Address by Isabella Lövin Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation at She Decides Conference 2 March 2017
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Your Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,
What an honour to be here today! Allow me, on behalf of my Government, to begin by expressing my immense gratitude to Minister De Croo for hosting us, Minister Ploumen and Minister Tørnæs for co-organising the She Decides conferencewith us, and to all our friends gathered in this room in support of women's and girl's human rights.
I am profoundly encouraged by the fact that we, at such short notice, have travelled from all regions of the world to demonstrate our support for organisations that make sexual and reproductive health and rights a reality for millions of women and girls. Now, more than ever, is the time to join forces: Governments, parliamentarians, CSOs, UN agencies and EU institutions, and the private sector.
I have the pleasure to introduce the high-level panel that will shortly be discussing the risks we are taking if we do not keep our promises to women and girls to provide them with full access to SRHR. The panel is composed of:
- Your Excellency, Minister of Public Health of Chad Doctor Ngarmbatina Odjimbeye Soukate,
- Your Excellency, Minister of Health of Ethiopia Professor Yifru Berhan,
- UNFPA's Executive Director Doctor Babatunde Osotimehin,
- International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) General Director Tewodros Melesse, and
- the Guttmacher Institute's President Ann Stars.
We are very honoured that Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, will be moderating this important session.
Let us first remind ourselves that 100 years ago, half of humanity was still largely unrepresented in the public realm and in public decision-making. The female half.
Our mothers and grandmothers fought for women's liberation – for women's participation in politics and the workforce, and for a woman's right to decide over her body and reproduction. We are harvesting the fruits of their labour and I would argue that we, women and men, have a moral obligation to continue their struggle – because women's and girl's human rights shall never be taken for granted.
The situation for women, girls and adolescents has improved. A hundred years ago I would not have been able to cast a vote, far less run for office. Today, I am the Deputy Prime Minister of a government consisting of 12 women and 12 men.
Since the early 90s, the world has seen a nearly 50 per cent decline in the maternal death ratio – a remarkable achievement.
But progress has been unacceptably slow and uneven. One woman or girl still dies every two minutes from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. Together with labour complications, and harmful practices, such as genital mutilation, unsafe abortion puts women's and girls' lives at risk every day.
Their deaths are intolerable because the vast majority of them are preventable.
SRHR is not an optional extra. SRHR is right and smart.
The full enjoyment of human rights includes the right to decide freely over your own body, sexuality and reproduction. Absence or presence of these rights can mean the difference between life and death for a young girl.
But SRHR is also intricately linked to areas such as decent work, peaceful societies and political participation of women, as well as women's full enjoyment of other human rights, such as economic rights and right to education.
That is why SRHR is smart. When we empower women and girls, we empower their families and their future children. We empower communities. We empower nations. Ultimately, we eradicate poverty.
Ensuring SRHR for all will have a direct impact on the possibilities of achieving many of the targets in the 2030 Agenda.
An hour ago, the Government of Sweden decided to increase its global SRHR support by SEK 200 million, approximately EUR 21 million, in 2017, as part of the She Decides initiative.
An important part of our increased funding will be channelled through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to civil society organisations that make SRHR a reality for millions of women and girls in the field.
The contributions and the role of CSOs cannot be emphasised enough. I say this in terms of strengthening evidence-based action and ensuring accountability, but also in terms of cross-regional bridge-builders.
Sweden also believes in the UN Development System's capacity to tackle global development challenges. Sweden, with its ten million inhabitants, is the sixth largest donor to the system as a whole.
It is in support of women and children's health globally that Sweden remains the leading donor of core support to UNFPA, and the second largest funder of total support. Sweden will continue to prioritise flexible funding and will raise its core contribution to UNFPA in 2017 to approximately USD 61 million.
We welcome fellow Member States, the European Commission and private institutions to join us.
We should have high expectations of ourselves. And we should trigger and inspire each other to achieve more. Some countries and individuals will not agree with us, but we stand prepared with patience, fortitude and endurance.