections, many restrictions on women’s freedom and rights still exist in Saudi Arabia preventing them from enjoying equal status to men.
Strict sex segregation policies to prevent women and men who are unrelated to be in the same room together continue to exist in the country, and will also influence how Council members interact, with female and male council members being separated by a screen and communicating via an internal network.
New monitoring tool for State obligations on reproductive rights
The Centre for Reproductive Rights, with support from UNFPA, has released a new resource outlining State obligations under international human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues.
Reproductive Rights: A Tool for Monitoring State Obligations is a useful tool for human rights experts and monitoring bodies to assess a State’s compliance with its obligations.
A long-awaited step in the right direction for reproductive rights in Philippines
After over a decade of lobbying and advocacy work by women’s rights advocates and medical professionals a new law has been passed in the Philippines which will improve access to sexual and reproductive health care services and information.
The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act, known as the RH Bill will ensure government-funded contraceptives are available in government health centres – both in urban and rural settings either subsidised or at no cost, sex education classes in public schools and family planning training for community health workers.
Read more here.
Youth from around the world gather to put youth rights at heart of development
More than 130 countries were represented by 600 youth leaders at the ICPD Global Youth Forum, held in Bali from 4-6 December, to review progress on the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and to bring youth issues into the post-2015 UN development agenda.
The three-day Forum, co-hosted by the Indonesian Government and the United Nations Population Fund, resulted in a set of recommendations around issues that young people see as key to their future and development.
Read more and access the declaration here.
World AIDS Day – the progress and the concerns
World AIDS Day was marked on 1. December with optimism by many in the international community, noting the progress and achievements that have been made in recent years.
New infections of HIV have been halved in 25 countries and fewer people are dying of AIDS thanks to increased access to life-saving treatment.
There are, however, still notable concerns such as the high rate of new infections among women compared to men that seems to continue to rise.
Read more here.
Governments encouraged to commit to ending violence against women
On the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls (25 November) UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet launched a new initiative, COMMIT, to encourage governments to share their national commitments to ending violence against women with the rest of their world.
While 125 countries currently have laws that penalise domestic violence, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is still not a crime.
To date 12 countries have committed to action. See their commitments here.
UNFPA’s State of World Population 2012
UNFPA’s State of World Population report for 2012 was released on 14 November highlighting the wider benefits of investing in family planning and the costs of not doing so.
By Choice, Not By Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development shares evidence of the economic impact of family planning on families, communities and countries, stating that if voluntary family planning was made available to everyone in developing countries the costs for maternal and newborn health care would reduce by US$11.3 billion annually. Access the report here.
New study on violence against women – feminist movements key to change
The largest ever global study on violence against women has found that autonomous feminist movements have been key to influencing change; more so than wealth, left-wing parties or the number of female politicians.
The study, recently published in the American Political Science Review, was carried out over four decades in 70 countries from every region of the world, encompassing 85 per cent of the world’s population. The data took five years to analyse. Read more here.
International Day of the Girl Child to be marked for the first time
11 October 2012 marked the first time the International Day of the Girl Child was celebrated. This new international observance day was declared by the United Nations in 2011 after an extensive campaign by the organisation Plan and girls from around the world.
Girls are considered among the most marginalised and discriminated groups due to their gender and age. The United Nations marked the day by calling for an end to child marriage.
It is estimated that one in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18, and one in seven marries before the age of 15.
Preparing for an older population
In just 10 years, the number of older persons (people over 60) will surpass 1 billion people and by 2050, the older generation will be larger than the under-15 population, according to a new report released on International Day of Older Persons by UNFPA and HelpAge International.
Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge stresses the importance of countries being prepared and putting policies and practices in place to address the challenges this will pose, particularly around health care, retirement and living arrangements.
“People everywhere must age with dignity and security, enjoying life through the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director at the report’s launch in Tokyo.
Organisations worldwide rally to decriminalise abortion
Friday 28 September marked International Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortions. While the day has been marked in Latin American and Caribbean countries since 1990, the campaign has only recently gained global momentum with organisations around the world now getting behind the cause.
Nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, and 98% of unsafe abortions occur in developing countries. 56% of all abortions in developing countries are unsafe, compared with just 6% in developed countries.
Historic contraception deal a victory for women in poorest countries
Access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) for women in the poorest countries has been made easier with the announcement on World Contraception Day (26 September) that Bayer HealthCare AG has agreed to reduce the US$18 price of its contraceptive implant, Jadelle by more than half.
In return a coalition made up of the Norwegian, British, U.S. and Swedish governments, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and The Children's Investment Fund Foundation commit to assure funding for at least 27 million units over the next six years.
UN Commission proposes plan for making life saving supplies more accessible
The United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children, co-chaired by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, submitted a set of recommendations to the UN Secretary General on 26 September to improve the supply and access of life-saving health supplies.
Recommendations include bulk buying, local manufacturing and innovative marketing to help transform the supply, demand and use of quality life-saving products.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women and children’s lives could be saved each year with essential supplies, including for family planning. Read more here.
New over-the-counter HIV test available in US
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved making available over-the-counter in the US a new HIV test that is simple enough to use at home to determine HIV infection. Simply by using a mouth swab the OraQuick test can give results in 20-40 minutes.
Read more here.
New report on HIV and the law
The Global Commission on HIV and the Law launched a landmark report on 9 July exploring how law and human rights can transform the global AIDS response. The report was based on extensive research and first-hand accounts from more than 1,000 people in 140 countries worldwide and found that punitive laws and discriminatory practices in many countries undermine progress against HIV.
Some of the report’s findings:
- In more than 60 countries, it is a crime to expose another person to or transmit HIV. More than 600 HIV-positive people across 24 countries, including the United States, have been convicted of such crimes. These laws and practices discourage people from seeking an HIV test and disclosing their status.
- 78 countries criminalise same-sex sexual activity. Iran and Yemen impose the death penalty for sexual acts between men; Jamaica and Malaysia punishes homosexual acts with lengthy imprisonment. These laws make it difficult to prevent HIV amongst those most vulnerable to infection.
- Laws and customs that disempower women and girls, from genital mutilation to denial of property rights, undermine their ability to negotiate safe sex and to protect themselves from HIV infection. 127 countries do not have legislation against marital rape.
- Laws and policies that deny young people access to sex education, harm reduction and reproductive and HIV services help spread HIV.
New low-cost diagnostic test for people living with HIV
A new low-cost HIV diagnostic test has been developed by the Australian research institute, Burnet Institute, and likely to prove highly useful in developing countries due to its ease of use and affordability.
The on-the-spot blood test is intended for those already diagnosed with HIV to reveal how the immune system is coping, by measuring the CD4 cell count, to determine what type of treatment they require.
“According to UNAIDS, there are 15 million people who should be getting access to antiretroviral therapy but aren’t, just because they can’t get access to an affordable CD4 test in their communities,” Associate Professor Anderson and Deputy Director of Burnet Institute said.
Read more here.
International AIDS Conference 2012
The International AIDS Conference 2012, which took place over five days in Washington D.C., concluded on 27. July with a shared sense of optimism among presenters and delegates from all sectors that an end to the epidemic is in sight, as long as the international community remains focussed on addressing the challenges that still exist to combating new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths.
The conference was attended by some 23,000 participants representing around 200 countries, and featured high profile speakers including former US President Bill Clinton, Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Australian Minister of Health Tanya Plibersek, Nancy Pelosi from the US House of Representatives and a keynote address from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Read more here.
120 million more women to have access to family planning
On World Population Day (11 July) the London Family Planning Summit was held, co-sponsored by the Gates Foundation and the British Government and in partnership with UNFPA.
The aim was to mobilise the US$4.3 billion it is estimated to cost to give 120 million more women in developing countries access to contraceptives by 2020.
With commitments from more than 20 developing countries to address barriers to women accessing contraceptive supplies, services and information as well as financial commitments from donors, the organisers were pleased to announce the Summit a success.
Read more here.
New report finds little improvement in unmet need for contraception in developing countries
A new report by US-based Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA finds that the number of women in developing countries who have an unmet need for modern contraception has only declined modestly since 2008, from 226 million to 222 million women.
‘An unmet need for modern contraception’ refers to the number of women between the ages of 15-49 who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using contraception.
The report, Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services—Estimates for 2012states that sadly, in the 69 poorest countries the number actually increased, from 153 million to 162 million women. Read more here.
Concerns about superbug strain of gonorrhoea
The World Health Organisation’s fears about an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhoea found in Japan in 2008 spreading to other parts of world has become a reality and is now a significant public health challenge.
Cases of the superbug strain have been reported in Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and Britain, but there are concerns it has spread much wider and that the available data is only the tip of the iceberg.
The strain has been found resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics - normally the last option for drugs against gonorrhoea. Gonorrhoea is one of the most common sexually transmissible infections in the world, and if left untreated can cause infertility in both men and women, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, pelvic inflammatory disease and eye infections in newborns.
Myanmar planning first census in 31 years
The Government of Myanmar with techincal and financial support from the United Nations is planning to carry out a population and housing census in 2014 - the first the country has seen in 31 years.
While the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledges there will be challenges due to the country's inexperience with censuses and also with gaining access to the entire country, he is encouraged by the strong commitment of the Government of Myanmar to the project.
Commission on Population and Development 2012 - 'Adolescents and Youth'
At the opening of the 45th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development on 23 April, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to the Commission about the necessity to ensure that young people have access to reproductive health care and have the means to protect themselves from sexual violence.
“We cannot ignore the facts. Many young people are sexually active, and because of this, they may face risks to their health, including sexual violence,” said the Secretary General.
Melinda Gates talks family planning
At TEDxChange in Berlin, Melinda Gates gave a presentation about the importance of birth control and how it can help poor women and men empower themselves and spur large-scale economic development.
See the clip here.
High Level Task Force to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights
The Executive Director of UNFPA Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin successfully invited Former president of Finland Tarja Halonen and former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano to co-chair a new High-Level Task Force for Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.
The main purpose of the High-Level Task Force is to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights globally on a political level.
New UN Commission on Life Saving Commodities for Women and Children
The UN has launched a high-level commission to improve access to life saving commodities for women and children, as part of the Secretary General’s Every Woman, Every Child movement.
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway are the founding co-chairs and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin are vice-chairs of the Commission.
“Making sure that women and children have the medicines and other supplies they need is critical for our push to achieve the MDGs,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The Commission will tackle an overlooked but vital aspect of health systems, and ensure that women and children are protected from preventable causes of death and disease.”
Read more here.
CSW fails to reach agreed conclusions
At the United Nation's Commission on the Status of Women meetings this year delegations failed to agree on the conclusions from the meetings, resulting in the first time ever that the CSW has concluded without a final document.
The theme of this year's review was "the Empowerment of Rural Women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges" and disagreement centred particularly around the issue of rural women's right to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.
Negotiations eventually broke down over the refusal by some countries to support action to urge governments to provide sexual and reproductive health care services and information to rural women.
Female sex workers in developing countries face high risk of contracting HIV
According to researchers at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, female sex workers in low- and middle-income countries are nearly 14 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the rest of the population.
“Although female sex workers have long been understood to be a key affected population, the scope and breadth of their disproportionate risk for HIV infection had not been systematically documented," said Stefan Baral, MD, MPH, MBA, lead author of the study and associate director of the Bloomberg School's Center for Public Health and Human Rights.
Read more here.
Recipients of UN Population award 2012 announced
American reproductive health advocate, Adrienne Germain, and Malaysian NGO, the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM), have been awarded the United Nations Population Award for 2012.
Ms. Germain, was the first scholar to develop the concept of “reproductive health” in 1987 and is recognised as one of the pioneers linking fertility and population policies with the status of women, as far back as 1975.
Established in 1958 to educate Malaysian in family planning and responsible parenthood, FRHAM has become the leading non-governmental organization in the area of population, family planning and sexual and reproductive health in Malaysia.
Read more here.
Condoms not being used correctly
In a special issue of the journal Sexual Health a collection of studies on condom usage worldwide showed that too often condoms are not being used correctly, to the concern of public health officials everywhere.
"We chronically underestimate how complicated condom use can be. It involves the use of a condom, while negotiating the condom use and sex with a partner all at the same time. There is a complex triad of the sex act, condom use and partner dynamics that must constantly be navigated by condom users" said Professor Richard Crosby, a member of the research team.
UK to host Family Planning conference with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working together to host a Family Planning summit in London in July 2012.
The UK Department for International Development's priority in 2012 is to support access to family planning in the poorest countries as part of the UK's contribution to the UN Secretary General's Global Strategy for Women and Children's Health.
They hope the summit will see unprecedented political committment and resources from all stakeholders to meet the family planning needs of women in the poorest countries by 2020.
Proposal for Fifth World Conference on Women in 2015
On International Women's Day the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the president of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, jointly announced a proposal to hold a global conference on women's issues in 2015 - marking 20 years since the last women's summit - the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
"Given that women make up half of humanity and given the importance and relevance of women's issues for global progress, it is high time that such a world conference is convened," said the announcement.
The proposal must first be approved by the 193 member General Assembly of the United Nations before preparations can go ahead.
International Women's Day 2012
International Women's Day was celebrated all around the world on 8. March, recognising the important role gender equality plays in securing peace, social progress and human rights, and acknowledging women's contribution to interational peace and security.
This year's theme focused on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication.
New online map of obstetric fistula treatment worldwide
Direct Relief International, the Fistula Foundation and UNFPA have launched an online map of available services for women living with obstetric fistula.
The purpose of the Global Fistula Map is to illustrate the treatment capacity of fistula around the world and help streamline resources to where they are most needed to treat this devastating condition.
Obstetric fistula is an injury resulting from childbirth when a woman has not been assisted by a skilled birth attendant or had access to emergency care during and after delivery, and causes chronic incontinence. It is estimated there are between 50,000 - 100,000 new cases each year.
Communities abandoning Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
On the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), 6 February, a new report from the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C was issued showing that almost 2,000 communities across Africa gave up practicing FGM/C during 2011.
It is estimated around 8,000 girls a day are at risk of FGM/C, mainly in Africa, but also in some places in Asia and the Middle East.
Next Women Deliver - save the date!
The next Women Deliver will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 28 - 30 May 2013.
The conference promises to be the biggest yet, with 5,000 participants expected from around the globe.
Registration opens already on 1 June this year - check out www.womendeliver.org for more details and dates.
Worldwide abortion rate stalled
A new study from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organisation on the trends of induced abortion worldwide from 1995 to 2008, has found the global abortion rate has stalled following a period of decline.
The study, Induced Abortion: Incidence and Trends Worldwide from 1995 to 2008, by Gilda Sedgh et al., found that the number of abortions per 1,000 women between 15 - 44 years dropped from 35 - 29 between 1995 and 2003, but stagnated in 2008 at 28 per 1,000.
Read more about the study here.
Former head of IPPF receives British New Year's Honour
Dr. Gill Greer, former head of one of the world's largest organisations - the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the British New Year's Honours List.
A tireless sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate, Dr. Greer also served as the Executive Director of New Zealand Family Planning for 8 years before joining IPPF.
Read an interview with Dr. Greer in our November 2010 issue of Interaction here.
Low condom usage in premarital relationships in India
According to a new study, Condom Use Before Marriage and Its Correlates: Evidence from India, only 7% of young women and 27% of young men in India who had had premarital sexual relationships say they ever used condoms in those relationships.
The study, by K.G. Santhya, Rajib Acharya and Shireen J. Jejeebhoy of the Population Council, New Delhi surveyed 2,408 married and unmarried young women and men between the ages of 15-24 who reported having had premarital sex.
Read about the study here.
US Secretary overrides FDA decision to make emergency contraception available over the counter
The Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the United States took the unprecedented step to immediately overrule the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision on 7. December to make the one-step emergency contraception, Plan B, available over the counter for all women.
After reviewing evidence by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg decided Plan B should be made available as a nonprescription drug, alongside condoms and pregnancy tests.
Sebelius decided to override this decision, stating that the decision was to avoid 11-year olds obtaining the medication without guidance from a health care professional. Read more here.
World AIDS Day
1. December marked World AIDS Day and this year's theme was 'Getting to Zero' - Zero new HIV infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths. The 'Getting to Zero' campaign will run until 2015 with 10 goals to be attained, including reducing sexual transmission of HIV by half, including among young people, men who have sex with men and transmission in the context of sex work, and universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people living with HIV who are eligible for treatment. Read more here.
Fewer people dying of AIDS - UNAIDS report
A new report from UNAIDS says more people than ever are living with HIV, but AIDS-related deaths and new infections are dropping and are currently at the lowest levels since the peak of the epidemic. The number of deaths has dropped from 2.2 million a year in the mid-2000s to 1.8 million at the end of 2010, with 6.6 million people in low and middle income countries now on antiretroviral drugs. The 2011 World AIDS Days report was launched on 21 November and can be accessed here.
16 Days campaign kicks off
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence commenced on 25th November and will continue until 10th December. The theme this year is 'From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against women'. The 16 Days Campaign symbolically links violence against women and human rights by starting on the International Day for the Elimination of all forms of Violence against Women and ending on International Human Rights Day, to highlight that violence against women is a violation of human rights.
Britain to fund contraceptive supplies to save women's lives
At the International Conference on Family Planning being held in Senegal, Britain's Development Minister Stephen O'Brien announced that Britain would be providing new funding to UNFPA for contraceptive supplies, which will prevent more than 2 million unintended pregnancies and avert nearly 220,000 unsafe abortions in developing countries. Read more here.
International Conference on Family Planning
The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Ministry of Health and Prevention in Senegal are co-hosting the second International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices in Dakar Senegal from 29 November - 2 December.
With over 2300 participants, the global conference brings together researchers, policy makers, parliamentarians and programme managers to share research, best practices and progress on national strategies for family planning.
New report from Women Deliver on delivering cervical cancer prevention
On 23. November Women Deliver releseased a new report, “Delivering Cervical Cancer Prevention in the Developing World” highlighting exciting new partnerships and innovations in cervical cancer prevention and treatment. The report comes at the same time as an announcement from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) that they will provide HPV vaccines for 2 million girls in nine countries by 2015.
Study on the health benefits of taking oral contraceptive pills
A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute, “Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills,” by Rachel K. Jones, found that 58% of oral contraceptive pill users in the United States use the pill - at least in part - for other purposes than pregnancy prevention, and 14% take oral contraceptive pills exclusively for noncontraceptive purposes.
The study highlights the other health benefits associated with taking oral contraceptive pills, such as reducing menstrual cramps and pain, preventing migraines and treating acne, and shows why oral contraceptive pills should be readily available to women.
Two-thirds of abortions in India are unsafe
Despite abortion services in India being free of charge in government-run Primary Health Centres, it is estimated nearly two-thirds of abortions in the country are carried out outside the authorised health services according to the World Health Organisation.
The head of the abortion committee at the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India Dr Kurtkoti says this is because there is a lack of legal providers, with only 250-300 Primary Health Centres offering abortion services throughout the country. Read more here.
IPPF ESEAOR newest member of APA
The International Planned Parenthood Federation East and South East Asia & Ocenia Region (IPPF ESEAOR) is the newest supporting member of the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (APA), of which Family Planning International is also a member.
The APA brings together nongovernmental organisations, donors and other stakeholders with common goals to build a strong network to ensure everyone’s right to health is fully achieved through the promotion and inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights in development agendas.
Abortion laws around the world
The Centre for Reproductive Rights has launched a new online map to visually compare the legal status of abortion in different countries around the world. Legal restrictions on abortion often result in high levels of unsafe abortions. The map is intended as an advocacy tool for greater progress in ensuring safe and legal access to abortion services around the world. View the map here.
World marks 7 billion
On 31 October the world marked the world population reaching 7 billion. The United Nations used the opportunity to call on world leaders to meet the challenges that come with a growing population. “I am one of 7 billion. You are also one of 7 billion. Together, we can be 7 billion strong – by working in solidarity for a better world for all,” said the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon.
Study suggests injectable contraceptive increases risk of HIV infection
A large study involving 3,800 couples in seven African countries recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has found that a popular injectable contraceptive for women can double the risk of them becoming infected with HIV. Also, when an HIV-positive woman uses it, her male partner is twice more likely to become infected with HIV than if the woman used no contraception.
The injectable hormonal contraception is the most popular contraceptive among women in eastern and southern Africa. The shot is given every three months and it does not require a doctor to administer it. The World Health Organisation is currently reviewing the research and re-evaluating their recommendations on the use of this contraceptive.
Young Singaporeans usage and knowledge of contraception poor
To mark World Contraception Day this year, Bayer Healthcare conducted a survey among young people in nine Asia-Pacific countries about contraception. The survey results show that young Singaporeans report the highest rate of unprotected sex, with eight in ten respondents reporting not using contraception with a new partner.
The results also illustrated the respondents’ lack of general knowledge about contraception, with one in four believing at least one myth about how to avoid pregnancy, such as showering after sex and rinsing the genital area with Coca-Cola. Read more here.
Women and climate change - new documentary from Population Action International
Population Action International has released a documentary on how climate change is affecting women in developing countries. The documentary, Weathering Change, follows women in Ethiopia, Peru and Nepal, and highlights how family planning and educating girls among other things is so important in helping people adapt to climate change.
World Contraception Day
World Contraception Day was celebrated on 26. September with the motto 'Live your life. Know your rights. Learn about contraception.' The day was aimed at encouraging young people to 'exercise their right to search for accurate, unbiased information about contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI).' Read more about World Contraception Day here.
Women leaders call for more women's political participation across the world
Women make up less than 10 percent of world leaders. Globally less than one in five members of parliament is a woman. The 30 percent critical mass mark for women’s representation in parliament has been reached or exceeded in only 28 countries. At a high-level event during the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, women political leaders strongly called for increasing women’s political participation and decision-making across the world.
Stressing that women’s participation is fundamental to democracy and essential to the achievement of sustainable development and peace in all contexts — during peace, through conflict and post-conflict, and during political transitions — the leaders signed on to a joint statement with concrete recommendations on ways to advance women’s political participation.
New World Bank flagship report highlights importance of gender equality
The World Bank released its new flagship report The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development this month highlighting that not only is gender equality the right thing to do, it is also smart economics. The report states that efforts have been made to narrow gender gaps, but disparities still remain all over the world. “We need to achieve gender equality,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Over the past five years, the World Bank Group has provided $65 billion to support girls’ education, women’s health, and women’s access to credit, land, agricultural services, jobs, and infrastructure. This has been important work, but it has not been enough or central enough to what we do. Going forward, the World Bank Group will mainstream our gender work and find other ways to move the agenda forward to capture the full potential of half the world’s population.”
Australia to support 26 million women in developing countries through microfinance
At the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd committed $2.2 million to help women start and expand their own small businesses. 'This money will help microfinance institutions provide loans to more than 26 million women by the end of 2013. That's 26 million women who will be able to establish their own business, send their children to school and improve their standard of living' Mr Rudd said.
Australia and US strengthen joint development cooperation
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, and the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton strengthened joint development cooperation between the two countries in September, by announcing a combined package of $18.1 million that will support development projects in countries which both Australia and the United States are engaged. For example, Australia will support US-led maternal and child health initiatives in Tanzania which will assist 6.2 million children receive de-worming tablets, 6.7 million children receive the measles vaccine, 7.1 million children to receive Vitamin A and 8 million children to receive the polio vaccine.
Australia appoints Global Ambassador for Women and Girls
The Australian Government has appointed their first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls, career diplomat Penny Williams. Prime Minister Guillard said that in the role, Ms Williams will ensure the needs of women and girls are properly represented in Australia's overseas development program and in foreign policy more broadly. Women and girls make up two thirds of the one billion people in the world who lack basic literacy skills, with almost 35 million girls world-wide not getting even basic primary-level education. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said that the evidence shows that aid spending is more effective when women are central to our investment.
Female Genital Mutilation now illegal in Kenya
In an important move for women’s rights, Kenya recently followed in the footsteps of at least 17 other African countries by passing a law making female genital mutilation (FGM) illegal. It is now illegal to practice or procure it – even to take somebody abroad to undergo the procedure. Unfortunately FGM is still widely practised in nine African countries, namely Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan, despite African Union opposition.
New surgery-free vasectomy underway
An Indian engineer has devised a new contraceptive method that could be the most revolutionary contraceptive technology since the birth control pill. It is a surgery-free, injectable and reversible vasectomy called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) could be available as early as next year.
New strain of Gonorrhoea resistant to antibiotics
A new strain of the sexually transmissible infection gonorrhoea, called H014, has been found to be resistant to cephalosporin-class antibiotics. The strain is very successful at mutating and developing resistance to drugs used to treat it. There is grave concern that as a result, the disease will spread rapidly and become a global threat to public health unless effective treatment is found soon.
World Population Day – a world of 7 billion
World Population Day was celebrated on 11 July and UNFPA used the occasion to launch a new campaign focussed on the world population reaching 7 billion in October. The 7 Billion Actions campaign is an advocacy effort that will run through to 31 October, promoting dialogue on what it means to live in a world of 7 billion. “As more and more people share our planet, new challenges will arise. Solving existing challenges while protecting the human rights of all will become increasingly more urgent” said UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.
New report launched on State of World’s Midwifery
On 20 June, UNFPA launched a new report called The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011. The report surveyed 58 developing countries and states that up to 3.6 million deaths could be avoided each year in these countries if midwifery services are upgraded by 2015. “The report points to an urgent need to train more health workers with midwifery skills and ensure equitable access to their life-saving services in communities to improve the health of women and children,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA.