Author: Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

International Day for Maternal Health and Rights: A Call for Action

Post written by Serra Sippel and Bergen Cooper. The International Day for Maternal Health and Rights was launched in 2014 by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) with other global sexual and reproductive health and rights organizations with support growing every year since. On behalf of the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights Steering Committee (including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Ibis Reproductive Health, Maternal Health Task Force, Pathfinder International, and The White Ribbon Alliance) we are calling on the United Nations to support universal, comprehensive, respectful, and rights-based maternal health by officially recognizing April 11th as International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. Maternal rights violations continue to persist and the United Nations’ recognition of this day would bring much-needed attention and funding to address health and rights challenges so many women face. Approximately 303,000 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth each year, and most of these deaths are preventable. Over the past decade the evidence for how women too often experience disrespect and abuse during childbirth has grown. …

Celebrating Girls, Transforming Girl Engagement

Post written by Devan Shea, Senior Policy and Partnerships Associate at CHANGE Girls are at the heart of building a sustainable, empowered, and healthy future for all of us. Today, on International Day of the Girl Child, there is a lot to celebrate. This year, for the first time, the U.S. government has articulated a strategy for empowering adolescent girls across its global health and development programs. In March, when Secretary of State John Kerry announced the Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls (also known as the “Adolescent Girl Strategy”), he committed to making it “part of our foreign policy DNA.” Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are featured prominently in the strategy, which acknowledges the high burden of HIV and early pregnancy faced by girls and young women. It builds on key adolescent girl-focused policies and initiatives that are already being implemented, like PEPFAR’s DREAMS Partnership, a public-private partnership focused on HIV interventions for adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa. And, it recognizes the connections between poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes and structural factors …

Decriminalization of Sex Work is a Human Rights Issue

Written by Preston Mitchum, Policy Research Analyst, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) Decriminalization is a social justice issue for women and girls around the world. Laws that criminalize trans-diverse populations, sexual minorities, drug users, and sex workers increase stigma and drive the HIV epidemic. Decriminalization serves as a vehicle to ensuring that the health and human rights of women and girls everywhere are upheld, honored, and protected. The sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women and girls will not be achieved without decriminalization. Evidence shows that criminalization of sex work, for example, results in more human rights abuses, impedes prevention of women and girls from actually being trafficked for the purposes of sex, and creates barriers to accessing health care and other services. It’s time to break these barriers. In May, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) was proud to support Amnesty International’s new policy calling on governments to take specific actions in protecting the human rights of sex workers, including decriminalization of consensual sex work, the full engagement of …

42 Years of Betraying Women and Girls Around the World

By CHANGE President Serra Sippel It’s distressing, but not surprising, that women’s health and rights in the U.S. are under attack. There have always been efforts by anti-choice advocates and policy makers to try to destroy women’s agency and our sexual and reproductive health care choices. What may not be as well known is that these attacks extend beyond our U.S. borders. As a leading donor for reproductive health services overseas, the U.S. government exports harmful policies through our foreign aid- policies that limit reproductive rights for women and girls outside the U.S. One such policy that is particularly heinous is the Helms Amendment. The Helms amendment is a decades-old provision in U.S. law that prohibits U.S. funding for abortion overseas as a “method of family planning.” The law does not prohibit U.S. support for abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Despite this distinction, no administration – not even the Obama administration – has ever implemented the law to help women and girls access abortion in the cases of the three …

An AIDS-Free Generation: Not Without Women

By Kathryn Boulton, Legal Fellow We cannot achieve an AIDS-free generation without young women and girls. Yet for far too long, research and programming devoted to HIV prevention and treatment have simply failed to include adolescent girls and young women. Today, girls and young women account for an alarmingly disproportionate number of new HIV infections globally, but the problem is especially pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa. In several countries within this region, more than 80% of adolescents newly infected with HIV are girls. The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) has recognized for some time the centrality of women-centered prevention efforts around HIV/AIDS. As an organization, CHANGE is thrilled that PEPFAR has zeroed in on the needs of girls through the DREAMS Partnership, a public-private partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Girl Effect launched on World AIDS Day 2014. DREAMS directs nearly half a billion dollars to the prevention of new HIV infections among girls and young women in ten sub-Saharan African countries: Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, …

MDG 6: Succeeding targets on HIV/AIDS and failing women and girls

By Bergen Cooper, Senior Policy Research Associate, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are coming to a close. As we look back at accomplishments and missed opportunities in the MDGs—and prepare for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—we know that global action works, but not for everyone. MDG 6, for example, was created to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. The targets include halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2010, and halting and reversing the incidence of malaria by 2015. Let’s start with the good news. We achieved halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Let’s continue with the good news. New HIV infections declined by 40 percent from 2000-2013. Fifteen million people living with HIV are on antiretroviral therapy, a goal that was met nine months early. This is compared to the only 1 million people who were on antiretroviral therapies in 2000. New HIV infections have fallen by 35 percent in the general population, and 59 percent …

Female Genital Cutting is a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Issue

By Bergen Cooper, Senior Policy Research Associate and Beirne Roose-Snyder, Director of Public Policy The practice of female genital cutting (FGC), also called female genital mutilation (FGM) or FGM/C, is a human rights and gender equality issue. FGC violates a host of human rights principles including non-discrimination on the basis of sex, the right to bodily integrity, the right to life, and the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. But, FGC also is a sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issue and as such should be included in programs and policies that address maternal health, reproductive health, family planning, and HIV prevention, treatment, and care. Ending FGC is an important and necessary priority for organizations, governments, advocates and women and girls globally. While we continue to work on ending FGC, we must also collectively address the lives of women and girls living with FGC today. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 133 million women and girls around the world who are living with the effects of FGC – that’s …

Rev. Harry Knox, president and chief executive officer, The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is joined by faith leaders and human rights advocates at a press conference across the street from the White House to call on President Obama to take executive action on access to safe abortion for women and girls raped in conflict. Photo Credit: John Nelson Photography

Faith Leaders, Advocates, Urge Obama to Break Barriers to Safe Abortion

Rev. Harry Knox, president and chief executive officer, The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is joined by faith leaders and human rights advocates at a press conference across the street from the White House to call on President Obama to take executive action on access to safe abortion for women and girls raped in conflict. Photo Credit: John Nelson Photography   By Serra Sippel, president, the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) On June 4, faith leaders and human rights advocates from around the world gathered at St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the White House, to call on President Obama to stand with women and girls raped in conflict. We called on him to take immediate action in ensuring access to abortion for women and girls around the world. Right now, across the globe, too many women and girls who are raped, who survive incest, or whose lives are in danger from a pregnancy are being denied access to safe abortion care because the U.S. government has failed to correctly …

Reproductive Rights: Making the Promise of Beijing a Reality

Twenty years ago at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, women’s rights advocates and national governments across the world came together to affirm the rights of women and commit to gender equality. It was at that conference when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton declared that “women’s rights are human rights.” It was also at Beijing when the U.S. joined the global community to reaffirm commitments made the previous year at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of the women’s rights agenda. Since Beijing, the U.S. has made great strides in advancing gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and human rights in the U.S. and globally. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has shown clear commitment to promoting gender equality, and to addressing gender-based violence against women and girls, as evidenced in the USAID Strategy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment and the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. More recently, the U.S. submitted its report on …

A Global Call to Stand with Women and Girls Raped in Conflict

“Abortion for victims of rape is part of the reparations they are due and the government must take action to develop measures to make abortion a reality for all women in Colombia to improve women’s health and lives in general. Access to abortion for women victim of rape is justice, reparation, and human dignity for them,” – Viviana Bohórquez Monsalve, a human rights lawyer at La Mesa por la Vida y la Salud de las Mujeres. “We have many conflict situations where women are facing challenges, daily, in regards to rape, abductions…and we think it’s important that President Obama provides leadership by ensuring that services are provided to these many women and girls,” – Bafana  Khumalo, co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice, based in South Africa. Viviana and Bafana were among over 85 activists who stood outside the White House on a cold, rainy December day to stand with women and girls raped in conflict. A diversity of voices gathered that day to call on US leadership to act for women and girls. From Latin America, South Africa, …