'I Decide:' A Campaign Calling on World Leaders to Put Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at the Heart of Global Development

Our message is simple. People should have the right to decide -- who they live with; what happens to their bodies; if, when, and how many children to have -- the right to determine their futures.
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Do you think you should be able to decide what happens to your body? Whether to use contraception?

How many children to have? Or with whom you live?

I am guessing that your answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes. That's because most of us expect to be able to decide for ourselves on issues that get to the very heart of who we are. I think it's fair to say we treat these issues as our basic rights.

But for millions of women and girls around the world these aren't rights. At the moment they would probably consider them luxuries, to which they can only aspire.

Because every minute of every day across the world, girls and women are forced to do things they don't choose.

They are forced into marriage against their will, forced into early pregnancy, forced into having children when they aren't ready, and forced into having unsafe abortions.

And when girls are forced to have children when they are still children themselves, it can lead to serious physical problems and complications like fistula. It can also mean they are often forced to leave school without an education, often never achieving their full potential.

This lack of choice has a cost. It costs the women and girls who suffer, because they are caught in a never-ending cycle of poverty. And it costs their families, their communities and, in the end, their countries, too.

We think it is time to break the cycle of poverty. We think it is time for people to decide for themselves. That's why The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is launching our "I Decide" campaign today. "I Decide" includes a petition calling on world leaders to put sexual and reproductive health and rights at the heart of global development.

Our message is simple. People should have the right to decide -- who they live with; what happens to their bodies; if, when, and how many children to have -- the right to determine their futures. IPPF works on these issues every day, through our six regional offices and 152 member associations, in more than 170 countries.

But the "I Decide" campaign is particularly important now because this is a crucial time: World leaders will shortly decide what the priorities are for the replacements to the Millennium Development Goals, in the post-2015 framework.

Sexual and reproductive rights have been neglected by the international community -- and international development -- for too long. It's time for change.

As world leaders decide on what replaces the development goals next year -- we need to make sure that sexual and reproductive rights are front and center of those new targets.

We know that respecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls is both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do. Adolescence is a critical time. If her rights are supported during this stage, a young girl is more likely to stay in school longer, marry later, have fewer children and invest more money into her family and community.

Think about the choices you've made in your life. If you're reading this, you've probably already made a thousand decisions denied to girls in the developing world. These choices include decisions about completing your education, what you do with your own body, whether or not you want to have a family, and with whom.

Now think what your life would look like if someone else had made those choices for you. Add your name and be part of the generation that makes an historic decision -- to give girls and women the right to decide their own futures.

"I Decide" Petition Link.

Tewodros Melesse is the Director General of International Planned Parenthood. Founded in 1952, The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is both a service provider and an advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organization is a worldwide network of 152 Member Associations active in over 170 countries. Learn more at www.ippf.org.

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