More than 6000 delegates in the population development sector have gathered in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to renew the promise made to girls and women 25 years ago in Cairo, Egypt.
Young girls from various African countries firmly called on them to ensure that they have access to sexual reproductive health rights, justice and equality.
“I want to be educated about sexual and reproductive rights,” said one of the girls to the applause of the packed conference room at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
Twenty-five years ago in the Egyptian capital, there were ‘commitments’ to create equality for all by placing women at the centre of global development strategies.
South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu said: “The Summit under the theme: ‘Accelerating the Promise,’ seeks to galvanise change and mobilise both political will and financial commitment to push forward the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action, as well as build momentum for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”
A quarter century later, and in commemorating the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD25), delegates from 179 countries are renewing the Cairo Promise in light of the fact that the 1994 vision is far from being a reality.
Delegates at the Nairobi Summit are focusing on the following key areas:
– Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part
of universal health coverage.
– Financing required to complete the ICPD Programme of Action and to
sustain the gains made.
– Drawing on demographic diversity to drive economic growth and
achieve sustainable development.
– Ending gender-based violence and harmful practices.
– Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare even in
humanitarian and fragile contexts.
Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) told delegates that notwithstanding the long journey ahead, progress has been made in the last 25 years.
“Maternal mortality is down 44 percent, worldwide,” said Kanem, adding: “This means four million women who would have otherwise died while pregnant, or at childbirth, are alive today.”
While she noted that there was a good reason to celebrate, she, however, noted that “good progress is not good enough,” insisting that the promises made to girls, women and everyone should be kept.
Driving home her point, Kanem said within the short space of time that she stood at the podium, at least 46 under-age girls were forced into marriage, and a countless number of girls had been been sexually abused, hurt and traumatised.
“The victims and survivors are most likely to be shamed and blamed than the perpetrators who violated them,” Kanem said.
“To the youth, you’re inspiring in pushing us to go further. Thank you,” she said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta reminded delegates that there were ‘absent participants’ from the Nairobi Summit.
Kenyatta was making reference to the “800 women and girls who die every day during pregnancy or childbirth, the four million girls who are forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the more than 33 000 girls married every day before the age of 18 and millions of unemployed youths with limited hope for a better future.”
The Kenyan president urged delegates to let their deliberations “be guided by the needs, the aspirations and the unrealised potential of those individuals who are not present here.”
While acknowledging that priority actions will differ from country to country depending on their development needs, Kenyatta urged states to “at least commit to increasing secondary and tertiary education for both boys and girls.”
He also implored countries to strive to reduce maternal deaths and to eliminate incidents of FGM.
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, called for the youth’s involvement in decision-making.
“Millions of women and girls are still waiting for promises to be met, they’ve been waiting for a long time,” she said.
Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation Rasmus Prehn said women and girls are at the heart of sustainable development.
He called upon delegates to maximise their effort in this endeavour, adding that he was looking forward to ICPD30 only if it is about celebrating success. “Women and girls are the true owners of their bodies,” he said.
Additional reporting by Global Issues.org