Nairobi, Kenya — The landmark Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 calls for action to end maternal deaths, stop gender-based violence and meet demand for family planning - all in the next 10 years. More than 6,000 world leaders, scholars, advocates, faith leaders and others have converged for the summit at Kenyatta International Conference Centre from 12-14 November.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for acceleration on the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls. He outlined Kenya's plan to reach UNFPA's 'three zeros' and restated his personal commitment to end female genital mutilation in Kenya by 2022.
"Empowering women essentially empowers all our families," he said. "It empowers our societies. It empowers our nations. It empowers our world."
The most important people were not at the conference, he said - the one in five women globally that will experience gender-based violence this year, the 800 women and girls who die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes, the 4 million girls who undergo FGM every year, and more than 33,000 girls who are married every day before their 18th birthday, and millions of unemployed youth with limited hope for their future.
UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said that while progress has been made towards reducing maternal mortality, "good progress is not good enough," and the promises made at the ICPD in Cairo in 1994 should be kept for women and girls.
"The reproductive rights of women and girls are not up for negotiation. And we shall protect and uphold them.
"We will do it because strengthening our societies, growing our economies, and importantly, combating climate change--all of it depends upon women and girls taking control over their bodies, their choices, and their futures.
"Yet, there is a fundamental reason we will uphold sexual and reproductive health and rights. We will do it because it is right."
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark and UNFPA goodwill ambassador, asked what the world would be like for women and girls had the commitments not been made at the ICPD in Cairo in 1994. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are essential for the health and well-being of all, especially women and girls, she said.
Ambassador Ib Petersen, Denmark's Special Envoy for ICPD25, said that "The world we imagined is now within reach, but we must join forces to make it a reality once and for all."
Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, spoke about the ripple effect of realizing the rights of women and girls in society. When women are free from violence they are able to live freely, increasing their human capital and being more productive members of society.
"Upholding the rights of women and girls is a game changer," she said. While huge progress has been made, millions of women and girls are still being left behind, waiting for the promise of Cairo to be kept. She called for delivery on that promise now.
The way forward, Dr. Kanem said, is by focusing on one number only - zero:
Zero unmet need for contraception, so every woman and adolescent girl can decide for herself whether or when to get pregnant, and how many children to have;
Zero preventable maternal deaths, so no woman in the world will have to die for want of reproductive health care;
Zero gender-based violence. Zero cases of female genital mutilation. Zero child and forced marriages.
"It will take comprehensive, innovative population data to zero in on those who are furthest behind," Dr. Kanem said.
This vision is set out in the Nairobi Statement. The only acceptable target is zero, and this remains within our power to achieve, she said.
- Nancy Onyango and Edwinah Orowe