Leaders must take action now to help women and girls

Leaders must take action now to help women and girls
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For the last 16 years, health worker, Olufemi Fabiyi has gone out to some of the hardest areas to reach in rural parts of Nigeria to give sexual and reproductive health services to some of the world's poorest people.

She's seen a lot during that time but one particular story stands out for her.

One day she was in a market when she was approached by a man who appealed for her to visit his younger sister.

When she got there she met his sister who looked about 50. It turned out she was just 29-year-old but she had already had 12 children because she had not been able to get contraception.

"The burden and labour of delivering 12 children could be seen all over her," Olufemi said. She was worried about how the woman could possibly raise that many children and how she would support them financially.

This woman, like 230 million others around the world, wanted to get contraception so she could decide how many children to have and when she wanted to have them but the services were not available to her.

As the world marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we believe that we have the opportunity to help women and girls in the same situation around the world.

The SDGs set out a global commitment to end poverty and to ensure sustainable development was not ignored.

Only twelve months ago, every government at the United Nations signed up to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and agreed to take unprecedented steps to achieve gender equality and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health.

The commitment is there but we now need to make sure that this translates into action on the ground, action at country level around the globe.

At the International Planned Parenthood Federation we believe that the ambition set out in the SDGs is clear.

Gender equality, women's and girls' human rights, and the empowerment of girls and women will not be possible without the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Providing the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, information and education so that all women and girls can make free and informed choices about their sexuality and their reproductive lives is a basic human right and central to realising the full range of women's rights, and to progressing gender equality.

If we work together and harness the commitment of organisations such as my own, we can collectively develop programmes and policies that will allow every country to deliver on the commitments that they made just one year ago.

Achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality is not just an end in itself. Enabling everyone to access these life-changing services will support the elimination of poverty and hunger, achievement of gender equality and quality education, reduction of inequality, adaptation to climate change, and sustainable consumption.

Without access to sexual and reproductive health services and education achieving some of the other goals will become a much harder task, while others will be impossible to realise.

Words are easy but now is the time for real political will to translate these ambitions into action. We cannot risk failing on all the goals due to a lack of political will to implement those related to gender equality and SRHR.

It's time we held politicians to account to ensure that every woman and girl - wherever they live - can get the contraception they want so they can choose for themselves and their children.

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