On the 4th of June the Multi Party Initiative (MPI) on SRHR and HIV/AIDS will gather to discuss how to reach girls within SRHR policies. The SRHR Alliance (consisting of Rutgers, Simavi, AMREF Flying Doctors, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, and dance4life) is contributing to this event by introducing this meeting’s theme and inviting a female SRHR activist from Pakistan to share her story with attendees.
In the Netherlands, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) is a priority within development cooperation. The MPI for SRHR and HIV/AIDS of the Dutch Parliament aims to generate public commitments from all parties to SRHR. The MPI acts to keep SRHR on the political agenda in a systematic way, thereby encouraging the entire Dutch parliament to support SRHR. This is crucial in ensuring SRHR remains a policy priority area.
Turn obstacles into opportunities
Although the Netherlands is well-known for its progressive attitude towards SRHR, there are still barriers to be overcome in strengthening and spreading SRHR policies internationally, especially when it comes to reaching girls. Amongst religious groups there is for example a large variety of positions towards contraception and sexuality education. Moreover, in its development policy, it is becoming more and more common for the Netherlands to take the Development Plans (e.g. Poverty Reduction Strategies, Reproductive Health Strategies, etc) of partner countries as starting point. Partner countries may, however, not always include girls in these plans. During the MPI meeting different angles will be discussed to answer the question: how to turn obstacles into opportunities when it comes to SRHR for girls.
Supporting SRHR for girls
Roelof van Laar, a member of the Dutch parliament for the PvdA (Dutch Labour Party) and the new chairman of the MPI on SRHR and HIV/AIDS, is motivated to improve SRHR for girls worldwide:
“As former director of Free a Girl, I have met hundreds of girls who were exploited in prostitution. In most cases they had no idea what sex was before they entered a brothel, let alone contraception or family planning. Many of these girls became pregnant and contracted HIV or other sexually transmitted infections and diseases. I saw with my own eyes the devastating effects on their health and wellbeing. Many girls in developing countries – including those who do not end up in prostitution – run the same risks. They are lucky to get through their teenage years without suffering unwanted pregnancy, disease or sexual violence. This must change. I grab every chance I get to make a difference for these girls.”
This is just the beginning
Together with our partners in the SRHR Alliance, as well as with Stop AIDS Now! (SAN!), Simavi will continue to engage with and provide support to the MPI on SRHR and HIV/AID. One way we aim to do this is by stimulating the involvement of as many parliamentarians as possible. The MPI on SRHR and HIV/AIDS plans to organise a second meeting in Autumn 2015.