Posted on | March 2, 2011 by Contributor |
What brings UNICEF and UNFPA together? Providing sexual and reproductive health services- especially to adolescent girls.
UNICEF and UNFPA sponsored an event last week during the Commission on the Status of Women, entitled “Women or Children: Whose Rights Come First?” The panelists explored the strong existing ties between UNICEF and UNFPA, and called for the two organizations to work more and more closely in the future- especially in the area of providing reproductive health services to girls.
In contrast to the focus on education at most events during this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, Nafis Sadik (former director of UNFPA), proclaimed that reproductive rights, not access to education, should be the marker of the third millennium development goal of achieving gender equality. “Women and girl’s access to the right of reproductive health is a pillar of women’s empowerment,” she told the audience.
Sadik joked warmly with the crowd about how governments used to be scared of the word “reproductive health” while sharing her incredulity that access to sexual and reproductive health was not a Millennium Development Goal itself. She claimed that all the MDGs are integrally connected to sexual and reproductive health. Steven Lewis (former director of UNICEF) interjected to boast to the crowd of Nafis’ success in chairing the Cairo Conference on Population and Development. “You should have seen Nafis take on the Vatican,” Lewis remarked, “it would have give you such pleasure!”
Lewis praised the growing partnership between the two organizations, while complaining about former UNICEF director James Grant. James Grant, who was president of UNICEF during the 1980s and early 1990s, resisted placing a focus on access to family planning in UNICEF’s work, preferring to focus instead on preventable illnesses. Lewis also bemoaned the recent election of the “cerebral nitwits” to the US House of Representatives, who would no doubt make life difficult for UNFPA in its current work promoting birth control and other methods of family planning in the developing world.
The panel concluded with the agreement that UNICEF and UNFPA should continue working together, and focus especially on adolescent girls. They also suggested that the Committee on the Rights of the Child and CEDAW Committee begin to meet together and issue joint recommendations, so that the committees could reinforce each other’s work.