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Ensuring Sexual, Reproductive Rights For All Key To Development In Africa

“African government leaders meet this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to chart a forward-looking agenda building on commitments made at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994,” Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique and co-chair of the High Level Task Force for ICPD — a group of government, civil society, and private sector leaders working to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to the global development agenda — writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “At that conference, governments placed the human rights and empowerment of women, including their reproductive health and rights, squarely at the center of population policies and sustainable development,” he notes, adding, “I know that if governments agree to uphold sexual and reproductive rights and health for all, they will also be helping Africa reduce poverty and meet its development objectives, while capitalizing on current economic growth.”

Noting “sub-Saharan Africa accounts for over half of the 800 maternal deaths that occur globally each day,” Chissano continues, “No country can afford to forgo opportunities to make sexual and reproductive health and rights a reality in the 21st century. These priorities are keys to unleashing the full energies and talents of our people, especially women and young people. They must be pillars of any sound post-2015 global development agenda.” He presents four policy recommendations “crucial for Africa’s development transformation,” including: “Enact[ing] legal and policy reforms that respect, protect and fulfill sexual and reproductive rights for all”; “[a]ccelerat[ing] universal access to quality sexual and reproductive health information, education and services”; “[g]uarantee[ing] universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, both in and out of school”; and “[e]nd[ing] violence against women and girls and impunity for perpetrators.” He concludes, “This will put us on the right path to bolster the resilience of our people and families, the vibrancy of our communities and the sustainable, inclusive growth of our nations” (9/30).