No exceptions for health and rights: Women’s movements hold the key to get the world we want

November 27, 2017 12:02 am | Updated 12:02 am IST

 Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO of Global Fund for Women

Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO of Global Fund for Women

In today’s world, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are being attacked and rolled back by those in positions of power. Take the Mexico City Policy, or Global Gag Rule , for instance, which has been expanded by the U.S. administration. It cuts off billions of dollars in funding for critical health services around the world like access to contraception or STD screenings.

However, women have never been known to sit and wait for change to happen. And while rollbacks threaten women’s health and rights each day , grassroots women’s groups and movements around the world are working to ensure that women and girls not only have access to critical health services that they need in their own communities, but understand their bodies, are aware of their rights and how to access them, and are safe from violence and discrimination.

Every day, in my work as President and CEO of Global Fund for Women , I’m inspired by the people I meet. As I travel and meet women and girls in Bangladesh or Colombia or San Francisco, I feel hopeful for the future. I’m inspired by their new ideas, their unabashed activism, their willingness to take risks and think outside of the box, and their unwavering commitment to drive meaningful social change.

Global Fund for Women’s grantee partners around the world are leading the charge to not only push back against rollbacks to women’s rights, but push forward creative and resilient solutions to help us get to the world we want. These grassroots women’s groups are bringing lasting change, shifting gender norms, fighting for better laws and policies, and empowering women and girls to realise their rights and become leaders.

In August, Chile’s women’s movement led the charge to achieve a small legal win in their decades-long fight for abortion rights: the Constitutional Tribunal voted to legalise abortion under three circumstances , easing the country’s total ban on abortion and restoring a right women lost nearly three decades ago under military dictatorship.

Today, we are in a critical moment and I believe that what we do—or do not do—at this time for and with the world’s women and girls has enormous potential.

So, what can we do together to help women’s groups and movements resist rollbacks and fill gaps in sexual health and reproductive rights?

First, we need to let women’s groups and movements lead. The importance of listening to women and girls and trusting them to know what is needed in their own communities remains a core principle at the heart of Global Fund for Women’s mission . And I believe the world would be a better place if we listened to women and girls more, and trusted their ideas.

Second, nothing yields greater benefit than putting financial resources directly into the hands of women. We need to get more funding to grassroots women’s groups and movements around the world so that they can continue to build upon their critical work.

Third, we all need to be advocates for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world. Speak out against damaging policies around the world like the Global Gag Rule , and amplify the voices of women who are leading change in their communities and globally—like women leaders in Chile. Share information about how women’s movements are driving change on health and rights. Demand better policies for women from your own governments and political representatives.

We all have a role to play, and there has never been a better time to join the movement for women’s health and human rights. Together, let’s work toward the world we all want: where every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard—no exceptions.

The writer is President and CEO, Global Fund for Women

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