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Will the new global development paradigm do anything to improve the lives of young women?

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By Oriana López Uribe*

It is difficult to write about this year’s CSW theme because the post-2015 agenda is a work in progress with many hands and heads involved. In the end, it seems like few of those hands are working to have an actual impact on people’s lives, especially for young and disadvantaged women.

The idea of the Post-2015 agenda is to renew governments’ interest, energy and commitment to bringing about changes that have an impact on development and environmental sustainability. We activists who have been following the process should call upon our governments to make human rights a central part of this agenda, instead of a separate action. If not, countries’ development and environmental conservation will come at the cost of the integrity of many people. Development must go hand-in-hand with respect for rights if it is to be truly sustainable. The biggest challenge is how to eradicate different forms of inequality, both between and within countries themselves, when the current economic paradigm continues to drive inequality.

Given the focus on macroeconomic issues and climate change issues, it has been hard to delve into topics like health and education, which clearly give people more opportunities and potential for development at the individual, community, and societal levels. Some attempts have been made to develop minimum standards for health care, such as universal coverage, meaning that we all have a service that we have the right to receive.  The problem is that the service may be far away from my home, especially if I live in a rural area. Even if I manage to go, the center may not be able to meet the specific needs of everyone seeking service, but at least the State will be meeting its obligation of you being able to go if you need to, as if that were what was meant by people’s well-being.

Access to integral and high-quality health care services is one of the most complex challenges women face on a daily basis. The persistent control over women’s lives keeps women from having timely access to health centers in order to make informed and independent decisions in order to control their fertility. Truthful, scientific information does not reach all women, especially young and poor women; and when they do receive information, many have to travel a great distance to access a service that may or may not be able to meet their needs, either due to a lack of qualified personnel or supplies.

This means that a large number of women, whose intention is to avoid pregnancy, are getting pregnant. Most of these women are in a decent or good state of health; however, their unplanned pregnancy, without adequate medical care, may easily lead to their death or a decline or permanent damage to their health.

So, reasonably healthy women are dying because the State is not offering them information, education or quality health care services. And the same State is denying them the option of interrupting pregnancy, despite the lack of timely access to health care – and this is because of ideological, not structural reasons.

For all people, but especially young women, having information, comprehensive sex education and access to holistic, integrated health care services – especially sexual and reproductive services, including HIV prevention and detection – is crucial for our survival. It is also crucial for our quality of life, but our countries cannot even guarantee our survival.

I simply cannot understand: Why is the conversation not centered on rights, health, and education? Why doesn’t it focus on eliminating gender discrimination, which has been part of the international framework of human rights since CEDAW? Why aren’t we debating how to eliminate discrimination, stigma and social inequalities?

*Oriana has been an activist for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health for 15 years. She began her activism as a volunteer with Mexfam (IPPF affiliate in Mexico) developing strategies for sexual and reproductive health services for young people and creating sexual rights materials and strategies to reach young people. Since then, Oriana has acquired advocacy and education skills for sexual and reproductive rights, with emphasis on abortion and youth leadership. In 2007, she graduated with a Bachelors’ degree in Social Communication with a research study and a documentary film about transexuality; of which a special cut was screened in the congress to advocate for legal recognition of transexuality in 2007 in Mexico City.

Oriana is feminist who advocates for the sexual and reproductive rights of young people and women at national, regional and international levels. She was a member of the Youth Coalition for Sexuality Education and Sexual Health in Mexico and a Member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights until last December.

Oriana has worked in Balance since 2007 and is the Coordinator of the MARIA Fund since the launch in May 2009.

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