This briefing with the head of the International Planned Parenthood Federation focused on reproductive rights as a global movement and the ways in which bodily autonomy is essential for women’s empowerment.
Mr Melesse spoke about the significant decline in funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the years since the Millennium Development Goals were established. He emphasised that it is of the upmost importance that advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to the international development framework that will follow the MDGs and will determine policies, priorities and resource allocations worldwide for the decade ahead.
Mr Melesse used Papua New Guinea as an example, where one woman dies for every 213 babies born, a rate 115 times higher than in Australia. Teenage pregnancy rates are also very high and most women have an average of four children in their lifetime. In rural areas this is even higher, as at present only 20 per cent of women use any form of modern contraception when 86 per cent of women with three or more children want no more. Here, there is a concern that missionary and church groups are advocating for abstinence in lieu of family planning activities. Furthermore, a high rate of gender based violence, including domestic violence, exists across the country and is driven by strong gender based social and traditional customs and unfortunately there is little gendered policy and legislation to protect girls and young women.
The briefing focused on the role of parliamentarians in managing these issues, through ensuring country participation in MDG review events, advocating for national delegations to cover sexual and reproductive health issues, and provide a link between these issues and engaging with civil society, such as articulating the impact of the foreign aid budget an have on these issues.
The briefing affirmed the committment of CARE Australia, the PGPD and the IPPF to work together as a global consortium to advance a sexual and reproductive health agenda and, in particular, improve sexual and reproductive health services in the Pacific region.