3 Questions

3 questions to Dutch development minister Lilianne Ploumen

‘We need She Decides now more than ever.’ That was Dutch development minister Lilianne Ploumen’s message on her return from a two-day working visit to Kenya, where she went to see several programmes working for sexual health, family planning and safe abortion. Including the Get UP Speak Out programme, a joint programme developed by Simavi, Rutgers (lead), CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Dance4life, Stop AIDS Now! And International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)). We talked to Ploumen about her field visit.

1

What was the aim of your visit and what did you expect to see?

“Kenya is one of the countries where the Mexico City Policy (MCP) is expected to have the greatest impact, because the demand for SRHR services is high and Kenya is highly dependent on USAID to provide it. Maternal mortality rates are high, and one of the major causes of death is haemorrhaging, which often occurs during pregnancy or unsafe abortions. This visit allowed me to see first-hand how family planning organisations improve the lives of women and girls, how these organisations will be affected by the MCP, and consequently what the impact will be on Kenyan women and girls.

2

What have you learned from visiting programmes and talking to young people in Kisumu? And what left a deep impression on you?

“What impressed me the most were the personal stories of Kenyan women and girls about how having access to family planning services has affected their lives. I heard stories about desperate poverty, oppression, child marriage and maternal death, against the backdrop of the broader impact of overpopulation, migration and economic stagnation. The value of the programmes I visited in Kibera and Kisumu is obvious. Every day these organisations try to improve the lives of Kenyan women and girls by educating them to become economically empowered and by providing sexual and reproductive health services and information

The strength and optimism of the many young women I met left a deep impression on me. And of course the courageous people from projects like CSA and K Met in Kisumu and the CSE project Africa Alive in Nairobi who are willing to work in difficult conditions that have become even more difficult because of MCP. Their commitment to saving lives and giving young women a better future is a great example for everyone.

This trip shows that SRHR is closely intertwined with economic development. We can’t let these women and girls down. The cost would simply be too high. After hearing all these stories, I’m even more convinced of the need for She Decides.”

3

What achievements are you most proud of and what do you see as the biggest SRHR challenge(s)? How does Trump’s decision to reinstate the Global Gag Rule play a role in this?

“Not only have we raised over €182 million; we have also gained the support of many organisations, including NGOs and private foundations, plus over 50 other countries from all over the world. The challenge lies in finding ways to galvanise further political and financial support, share knowledge and data, and raise awareness of She Decides so that SRHR organisations can continue their work. There is still much to be done, but despite that, I am confident that we will make progress because of the extensive support She Decides has obtained so far.

The biggest challenges are high maternal mortality rates, combined with a very young population and restrained opportunities for girls and women to decide about when, with whom and how many children they would like to have. There is also a need to overcome stigma about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Everyone has the right to have their own values and beliefs, and I think it’s important to respect each other’s beliefs on this subject. But stigmatising family planning, the prevention of unsafe abortion and post-abortion care won’t help these women and girls. So the Mexico City Policy means a step back for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and their economic empowerment.”

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