The 2030 Agenda Is a Win for Women and Girls

Last month, world governments finalized a new development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is expected to be formally adopted at a United Nations meeting later this month. U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power called it "ambitious and transformative" and urged us all to "translate the bold promise of this historic consensus" into true and meaningful action and impact.

Ambassador Power is right to celebrate the agreement. Put simply, the 2030 Agenda is a win for women and girls. Now, we need real action to turn its promise into a reality.

Two years ago, I outlined something that I still know to be true today: that where women succeed, communities prosper. At that time, I also noted that in order to truly succeed, women need tools and resources to have full control of their bodies and their futures. And while the UN's MDGs formed an ambitious roadmap for ending extreme global poverty, their initial failure to include reproductive health made them less effective -- especially for women.

When it comes to ending poverty and promoting sustainable development, we know what works. So how well does the new 2030 Agenda pass my test of two years ago? Did we once again miss our chance to incorporate reproductive health into the global agenda?

Today, I'm glad to say that governments have overwhelmingly spoken in favor of the known, effective approach, incorporating reproductive health and rights for all into the sustainable development goals.

In particular, the third goal -- ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages -- contains strong language around sexual and reproductive health care that could have great implications for health access here in the U.S. and around the globe.

Goal 3 contains a number of important provisions -- from reducing maternal mortality to ending the AIDS epidemic. One passage in particular aims to "by 2030 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes."

This passage marks a critical step forward in advancing health access and gender equity. The global community was long overdue in recognizing that protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights is crucial to ending global poverty. Grassroots advocates and human-rights leaders from across the globe raised their voices and called on their governments to support the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights on this agenda, knowing that rights, health, and empowerment are critical to achieving this ambitious agenda. Across the U.S., we've seen how important access to sexual and reproductive rights and health can be for communities. The birth-control benefit in the Affordable Care Act is an important example of this. That's why Planned Parenthood supporters engaged their communities in defining our Vision for the World We Want to promote U.S. engagement on this agenda and the reproductive-rights commitments through domestic and foreign-policy priorities.

In fact, there are many successful programs around the world that point to the universal truth that, regardless of region or creed, sexual and reproductive health and rights boost efforts to end poverty and empower communities.

One example of this interconnected work on the ground is Fundaeco. One of the largest environmental organizations in Guatemala, Fundaeco manages a number of protected areas throughout the country. Before partnering with Planned Parenthood Global, Fundaeco's work centered on environmental education, working with rural communities to ensure they were using the land in sustainable ways, and advocating local government bodies designate and recognize protected lands. But in their work with local communities, Fundaeco found it impossible to separate reproductive and environmental rights. The grassroots work of Fundaeco brought them face to face with a terrible reality: Women were dying in environmentally sensitive areas. What's worse, they were dying from wholly preventable causes, including pregnancy complications.

This is how Fundaeco's partnership with Planned Parenthood Global began. Fundaeco's existing relationship with local leaders made them the ideal organization to support the growth of sexual and reproductive-health services in isolated and often marginalized rural communities within protected areas. The project has been a huge success. When the health centers and outreach programs were up and running, Fundaeco saw an increase in women's access to contraception, as well as an increase in the number of women attending and participating in community-organizing meetings and environmental-preservation activities. With access to reproductive health, women were healthier and thus able to be full and active community members and contribute to solutions for a sustainable community. And by meeting Guatemalan women's reproductive-health needs, this partnership also strengthened the local environmental-rights movement, further protecting women and their families.

Fundaeco is working -- but its success is not unique. People around the world -- from nurses to church members to grassroots advocates to educators -- are seamlessly integrating care and support for women and girls into their advocacy and health-service-delivery efforts, and the 2030 Agenda reflects that.

I'm so pleased to see governments acknowledging this reality with their support for Goal 3 in the 2030 Agenda and look forward to the adoption of this unprecedented agenda. I strongly urge governments, including the U.S., to follow through on their commitments to make this ambitious agenda a reality.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 3.

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