Grassroots Activists Reflect on the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25

The Girls’ Globe team met youth advocates and SRHR-leaders at the She Decides Open House in Nairobi. She Decides is a global movement with the vision of a world where every girl and woman can decide what to do with her body, with her life and with her future. Without question. In this video grassroots activists speak about their priorities and reflections of the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.

This summit is all about young people.

Naisola Likimani, Lead of the She Decides Support Unit talks about how the decisions made at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 are in essence about the lives of young people. Several young activists within the She Decides movement have take the stage at the Summit to highlight their concerns, priorities and optimism for the future.

Yet, young people also have a lot of worries. These include the representation of minorities in conversations and the opportunity to partake in dialogues with decision-makers. There has also been a lot of opposition towards the ICPD25 convening from ultra-conservative actors. This has been visible at a local level and many Kenyan civil society organizations have felt the pressure. Furthermore, Kenyan civil society representatives and local media faced a major accessibility issue on the first day. Where foreigners were allowed in, Kenyan actors were denied entry by security. An issue that was resolved once President Uhuru Kenyatta had left the Convention Center.

“I think something that is coming out very strongly is our understanding of postmodern colonialism. This has been the way things have been conducted and how relations have been in some instances. Not in the Nairobi Summit’s entirety, but there have been such cries from different actors, especially Kenyan civil society actors and young persons,” says Linda Kroeger, Activist and Human Rights Defender Kenya.

See all of the Girls’ Globe coverage of the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 here.

This video was produced by Y Dowedoit for Girls’ Globe with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Why is the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 important?

The Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development is taking place 25 years after the first conference was held in Cairo in 1994. The Summit gathers civil society, youth activists, UN leaders, ministers and heads of state in the Kenyan capital this week. There are very many aspects as to why this Summit comes at a critical time. We asked grassroots advocates: “why is the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 important to you?” Here’s what they said…

At the Nairobi Summit commitments are made to accelerate progress and meet goals to eliminate gender based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and maternal mortality. Commitments include advancing all aspects of sexual and reproductive health and rights, including comprehensive sexual education, LGBTQI rights and access to safe abortion. Other key issues include gender equality, forced migration, indigenous people, and climate change.

“It’s a time to recognize ourselves as decision-makers. That if we stick together and we keep a unified message to protect, defend and ensure our human rights, we are stronger together.” 
​- Genesis Luigi, IPPF and Safe Abortion Access Fund
Jennifer Kayombo

Girls’ Globe has asked grassroots youth advocates for their input through other channels too. Today, Jennifer Kayombo, a sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate from Tanzania took over the Girls’ Globe Instagram stories to share her views on why the summit is important. Yesterday, Sonali Silva, a SheDecides 25×25 Champion from Sri Lanka gave us her opinions and priorities through her takeover.

We know that these voices matter. If women and girls are being listened to at the Summit true change is possible. A lot has happened since 1994, thanks to the women’s rights activists that spearheaded the Programme of Action that was adopted in Cairo. Now is the time for the next generation that is marching and taking action to lead.

Find out more about the Nairobi Summit here and find all of Girls’ Globe’s coverage here.

This video was produced by Y Dowedoit for Girls’ Globe. Reporting at the Nairobi Summit was supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundaiton.

Why Women March to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25

The Nairobi Summit kicks off this week. It will mark 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development adopted the Programme of Action in Cairo. The summit comes at a critical time to discuss the way forward for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Girls’ Globe is on the ground to amplify the voices of grassroots activists and youth leaders. In this video, we hear why women march to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.

“I envision a country, or rather, a continent, where young girls and young women have power to decide on what to do with their bodies and have access to information so that they can make better and good decisions.”
– Ruth Mumbi, Social Justice Defender

The Girls’ Globe team, led by Felogene Anumo and Abigail Arunga, spoke to women marching in the lead up to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25. A common thread in the responses to why they were marching was access to information and services for women and girls – especially those in marginalized communities. Realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights will lead to better decisions about their bodies. Women were marching for women to have full autonomy over their bodies and to put an end to maternal deaths.

“I am here marching today for ICPD to bring out the voice of the unheard. The young women in the slum areas. If the young people can get information at an early age, we are able to act better and make better decisions.”
– Maryanne Wanjiru from K Youth Media.

Kaz, Founder of Kaz Entertainment

“I am here to support women empower themselves, and find more empowering ways to live, and be and flourish! My dream is that women will have full autonomy of their bodies and decision-making.” – Kaz, Founder of Kaz Entertainment.

Follow along @girlsglobe on Instagram and Twitter this week for more grassroots voices, directly from the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25.

This reporting was supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

After Disaster Struck Indonesia, I Volunteered to Help

When an earthquake struck Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on 28 September 2018 at around six in the afternoon, I was in a shop around the area of Tondo, East Palu, buying snacks with two of my friends.

I heard a roar, and seconds later the ground swayed. There were people riding motorbikes falling on the streets. I rushed home to the hilly area of town.

Along the way I saw many people already on the side of the road crying. Fear enveloped my heart. I wanted to get home soon.

Once I arrived, I saw a cracked building with its contents scattered. That night there was another earthquake. I was forced to sleep on the road in front of my house.

Previously, I had ventured into the house to pick up a sleeping bag and change of clothes. Four more earthquakes came after that. I tried to call father and my brother many times but I couldn’t contact either of them.

People started to come up from the coastal area. Men were carrying gallons of mineral water and many were wounded and drenched.

We heard that there had been a massive tsunami on the coastal area. Hearing the news, I cried hysterically. I was now even more afraid, because my father lived on the coast.

I almost ventured down to find my father. However, my neighbors and friends tried to calm me down and convinced me not to go right away.

At five o’clock the next morning, I rushed to look for my father. When I arrived, I saw there was no house standing. The cars were all badly damaged by buildings.

I saw a lot of dead bodies. This made me cry and keep looking for my father until I met a teenager, who said he was on the mountain. I ran up to about five kilometers from the location of the tsunami. Then, finally, I found my father.

A month after the disaster, I was invited to join Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA) in Central Sulawesi as a youth volunteer, to provide counseling on reproductive health as well as HIV.

I thought to myself, this activity is noble and I can help others this way. I have knowledge about HIV from my Intra-Campus Organization at university. Now, I can share this knowledge with my peers so that they can protect themselves for the sake of their future.

I told myself: I’m still able to undergo activities, I have complete organs, why don’t I use this to help people in need?

Who else will help them, if not people who care about the lives of friends affected by this disaster?

In addition to providing reproductive health and HIV counseling with other IPPA youth volunteers, I advocate for the rights of young people. After they have had counseling, we ask what obstacles the youth experience. We also listen to the complaints they have, such as lack of clean water or being harassed.

After listening to the young people, I – along with other volunteers – follow up on the issue to the concerned institute. This provides security and comfort for youth, and means that their sexual and reproductive health and rights are being fulfilled.

Written by Indri Walean, Youth Volunteer at IPPA Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

Politics Affects our Health: the Case of Sudan

‘Social determinants of health’ are the circumstances and surroundings that influence an individual’s health outcomes.

Researchers have focused on social determinants of health for decades and there is now a general consensus that higher socioeconomic status predicts better odds of future health and well-being. While this notion is scientifically accepted, it prompts the question: what creates these social determinants of health? This has brought much needed attention to the ways in which politics affect health – both directly and indirectly.

‘Political determinants of health’ are the factors that shape the social determinants of health. This is a relatively new concept and is of particular significance for women. An example of the link between politics and health can be found in Sudan.

In Sudan, the political climate is shaped by religion and the constitution is based on teachings of Sharia Law. Currently, many communities face extreme financial strain as a result of failed past politics and/or war and insecurity. This has increased pre-existing and vast social inequities, including gaps in financial and educational opportunities.

The political situation in Sudan has had inevitable consequences for health.

Social disadvantage falls heavier on women. Until recently, girls have been denied the same education as their male counterparts. Lack of education leads to limited knowledge of health, which affects an individual’s ability to improve their own health outcomes. 

One example is the issue of sexual and reproductive health. Sexuality and sexual behaviour are sensitive topics rarely discussed in conservative, religious cultures like Sudan’s. Sexual and reproductive health and rights do not enjoy a high-priority status among political agendas, either, and there has been very little consideration of introducing sexual education into classrooms. However, many educators and health officials have started to support sex education in schools, resulting in increasing support by legislators.

Another example is the high prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sudan, at a prevalence of approximately 89% countrywide. The harmful practice continues to affect many areas of the country, and although it is legally banned, it is well-known to continue with the open support of many religious leaders. This is a clear example of failed implementation of legislation that has allowed FGM to remain prevalent despite wide-spread efforts by campaigns and NGO peer-education programs.

Under Sudanese constitution, child marriage, forced marriage or marital rape are not against the law.

Much of the country’s legislation does not provide any protection for women’s rights. As a result, many Sudanese women fear persecution.

One case that struck the international community was that of Noura Hussein in 2018. The 19-year-old was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing her husband – who she had allegedly been forced to marry – after he attempted to rape her. In the eyes of the law, marital rape does not exist, and so Hussein had no claims to self-defence as she was viewed as a belonging of her husband. The ruling was thankfully overturned after increasing international pressure on the Sudanese government. Hussein received a reduced sentence of 5 years in prison. 

Historically, women in Sudan have been forced to be subordinate to men. Although this is changing and vast improvements have been made, drastic changes to the country’s politics and constitution are needed to ensure full protection of women’s rights – especially their rights to health and wellbeing. 

 

Campaigning for Care & Compassion in Ireland

I’m 23 years old and I grew up in a particularly rural and conservative part of Ireland.  

The only time I ever heard the word ‘abortion’ mentioned in school was when we were doing a play in the Irish language. There was a scene where the characters were discussing abortion. I remember asking the teacher what the word translated as. She replied, “It means murder”.

I know now that if you break the translation down it would be similar to the word for a fetus. It doesn’t literally translate as murder. But that was how it was explained it to us.  

I studied reproductive biology at university and did my dissertation project in an abortion clinic in 2017. This involved interviewing doctors and nurses working in the clinic in Edinburgh about their relationship with their patients. I saw how the patients were talked about with such respect and compassion. It really brought home the stark contrast of how women in Ireland were treated.

This spurred me into action. I decided to go home and help with the Yes campaign, ahead of the 2018 referendum. Legislation is how social change is made and how rights are created.  

It was exciting to be part of a big campaign. My colleagues have been in this fight for decades, but they’d never had a national referendum like this before. For the first time ever, they said it felt like everything was to play for.

The pressure was immense because it felt like every woman in Ireland, both past and present generations, was counting on us to get this right.  

My role involved researching policy briefs or answering questions for journalists, such as abortion rates in Switzerland and Portugal after their referendums. I was also answering the phone to women ringing the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) in floods of tears, saying, “I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do”.   

For decades, every single day, women experiencing an unintended or crisis pregnancy have been ringing the IFPA to access information and counselling. Trying to calm each woman, telling her what we could do, hearing her relief and hoping I’d made a bit of difference to her just made it all incredibly real for me.   

Many people found the No campaign posters distressing due to their incredibly negative and violent language, for example, ‘a license to kill’. I think that negativity backfired for the No campaign, as I think the Yes campaign was seen as more sensible.

I think recent scandals in the Catholic church played a role too because the No campaign was using messaging like, “Oh yes, the 8th Amendment has led to an island where we really treasure our children”. This felt tone deaf in a country where there have been so many child abuse scandals in recent years.

I also think it drove people away from the No campaign because it clearly wasn’t based on the reality of the Ireland we’ve all been living in. No campaigners displayed a kind of moral snobbery which felt like preaching. It might have worked on the Ireland of another lifetime, but not now.  

On the other end of the spectrum, the vote Yes posters appeared in rural communities for the first time, which I think was very powerful for people who might have felt quite isolated or just hadn’t talked to anyone in their community about abortion before.

In the final weeks leading up to the vote, the most important conversations were happening at the school gates or at kitchen tables over cups of tea.  

It still feels like a dream that we won. It wasn’t until they called out the two tally boxes from my home village and I heard Yes passed there by 57% that I realized what was truly happening. That’s when I knew it wasn’t just Dublin and the cities. The whole country was behind us. This realisation made me cry. It made me very proud to be from rural Ireland. 

I went to Dublin castle to celebrate. At one point, the crowd spontaneously started chanting Savita’s name. Even in a moment of celebration, we all remembered her death, and that felt very emotional.

I recall watching some kids playing, and their mothers were standing hands on hips just watching them, and they were all wearing repeal jumpers. One of them was pregnant and there were two men there with their child too. For me that was such a beautiful symbolic image of how far Ireland has come. 

For me, abortion is about motherhood at the end of the day. It’s about allowing us the right to be the best mothers we can be, if and only when we decide to do so.

Read other personal experiences like Áine’s on the Irish referendum.

As of January 2019, the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) provides early medical abortion up to 9 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion care is free for women living in the Republic of Ireland.