The recently concluded 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development was much anticipated; the deliberations should have left a watershed moment for girls and women across the world. The struggle for realization of women and girls’ rights remain. We cannot play blind and deaf any longer. Just quick reminder-the International Conference on Population and Development is the resulting Programme of Action hosted by Cairo in 1994 bringing together 179 states with the agenda to improve human lives, rather than population control targets. Like a basketful of moonlight, different perspectives of sexual and reproductive health, human rights, gender equality, discrimination, coercive practices, sustainable development and women empowerment were merged to a remarkable international consensus.
The Nairobi Summit: International Conference on Population and Development’s Main Agendas
Nothing more was added to the table from the ICPD’s agenda of 1994! It was a re-commitment to Accelerate a Promise made back then. After years of actions, the gains have been considerably felt. Africa, South America, Antarctica and Asia still lack behind in matters of urgency, sexual and reproductive health and rights, health care and education according to Gross Domestic Product by International Monetary Funds and World Bank. Unquestionably, this stagnates progress towards Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 mobilized for political and financial commitments needed urgently t implement the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action aimed at:- Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as a part of universal health coverage.
Financing required to complete the ICPD Programme of Action, and to sustain the gains made.
Drawing on demographic diversity to drive economic growth and achieve sustainable development.
Ending gender-based violence and harmful practices.
Upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health care even in humanitarian and fragile contexts.
The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25: Grassroots Women’s Organizations
I advocate sexual and reproductive health and rights-the ICPD’s core agenda. The summit’s zeal was felt globally. What an an opportunity to take stock of our successes and lost grounds, while working forward it was. My wish to attend the summit at the main venue was futile. Still luck found me presenting the chance to attend a side event organized by grassroots women’s organizations from Mathare and Kibera, the largest informal settlements in Africa.
Our venue was Geevanjee Gardens. I fell into a conversation on whether the weather could ruin our event. Shortly, deviated to the cost of living, one of us pointing out leadership under the retired President Moi was better…food was surplus “Bora uhai, na ile story ya aflotoxin?” Another one lamented. I bring up the agenda of the day, explaining sexual and reproductive health and rights is at the core of International Council Population and Development’s agenda, why its very important for us women. “Form yangu ni pesa tu”. Another interrupted.
Shortly the event started with zeal, we were over sixty women, welcoming the International Council for Population and Development Summit in our way-songs and dance with placards in the air under light downpour between the canopy of purple haze. Nothing deterred us from the commemoration.
We had one speech and a press statement from which I got to understand the lives of girls/ women in informal settlements are complex. Many of them are adults at childhood, poverty and injustices have manifested themselves in many faces, human rights are wrongs-they are vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, unsafe abortions, teenage motherhood, maternal deaths, extra judicial killings, sexual violence, poor healthcare and education, political violence, poor sanitation and housing,accessibility of services and information, crimes, drug and substance abuse while remaining at the bottom of all economic and development spheres.
Thank you Mr. President: The Kenyan President’s Commitments
I remember one of the grassroots women’s representative addressing to the media, “ Hii ifikie prezzo, some women in this country have suffered great pains, you have made a promise; tumekusikia, kunakucheki.” In his speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of a re-dedication towards the incomplete 1994 agenda. He spoke for women and girls vulnerable to gender violence, maternal deaths, female genital mutilation, early marriages, infant and child mortality, and unemployed youth with less opportunities for growth.
He noted the ordinary citizen me and maybe you are the most important participants of the summit, while reminding the participants who were mostly policy makers and influencers to be guided by the our needs, aspirations and hopes for unrealized potentials. He also encouraged equal inclusion of women participation and presentation at all levels. Importantly, he recognized the strength of women as gatekeepers and backbones for families and nations. His parting words were rather doom in future if we fail accelerate the Cairo Promise, warning a risk of giving our children a less secure future than we inherited.
My Thoughts After the Nairobi ICPD Summit: Women Rights Not a Floor for Debate!
The revolutionary Programme of Action called for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and were placed at heart of global development. It affirmed full and equal participation of women in economically, politically and socially without any form of discrimination, 25 years on the affirmation sounds like a beautiful legend in a world apart.
Walking the Talk:A Road Map to Transformation for Women and girls
The re-commitments at the International Conference for Population and Development felt like an achievable brainteaser- governments, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations and others groups of interests stepped up with pledges. The United Nations Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency mobilized more than 1,200 universal commitments, it also voiced for the marginalized and grassroot groups for their engagements with policymakers towards realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
The Summit research showed to achieve the “Three transformative Results” (need for family planning, maternal deaths and harmful practices) will cost the world $264 billion (United Nations Population Fund and Johns Hopkins University).
Denmark’s Special Envoy for ICPD25 expressed his optimism asserting “There will be no ICPD50. Women and girls have waited long enough to have their rights and choices. Looking towards 2030, we are entering a decade of delivery, during which we will walk the talk and hold ourselves accountable for the promises we have made”.