5 Ways Ban Ki-moon Can Support the Health and Rights of Youth and Women

Ani Kington, Communications Intern

Earlier this month the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, identified women’s empowerment and global health as priority issues during his second term. In order to help jumpstart these goals, we’ve thought of actions the United Nations can take to support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people and women:

1) Promote Youth-Friendly Services

With nearly half of the world’s population under the age of 25, investing in the education and health of young people is one of the smartest things we can do for our future. One of the most difficult—and unspoken—challenges confronting youth today is accessing the information and services they need to protect their sexual and reproductive health. The stigma surrounding young people having sex has resulted in many having inadequate—or inaccurate—knowledge about how to form safe, informed, and consensual partnerships. If the UN Secretary-General acts as an advocate for youth-friendly services and comprehensive sexuality education, he will support the growth of an empowered and healthy generation that is ready to take on these and other tough issues, like climate change and the food crisis.

2) Encourage Screening and Counseling for Gender-based Violence

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 1 in 3 women will experience violence or coercion in her lifetime, and we applaud the Secretary-General for naming women’s empowerment as a top priority. Perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of empowering women is eliminating gender-based violence (GBV), a human rights violation and public health issue. Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, IPPF/WHR’s Member Associations are working hard to change the social behaviors and inequalities that fuel GBV. Many of our partners use strategies that integrate screening for GBV within existing sexual and reproductive health services, which has been successful in reaching women with counseling and support.

3) Promote Cervical Cancer Screenings

Approximately 300,000 women will die from cervical cancer this year. Although cervical cancer is preventable and treatable, a lack of resources means that women and girls in developing nations account for a staggering 88% of deaths from the disease. Cervical cancer is closely linked to poverty and poor access to health services. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of deaths resulting from cervical cancer is seven times higher than in the US and Canada.

However, with sufficient attention and investment, this problem could be easily solved. Cervical cancer screenings, as part of a comprehensive approach that includes HPV vaccinations and treatment, could save the lives of millions of women.

4) Promote HIV Testing

HIV/AIDS is a widely recognized global health issue, but the disease is shrouded by stigma that causes many people to forgo testing. By promoting HIV testing and encouraging its integration into sexual and reproductive health services, the UN Secretary-General will help to prevent new HIV infections, expand treatment programs, and reduce stigma surrounding the disease.

5) Meet the Unmet Need for Family Planning

Nearly half of sexually active young women in Latin America and the Caribbean have an unmet need for contraception. Fulfilling this need will not only empower women by giving them the freedom to choose when and if they have children, but will also contribute to healthier communities and global sustainability.

Over recent decades, it has become more widely understood that sustainability is not an “either-or” situation when it comes to reproductive rights and reducing carbon emissions: ensuring healthy and sustainable communities requires collaboration among environmentalists and reproductive rights advocates. 

Last fall, as a step toward cooperation and movement building, IPPF/WHR Regional Director Carmen Barroso partnered with Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope for a blog series on population issues at RH Reality Check. Last week Dr. Barroso participated in an Aspen Institute roundtable discussion about climate change, population, and sustainability with leaders of the environmental, sustainability, and women’s rights movements. United Nations support for collaborations like these is a necessary step in fulfilling the unmet need for family planning.

Photo credit: Remy Steinegger
Copyright by World Economic Forum

UN Secretary-General Makes Global Health a Priority


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