By Alex Ezeh
In Africa today women still die needlessly during childbirth. They also fall pregnant when they aren’t ready, and don’t want to get pregnant. And there are still many obstacles on their path to living full and fulfilled lives.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to people’s health and survival, to economic development, and to the well-being of humanity. Several decades of research have shown that investment in sexual and reproductive health produces measurable benefits.
Governments have made major commitments to getting this right. But progress has been stymied because of weak political commitment, inadequate resources, persistent discrimination against women and girls, and an unwillingness to address issues related to sexuality openly and comprehensively.
This was the conclusion of a report on sexual and reproductive health produced last year by the global health research and policy organisation, Guttmacher Institute, and the academic journal, The Lancet.
A fresh effort is under way to close these persistent gaps. These are centre stage at a special summit in Nairobi being convened by the United Nations Population Fund along with the governments of Kenya and Denmark. Among those attending will be heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians, thought-leaders, technical experts, civil society organisations, grassroots organisations, and business and community leaders.
The Nairobi Summit comes a quarter of a century after pledges were made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. These included reducing maternal deaths, making sure women had access to family planning and protecting them from gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and child marriage.