The right to sexual and reproductive health is a human right, which implies that people must be able to enjoy the right to sexual integrity, safety of the sexual body, choice, education and access to health care, among others. However for many, especially adolescent girls and young women, this right is poorly met, and they face unintended teenage pregnancy, sexuality transmitted infections, coercion, abuse and exploitation.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA), 20,000 girls under 18 give birth every day and around 3.2 million go through unsafe abortions every year. This drives them to miss education and employment opportunities, risk death due to early pregnancy complications (accounting for 70,000 in 2013) as well as carry high-risk diseases for the rest of their lives.
Most prevalent in developing countries, poor sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) perpetuate poverty and exclusion. Acknowledging this link, Plan Sweden and the European Commission (EC) have joined forces to bring lasting change in Bangladesh and Togo, where SRHR remain dysfunctional. These two EC funded projects will work to build an enabling environment for young people to claim and access their sexual and reproductive health rights.
The EU, an ally to foster SRHR
The EU recognises that tackling sexual health issues, in particular maternal and child health, gender equality and HIV, are key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The pledge made at the UN World Summit in 2005 to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015, is therefore a key goal of its development policy.
This commitment has also been reflected in EU funding. In 2013 alone, the EC made available a fund of 28 million euros to foster SRHR. Both policy and funding efforts have led to vast improvement in target developing countries, though much still needs to be done.
Commenting on the EU-awarded projects to Plan Bangladesh and Plan Togo, Alexandra Makaroff, Head of Plan EU Office, said: “These projects will contribute to poverty reduction and to improving the wellbeing of the populations of these countries through better reproductive health and informed family planning choices, which also are core areas of Plan International’s work.”
Reducing early pregnancies in Togo
The action in Togo will work with boys and girls to make them more aware of their rights, with the aim of reducing the number of early and unintended pregnancies among girls aged 10-19, since this represents an alarming situation in their country. Commenting on the future project, Mohamed Ibrahima Bah, Country Director of Plan Togo, said: “This project of Plan and the EU will greatly contribute to reducing early and unwanted pregnancies of adolescents by ensuring State and Social accountability regarding adolescent SRHR.”
The acquisition of this grant has been possible thanks to the coordinated efforts and expertise of Plan Togo and Plan Sweden, but the real test remains in ensuring quality in the implementation. “We are keen to meet this challenge for the benefit of young people in Togo and also for Plan to collaborate with the EU further,” Ibrahima Bah stresses.
Ensuring SRH services in Bangladesh
Similarly, Bangladesh’s action is set towards improving the sexual and reproductive health of all young people in the country, including socially excluded youth, by ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and information.
In the words of Siân Platt, Business Development Director at Plan Bangladesh, this EC-funded initiative will “allow the implementation of a comprehensive, multi-district initiative that aims to improve adolescent health through awareness raising and enhanced service delivery, particularly around sexual and reproductive health and rights.“
The project will furthermore allow Plan Bangladesh to push advocacy efforts, as well as capitalise on existing knowledge and programmatic expertise following the completion of several successful health-related projects. “This initiative will span several hard-to-reach areas, enabling our team to support even the most marginalised communities. I am very proud of our team for their success and I am hopeful this project will have a significant impact on the lives of adolescent children in Bangladesh,” Siân concludes.