Africa: The Nairobi Summit - Towards a Watershed Moment

8 August 2019
analysis

Nairobi, Kenya — In 2019 a female scientist created an algorithm that gave the world the first ever images of a black hole. Working with a team of astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and engineers, a young woman led the development of a computer program that in her own words enabled them to "achieve something once thought impossible."

During this same year, over 200 million women in developing countries will not have access to effective methods of contraception to delay or avoid pregnancy. Approximately 830 women a day will die during pregnancy or childbirth from preventable causes. And sexual and gender based violence including harmful practices like early marriage and female genital mutilation, will still plague millions of girls and young women. Girls and women denied basic human rights and robbed of their potential to achieve the impossible.

In 1994, the visionary Programme of Action was agreed to by 179 governments at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt. The Programme of Action recognized that reproductive health and rights, as well as women's empowerment and gender equality, are cornerstones of healthy robust societies that promote the well-being of populations and economic and social development of nations. Since ICPD, governments, civil society, youth networks have all worked towards decreasing maternal deaths, eliminating harmful practices and promoting gender equality.

The global community is now gearing up to mark 25 years since the historic ICPD through the Nairobi Summit on the International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD25 which will be held from 12-14 November 2019 under the theme "Accelerating the Promise".

I am proud that my country Kenya, will be hosting this important Summit, which is aimed at mobilizing the political will, financial commitment and community support we need to fully realize the ICPD Programme of Action.

Indeed, by the time we leave Nairobi, we must ensure that everyone has agreed to play their part in reaching zero unmet need for family planning information and services, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against girls and women. Evidence shows that the benefits that would accrue from fulfilling the ICDP agenda would be far reaching in transforming lives and improving the wellbeing of families, communities, and nations.

In Kenya, significant progress in health care has been made with Universal Health Coverage(UHC) a top priority for the Government. Thanks to the leadership, passion and commitment of the First Lady of Kenya, Ms Margret Kenyatta through her Beyond Zero campaign there has been a significant drop in maternal and child mortality. We have to now go for zero deaths. Reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health is key to achieving UHC.

High rates of teenage pregnancy, take girls out of school and compromises their health. Young people face stark challenges in employment as 1,000,000 people enter a labor force that can only absorb 150,000 new entrants. Access to health services and information, school retention and quality education will help these young girls stay in school and lead healthy lives. These are among the issues that the Summit will address.

However, in order for the Nairobi Summit to be a game changer, we need to speak for those that can't speak, speak for those who are not heard and to add our voices to those who continue to work for sexual and reproductive rights for all. We must reaffirm our commitments to the ICPD goals and Agenda 2030. We must absorb the lessons learned over the last 25 years and do better.

For Kenya, the Nairobi Summit provides a platform to showcase our Big Four Development Agenda aimed at accelerating socioeconomic transformation and economic growth by intensifying investments and programme actions on: affordable housing, food security, universal healthcare and manufacturing.

I am delighted that my country is partnering with UNFPA and the Government of Denmark to host the Nairobi Summit and reaffirm the global commitment to ICPD. This is a watershed moment as we are a mere 10 years away from our commitment to fulfill the SDGs.

I look forward to seeing all the participants in Nairobi and hope everyone will follow the proceedings of the Nairobi Summit and learn how we can all play a role in bringing about change and keeping the promise of ICPD. Ensuring that all women and girls can reach for the stars and achieve the impossible.

Dr. Ida Odinga, EGH is spouse of Rt Hon. (Eng.) Raila Odinga and a passionate campaigner of women's rights.

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