What Part do Women Play in Sustaining the World?

Yolí Sánchez Neyoy, Guest Contributor

A sexual and reproductive health advocate’s work is never done.

Although the 45th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development just ended, it is already time to raise our voices in preparation for Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that will convene in Brazil in June. One hot button issue that is popping up on blogs and social media as the conference approaches is the need for women’s sexual and reproductive health to be represented in world leaders’ commitments toward sustainable development. But what exactly is the role sexual and reproductive health and rights plays in sustainable development? And why should we put the emphasis on women?

Let me begin with an aside: most of us who advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are not monothematic in our perspectives or politics. We recognize that humanity has a number of diverse needs and that there are many challenges to overcome in the world. Even though our work appears to be focused on one particular topic, we understand that a healthy world requires not only SRHR, but also sufficient resources for the growing population and care for the environment. All of these goals will be achieved through cross-issue collaboration—not silos—which is why Rio+20 is such an important one-in-a-generation event.

From an SRHR perspective, a healthy and productive population must include women who are empowered to make informed choices regarding their health and reproduction. It also includes teenage girls who are able to avoid unwanted pregnancies and births, young people who know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections like HIV, girls who are encouraged to and supported in getting an education, and societies in which women are not subjected to gender-based violence while securing food and water for their families.

We cannot afford to ignore the connection between SRHR, women’s rights, environmentalism, and sustainability. We need global leaders to make these critical and interconnected issues a top priority on the Rio+20 agenda.

If you, like me, are out there fighting for an outcome that truly promotes sustainable development, tell the decision makers attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to give women’s rights and SRHR their rightful place on the Rio+20 agenda. As IPPF/WHR Regional Director Carmen Barroso wrote in Grist, “Women hold up half the sky, as the old Chinese proverb says, and they must be protagonists in the next chapter of the world’s aspirations for a sustainable future.”

Yolí Sánchez Neyoy is a Mexican sexual and reproductive health activist who makes her contribution to the world as youth involvement officer at dance4life.


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