Protecting reproductive rights of rural women: a pathway to a more equal world

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2018

The economic inequalities plaguing much of the world today are reinforced by many other forms of inequality, including inequalities in sexual and reproductive health. More than 200 million women—many of them poor and living in rural and remote parts of the world—lack access to voluntary family planning methods. In addition, more than 800 pregnant women—many in fragile socio-economic situations—die each day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

In many parts of the world, access to services is particularly limited or even non-existent for rural and indigenous women, undermining their ability to exercise their reproductive rights.

Without addressing the discrimination that these women face in both private and public spheres, many of them will remain caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, repeated pregnancies, diminished capabilities, unfulfilled human rights and unrealized potential. The denial of reproductive rights not only harms individuals, it can also put a drag on economies and stifle countries’ development.

Making reproductive health care universally accessible would not only help fulfil a poor, rural woman’s reproductive rights; it would also enable her to stay healthy, get an education and participate in all facets of life, including economic life. These benefits accrue to her, her family and her country. That’s why it is our mission at UNFPA to work with our partners to end unmet demand for family planning information and services, to end preventable maternal deaths, and to end gender-based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls by 2030.

Addressing inequalities and discrimination has always been at the heart of UNFPA’s work. We work to ensure that no one is left behind through programmes that improve the lives of excluded and marginalized women.

On this International Women’s Day, let us all renew our commitment to addressing the many different forms of inequalities that hold women back, particularly the rural and indigenous poor, and keep them from realizing their rights and ambitions, and from living their lives on an equal footing with men. A more equal world depends on it.

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Letter to the Editor: Secession?

Dear Editor:
I write this letter as an open letter to the Chuukese. I tried to discern the motive for the Chuuk secession, but I just cannot find it. I do not see any human right violation or heard of any genocide committed by the FSM government officials in Chuuk. Usually the justification for secession movement is systematic violation of human rights, genocide or ethnic cleansing committed by national officials (as in Kosovo, Southern Sudan, and other places). Chuuk is plagued with social and administrative problems, but it is all internally brewed. None of these problems are fomented by national officials or officials of the other states. The blame seems lie squarely with Chuuk state officials.
If Chuuk secedes, it will take all of these internally created problems with it. It owns all of its social and administrative problems. Chuuk officials complained almost incessantly about the formula used to divide Compact I funds, but Chuuk’s share was larger than individual share of the other states. All the three other states benefited from Compact I funds. They at least improve their infrastructures, but Chuuk did not have anything to show for its share. It just simply gobbled up its share of the funds.

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Guest Perspective: Domestic Violence Act passes after nine years

After a prolonged review and deliberation period, the Ninth Pohnpei State Legislature, in a unanimous vote (20-0) voted in favor of the Domestic Violence Act of 2017. This new law basically established family violence offenses as a separate chapter under the criminal code, provides for emergency protective orders for the victims, and incorporates rehabilitation opportunities for the perpetrators.
Over the years while the Bill sat in Legislature, the Pohnpei Women Council organized lobbying activities and appeared before the Legislature more than once to lend support to the passage of the Bill. In an effort to preempt passage of the Bill, the council took one step further and renovated an old government building to use for response and intervention services to victims of family violence. Now that the law is finally in place, it’s time to operationalize the delivery of that service.
Former Senator Magdalena Walter worked tirelessly to get her colleagues to come on board, so special acknowledgment of that work is proper and timely. The Pohnpeian students who came down from University of Guam to testify before the Committee did an excellent job of sharing their stories and a huge “Kalahngan” is extended to every one of them. The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures (APIL), back in 2011, passed a resolution urging passage of the Bill by the PSL. The foreign missions based in FSM, especially the Australian Mission, have consistently urged individual senators to support the Bill. At one point or another, during the past nine years, people in various capacities have expressed strong support for the Bill. Thank you all very much.
In 2013, when Kosrae State Legislature passed their Family Protection law, there was much confidence that the momentum would spill across the ocean to the PSL to follow suit, but unfortunately, there were still outstanding concerns regarding certain provisions in the Bill. According to the coconut wireless, the perceived conflict this law would have on Pohnpeian custom was a dominant factor in the delay of its’ passage.
Then right after Kosrae State passed its law, the UNFPA came into FSM and carried out a Family Health and Safety Study which revealed what was already known by many that violence against women exists in FSM (32.8%). In the final Standing Committee Report, it was the definition of the Discipline of Children that remained a concern so that was changed to align with the Constitution and Pohnpeian traditions. It should be noted here that Art. 5, s. 2 of the Pohnpeian Constitution clearly provides that where a statute is in conflict with Pohnpeian customs, the Legislature shall enact a new law to uphold that particular custom. The protection of Pohnpeian custom is therefore still paramount in this regard.
November 7, 2017 will go down in the history of Pohnpei as a particularly important day because of the passage of this new law establishing family violence as a criminal offense. At the end of the day, it is you, the Senators of the Ninth Pohnpei Legislature that made it all possible because you cast your affirmative vote on that day. Kaping lap oh mwuledek pwehki doadoahk eh pweidahr.
Now, onto enforcement!!!
Marstella E. Jack

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