Muadi Mukenge: ‘Reproductive rights are core to women’s rights’

Muadi Mukenge on UN’s 2019 Commission on the Status of Women

From March 11 to 22, world leaders and women’s rights advocates—including Ipas staff—will attend the UN’s 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the principal UN space committed to women’s rights. This year, the global conference is focusing on how public services and sustainable infrastructure can support gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment. CSW provides a space for civil society organizations to give input to government outcome documents, network, meet new and current partners and participate in panel discussions. Eighteen Ipas staff will attend, including nine from country offices.

Below, Ipas Chief of Development and External Relations Muadi Mukenge—who has attended the conference since 2005—shares her hopes for this year’s CSW and explains how the reproductive rights movement can work with other women’s rights movements to advance gender equality around the world. 

What are your hopes for this year’s CSW? 

CSW is an opportunity to advocate for a systemic, global approach to integrating safe abortion into public sector services and social protection systems. If we can add language on safe abortion into the Agreed Conclusions, this commits governments and enables women’s reproductive rights to be part of sustainable development infrastructures globally.

CSW is also a space to share the impact of our programs and connect it to the overall empowerment of women and girls, and to ensure that accurate information is provided on safe abortion and women’s entire sexual and reproductive rights. We value the conversations and debates we have with a broad constellation of women’s rights organizations, donors and international partners—we advance our work through these conversations.

How does the reproductive rights movement intersect with other movements? 

Reproductive rights are core to women’s rights: women and girls cannot achieve equality, empowerment or realization of their other human rights if they can’t control their sexuality and reproduction. The reproductive rights movement has made broad strides over the past 30 years to elevate the quality of work and conversations around sexuality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, sexual and gender-based violence and negotiation of safe sex.

Cross-sections of women’s rights groups lobby in regional spaces, like the African Union (which led to the passage of the far-reaching Maputo Protocol at the African Union in 2003, which included women’s rights to safe abortion) and the Organization of American States. Women’s groups working on peace-building have highlighted the need for reproductive rights for women in conflict zones. And Ipas country offices work with women’s groups from broad sectors to engage communities to improve the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls. As advocates, we advance our objectives by working together.

How can Ipas work with other movements represented at CSW to further advance women’s human rights around the world?

Ipas has participated in producing regional shadow reports that highlight gaps in attainment of women’s rights around the world. We are co-hosting side events and parallel sessions and collaborating on submitting language for the outcome document. We attend other thematic sessions to demonstrate the intersections of women’s rights activism. And we are participating in the Women’s Caucus to share daily highlights of the deliberations and develop a unified strategy. Once we return to our home countries after CSW, we can exert pressure on governments to uphold commitments made at the UN.

What would you like to see in this year’s CSW outcome document? (The outcome document is a negotiated agreement between all governments in attendance; it becomes a standard for advocacy and accountability in global development.)

Ipas would like to confirm language that strengthens the normative, legal and institutional environment for women’s empowerment, in line with the Beijing Platform for Action. The Agreed Conclusions should recommend repealing laws and policies that criminalize consensual sexual conduct, abortion, or other personal decisions. We also want to see a repeal of laws that restrict or punish women’s, feminist, girls, youth and human rights organizations and other civil society groups when they exercise their rights to assembly, association and expression. We call upon governments to show their commitment to live up to the core rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Finally, Ipas will advocate to ensure that gender equality, the empowerment of all women and girls and the full respect of their human rights—including their sexual and reproductive rights—are central in national strategies, tools and instruments for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Please join Ipas at CSW for these events:

Voice & Choice: Using Evidence to Support Women and Girls in Emergency Settings, Panel Presentation  

Parallel event co-organized with Population Council  

When: Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM. This event will stream on Population Council’s Facebook page via Facebook Live.

Leaving No One Behind: UHC and Access to Safe Abortion,
Panel Presentation   

Organized by the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations and Ipas 

When: Thursday, March 14 at 12:30 PM  

Where: Armenian Center, (630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016), Vartan Hall meeting room 

Protección y fortalecimiento de los mecanismos nacionales de derechos humanos que promueven la igualdad de género como un bien de la humanidad (Protecting and strengthening national human rights mechanisms that advance gender equality as a good of humanity), Panel Presentation

Organized by the Government of Mexico in partnership with Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and Ipas 

When: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM 

Where: United Nations, Conference Room A 

Advocacy and Action to Expand Access to Safe Abortion, Workshop 

Organized by Ipas in partnership with FEMNET 

When: Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM 

During this session, participants who are interested in advocacy to support expanded access to safe abortion will have a chance to network with like-minded colleagues, learn about the challenges and opportunities in advocating to expand access to safe abortion care, and brainstorm ways to increase the impact of this work. 

Participants will also have a chance to share their own experiences working on access to safe abortion care, with discussion focused on how to overcome challenges and strengthen advocacy efforts by using a rights-based approach. 

Note that this workshop is full, but there is a waitlist.

For more information, contact media@ipas.org.

Stay informed and inspired with updates on how we’re working globally to improve access to safe abortion and contraception. Learn more

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