Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: The Cornerstone of Sustainable Development.

AuthorKanem, Natalia

Shortly after the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015, we spoke to 10 ten-year-old girls from around the globe, asking them what their one wish was. Their answers affirmed what the American poet Maya Angelou once wrote: "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." Daline from Cameroon and Hiba from Jordan both wanted everyone in their family to be all together. Tuong Anh from Viet Nam and Ortilla from Guatemala both wanted a bicycle. Ingeborg from Norway and Temawelase from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) both wanted a decent future for themselves.

While the SDGs are universal in nature, with the aim of leaving no one behind, inequalities stemming from nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and orientation, marital status, age and other factors influence one's access to resources and the ability to exercise basic rights, including the right to sexual and reproductive health. In most developing countries, the poorest girls and women have the least power to decide whether or when to become pregnant. They also have the least access to quality care during pregnancy and childbirth, and this often results in maternal death. This inequality has lasting repercussions for girl's and women's health, educational opportunities, career and earning potential, and for their contribution to their respective nations' development and the elimination of poverty. Reproductive health and reproductive rights are not only an issue for girls and women living in poverty, they are relevant to every single one of us--women and men, girls and boys--now more than ever, in the era of the SDGs.

Reproductive health and rights allow women to be in control of their own bodies and decide if, when, with whom and how often to bear children. The rights include having a safe pregnancy and safe delivery, with adequate antenatal and postnatal care, as well as access to family planning counselling and a range of modern contraceptive methods. Reproductive health and rights also depend on timely, comprehensive sexuality education that allows adolescents and young people to learn about their bodies, understand relationships, make informed decisions about their sexuality, and stand up against sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. Reproductive rights include support in how to become pregnant, and care and counselling in the case of a miscarriage or for women suffering post-partum depression. Being able to exercise these rights also prevents...

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