Monthly Archives: October 2017

NFPA: Reproductive health critical to economic equality

NFPA: Reproductive health critical to economic equality


Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr Natalia Kanem says reproductive health and rights are, “critical but under-appreciated variables”, in the solution to economic inequality. They can also propel countries toward achieving the top UN Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating poverty.

Kanem called for universal access to reproductive health services during the launch on Tuesday of the UNFPA’s 2017 State of the World Population Report (SWOP) in London. The report is titled, Worlds Apart: Reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality.

“A woman or adolescent girl who cannot enjoy her reproductive rights is one who cannot stay healthy, cannot complete her education, cannot find decent work outside the home and cannot chart her own economic future.”

Kanem said that with contraception often out of the reach of the poor, particularly those who are less educated and live in rural areas, women and adolescent girls are at greater risk of unintended pregnancy.

She lamented that an unintended pregnancy can set in motion a lifetime of missed opportunities and unrealised potential, trapping a woman and her children in an endless cycle of poverty.

The economic slide can continue for generations. The UNFPA’s Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean also shared its thoughts on the 2017 SWOP.

It warned that unless the global community reduces inequalities in women’s reproductive health and rights, the world will fail to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development goals. This, in turn, would mean a failure to reduce poverty.

The UNFPA noted that inequalities in reproductive health are linked to economic inequality (while) economic inequality correlates with inequalities in sexual and reproductive health.

The 2017 SWOP calls on governments to do ten things for a more equal world including: meeting all commitments and obligations to human rights agreed in international treaties and conventions; tearing down barriers that prevent adolescent girls and young women from accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services; and providing “essential, life-saving, antenatal and maternal health care (to) the poorest women.

Senior UN Official Says Health Care is a Human Right

Senior UN Official Says Health Care is a Human Right

Health care is a human right, senior UN official says; urges protection for medical workers

24 October 2017 – Health is a human right and health care workers are human rights defenders, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, reminding Governments to provide healthcare for their citizens and to protect professionals who deliver these services.

“We see health not only as the absence of disease and not only a question of access to services, but in face the right to be human is a manner that you have your physical and mental integrity upheld,” Kate Gilmore said in an interview with UN News.

Similarly, health care workers are part of the “machinery of human rights defence,” yet are increasingly being targeted for doing their jobs.

“In conflict settings, there has been a marked spike in the targeting of hospitals, of doctors, of ambulances and of nurses. And this is not only quite unconscionable,” the Deputy High Commissioner said, noting these attacks are also against international humanitarian law and the basic rules of war to which each Government has signed up by virtue of being a member of the United Nations.

“But in other settings, too,” she continued. “In non-conflict settings, health workers who work with communities that are subjected to terrible bigotry, those working with those suffering leprosy, historically health workers providing services to those living with HIV and AIDS, workers whose priority is sexual and reproductive health.”

Ms. Gilmore noted “a pattern across the globe of health workers being targeted for providing compassionate, humane care rooted in medical science.”

She denounced such attacks calling them “wrong, unfair and unjust.”

Ms. Gilmore, along with Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, will participate at a dialogue today at the UN Headquarters in New York on how human rights, including the right to health, are reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Health support cuts workplace absence-RESEARCH ON FEMALE GARMENT WORKERS

Health support cuts workplace absence-RESEARCH ON FEMALE GARMENT WORKERS

Educating female garment workers on sexual and reproductive health and providing them with health-related support can help reduce their workplace absence and boost their productivity, according to a recent study.

Garment factory officials who were interviewed as part of the research said the absence of female workers was reduced to 5 percent from 12 percent after they were provided with such knowledge and support like distribution of sanitary napkins.

Population Council, a non-government research organisation, surveyed 2,165 female garment workers, aged between 18 and 49, in 10 factories of Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj early this year.

The study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of HERhealth model, a USAID-funded project of non-profit organisation BSR. The model was developed to improve sexual and reproductive health condition of garment workers.

BSR’s Dhaka office yesterday revealed the findings during a seminar at a hotel in the capital.

Referring to the garment workers, Kazi Mustafa Sarwar, director general of Directorate General of Family Planning (DGFP), said, “Without ensuring their good health, you will not get a skilled and productive workforce.”

“If sexual and reproductive health services are increased, both workers and factory owners will be benefited,” he said.

Findings show almost 23 percent of the female garment workers would use sanitary napkins, but the percentage rose to 72 after implementing HERhealth model.

The percentage of workers adopting family planning methods also increased from 65 to 72, said Irfan Hossain, one of the researchers.

Being self-aware

Being self-aware

Age appropriate sexuality education is crucial for adolescents

As girls and boys grow, we help them navigate and engage with their world. We teach them self-management, such as how to dress and keep an orderly room. We teach them about avoiding dangers, such as how to use a stove without burning themselves. We teach them skills related to their expanding independence, such as how to buy something from the local grocery store and come back home with the right change. And we teach them how to manage social relationships, such as how to build supportive friendships and respect adults while recognising inappropriate actions.
Similarly, we need to provide adolescents with information and skills so they can thrive in the new opportunities and challenges they will face as teenagers and adults. As their bodies and minds mature, they need and have a right to information about puberty so that they are prepared for the changes they will experience. As their social networks and the influence of peer groups and the media expand, they need and have a right to develop confidence, competence, and communication skills. And as they move through adolescence, which we know is a period during which inequitable gender norms become further entrenched, they need and have a right to programming about respect, tolerance, and equitable attitudes.

Lack of right information

We know that this is not happening; studies from around the world show that children are not getting the information and education they need. First, many adolescents are poorly informed about the changes taking place in their bodies and minds at puberty, and unprepared to deal with them. Second, many adolescents are unaware and unprepared to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, or lack the skills to refuse unwanted sex from peers or adults who use coercive physical or emotional pressure. Third, they are immersed in widespread inequitable gender norms and attitudes, with almost half of adolescents agreeing that wife-beating is justified in some situations. Finally, they do not know where and how to seek help from adults or health and social services when problems occur. As a result, adolescents in our lives are facing health, psychological and social problems because we adults are shying away from sexuality education.

Contrary to common misconceptions, sexuality education is not about how to have sex. Instead, sexuality education aims to improve knowledge and understanding, and to correct misconceptions by providing age appropriate, scientifically accurate, and culturally relevant information. It aspires to promote self-awareness and norms that are equitable and respectful of others, by providing opportunities to discuss and reflect on thoughts and feelings, attitudes and values. At the same time, it works to build social skills needed to make responsible choices and to carry them out, by providing structured opportunities to practise those skills.

Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli works on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research. Dr. Sunil Mehra is the Executive Director, MAMTA Health Institute for Mother and Child

How To Respond If Your Partner Has Been Sexually Assaulted Or Harassed

How To Respond If Your Partner Has Been Sexually Assaulted Or Harassed


News of widespread sexual assault and harassment allegations against film executive Harvey Weinstein has prompted more and more victims to come forward by the day.

Actress and director Asia Argento, one of more than 20 women who have spoken out about their experiences, has had a fierce defender in her camp: Boyfriend Anthony Bourdain.

“I am proud and honored to know you,” the celebrity chef tweeted on Tuesday, alongside a link to The New Yorker exposé Argento was interviewed for. “You just did the hardest thing in the world.”

Bourdain’s support of Argento highlights an important, but rarely discussed side of sexual assault and harassment: How spouses and partners of victims respond and support their significant others.

While there’s no “right” way to respond, there are things you can do that are helpful rather than hindering. Below, therapists and experts in sexual abuse share seven tips.

Many abuse survivors doubt the severity of what happened to them or feel like they’re somehow to blame because of what their abuser told them or made them feel in the aftermath of the incident.

As their partner, your job is to listen, be in their corner and remind them that you believe them, 100 percent, said Virginia Gilbert, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, California.

“Survivors’ self-doubt and shame grows exponentially if their family or culture colludes with abusers ― if everyone around the survivor normalizes and enables abuse,” she said. “The first step in helping your partner heal is to validate their experience by calling out abuse.”

That means talking about what happened in matter-of-fact terms, Gilbert said: “You were raped;” “People knew what was happening to you and didn’t stop it;” “You were in a vulnerable position and were afraid of the consequences if you spoke up.”

That kind of directness can help clear up any self-doubt your partner may be experiencing in the wake of the abuse.

The revelation will very likely leave you feeling shaken up. While it’s natural to feel protective and react with anger, remind yourself to stay calm. The last thing your partner needs is to feel like they need to support you emotionally now instead, said Martha Lee, a Singapore-based clinical sexologist and relationship coach.

“It’s very important that they feel heard and that there’s space for them to articulate what happened and how they feel,” she told HuffPost. “You don’t want your reaction to make it about you because that can short-circuit their processing and healing process. Just listen. Sometimes, just telling yourself, ‘this is not about me’ can help.”

Don’t try to downplay what happened or worse, suggest your partner could have done something differently to avoid the situation, said Laura Palumbo, the communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“You may think you’re trying to help by saying, ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that,’ but instead, it just makes them question their perceptions or feel silly for sharing. It’s better to say supportive things like, ’I believe you’ or ‘You did nothing wrong and I am here for you.’

Sexual assault and harassment disempowers victims and emboldens abusers. That’s why it’s so important to remind your partner that they’re not powerless, said Sandra Henriquez, the CEO of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“If a physical assault occurred within the last 72 hours, contact a local sexual assault agency for guidance and advocacy in dealing with hospitals and law enforcement,” she said. “Remind your S.O. that there are avenues for redress that are available when they feel ready and able to explore those options.”

And regardless of when the assault happened, free and confidential counseling is always available through local rape crisis centers. For a full list of crisis centers and hotlines for sexual assault survivors, head here.

Accusing someone ― especially a higher-up at work ― of sexual abuse is not easy. Recognize the difficulty your partner may feel in bringing charges or coming forward, said Janet Brito, a psychologist and sex therapist at the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health in Honolulu, Hawaii

“There could be apprehension since it’s not uncommon for others to deny the victim’s experiences or minimize it,” she said. “Ask your S.O. what you can do to make them feel supported and respect the choices they make along the way. The goal is to limit your opinions about what you think is best for them and not pressure them.”

Your support likely means the world to your partner. That said, don’t be afraid to say something if you feel overwhelmed by the situation, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who works with men and women at Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching.

“Because of how traumatizing it can be to hear these details, sometimes, it’s best to limit how much you try to help and leave it to trained mental health specialists who have worked with sexual abuse survivors,” he told HuffPost.

You can be supportive by listening to your partner and encouraging them to speak with a professional in a non-pressuring way.

“It’s ultimately their call but encourage them to find a therapist to speak with to get the help and support they need,” Smith said. “The common response is to bury the memories and pain and move on with life. But that’s a mistake because oftentimes, the trauma doesn’t go away and negatively impacts survivors in ways they don’t fully recognize until they address it with a professional.”

Recognize that moving on and recovering is a slow, painstaking process and that your romantic relationship may not be the same for a long time, Palumbo said.

“Reclaiming sexuality after sexual assault may take support, treatment and time,” she said. “Let your partner express their needs, wants and boundaries. If you aren’t sure whether they’re comfortable or ready for something, ask. Ultimately, everyone heals in their own time and their own way – and for most survivors the path isn’t a straight line.

Inadequate health services make women vulnerable: Report

Inadequate health services make women vulnerable: Report

Islamabad – One out of 98 women in Pakistan die because of insufficient health facilities in maternal mortality control while the country lags behind other regional countries in the provision of reproductive health facilities, an official said on Tuesday.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched The State of World Population Report 2017.

UNFPA official Hassan Mohtashami said at the launch of the report under the theme of ‘Sexual and Reproductive Health Inequality’ this year, that women in the developing countries die of maternal mortality because of inequality of rights given to them.

He said that in Ireland the ratio is 1 out of 12000 while in Pakistan it is 1 out of 98.

“Nearly 2.2million women in Pakistan go for abortions because of lack of awareness and facilities in reproductive health,” he added.

Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Saudia Arabia, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are above the graph in providing reproductive health facilities to women in the country.

He said it will be difficult for the country to achieve first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) if women are not given the social rights in reproductive health.

According to the UNFPA data, out of total 207.774 million country population, 36.38 is living in urban areas while the annual average growth rate over a period of 1998 to 2017 is 2.4 per cent.

The Gender Inequality (GINI) for Pakistan as per World Bank report of 2013 is 30.7 per cent. The contraceptive prevalence rate women aged 15 to 49 ranges between 40 to 31 per cent using modern and other methods.

Executive Director (ED) National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said the indicators on the social side of the country are ‘worst’. He said Pakistan is the 5th biggest country in the world with the 207million population.

He said that the country allocates and spends fewer resources on the social side, while the unchecked growth of population is the biggest challenge for Pakistan.

“Women must be empowered with reproductive rights while the sexual and reproductive must be the priority of government,” he said.

The report said unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face unrest and threats to peace and to their development goals.

The costs of inequalities, including in sexual and reproductive health and rights, could extend to the entire global community’s goals, adds the new UNFPA report, entitled, “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.”

Failure to provide reproductive health services, including family planning, to the poorest women can weaken economies and sabotage progress towards the number one sustainable development goal, to eliminate poverty.

Economic inequality reinforces and is reinforced by other inequalities, including those in women’s health, where only a privileged few are able to control their fertility, and, as a result, can develop skills, enter the paid labour force and gain economic power.

In most developing countries, the poorest women have the fewest options for family planning, the least access to antenatal care and are most likely to give birth without the assistance of a doctor or midwife.

Limited access to family planning translates into 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions in developing countries annually. This does not only harm women’s health, but also restricts their ability to join or stay in the paid labour force and move towards financial independence, the report argues.

Lack of access to related services, such as affordable child care, also stops women from seeking jobs outside the home. For women who are in the labour force, the absence of paid maternity leave and employers’ discrimination against those who become pregnant amount to a motherhood penalty, forcing many women to choose between a career and parenthood.

“Countries that want to tackle economic inequality can start by tackling other inequalities, such as in reproductive health and rights, and tearing down social, institutional and other obstacles that prevent women from realizing their full potential,” Dr Kanem said.

The UNFPA report recommends focusing on the furthest behind first, in line with the United Nations blueprint for achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies by 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has “envisaged a better future, one where we collectively tear down the barriers and correct disparities,” the report states. “Reducing all inequalities needs to be the aim. Some of the most powerful contributions can come from realizing – women’s reproductive rights.”

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. 

Reproductive health: Rights in an age of inequality

Reproductive health: Rights in an age of inequality

Expanding options for the poorest women by empowering them to enjoy their right to make their own decisions about the timing and spacing of pregnancies is one important pathway towards their economic security and independence.

Our world is increasingly unequal. But this inequality is not only about money. It’s also about power, rights and opportunities. And it has many dimensions that feed on each other. One dimension of inequality that has received too little attention is in the enjoyment or denial of reproductive rights and the effects of that on half of humanity.

This is the focus of the UNFPA flagship report, The State of World Population 2017. Consider this: In most developing countries, the poorest women have the least power to decide whether, when or how often to become pregnant. The poorest women also have the least access to quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.

This inequity has lasting repercussions for women’s health, work life and earnings potential and for their contribution to their nations’ development and elimination of poverty.

As a medical doctor myself and as a former Representative of UNFPA in Tanzania, I have seen first hand the devastating and needless suffering caused by fistula, and heard the most heartbreaking stories.

More than two million women still have this condition and cannot afford or cannot reach treatment.

Contraception, too, is often out of reach for the poor, particularly those who are less educated and living in rural areas. And this puts women and adolescent girls at greater risk of unintended pregnancy.

An unintended pregnancy can set in motion a lifetime of missed opportunities and unrealized potential, trapping a woman and her children in an endless cycle of poverty. The economic slide can continue for generations.

We also know that many emergencies and humanitarian crises are fueled by inequalities. And inequalities and the vulnerabilities engendered by them are magnified in times of crisis.

A woman or adolescent girl who cannot enjoy her reproductive rights is one who cannot stay healthy, cannot complete her education, cannot find decent work outside the home and cannot chart her own economic future.

Inequality in reproductive health and rights disenfranchises untold millions of women. It also bolsters social and economic systems that enable a privileged few to rise to the top and stay there, while dragging the vast majority to the bottom, robbing individuals of their rights and denying whole nations the foundations for development.

Countries seeking to tackle economic inequality should start by addressing related and underlying inequalities, such as in reproductive health.

Reproductive health and rights are critical but under-appreciated variables in the solution to economic inequality and can propel countries towards achieving the top United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: eliminating poverty.

Expanding options and choices for the poorest women by empowering them to enjoy their right to make their own decisions about the timing and spacing of pregnancies is one important pathway towards their economic security and independence. It is also a pathway towards more balanced economies and societies. And if poor women are disadvantaged, poor adolescents, especially girls, are even more so. Investments in adolescent girls are critical.

A recent study in The Lancet showed that improving the physical, mental and sexual health of adolescents, at a cost of about $4.60 per person per year, would yield more than 10 times as much in benefits to society. Moreover, the highest returns would be in the lowest income countries that are suffering the greatest burden of adolescent death. Innovation and creative solutions are needed to reach the furthest behind first. As Helen Keller once stated: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Stopping the present downward spiral of inequality will require a new vision for inclusive societies, where all human potential is realized.

This is the vision that informed the goals of the UNFPA Strategic Plan, 2018-2021, which is the first of three Plans to get us to the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 target. Working with other United Nations agencies, partners and governments, UNFPA is committed to a future where zero is the only acceptable number: zero maternal deaths, zero unintended pregnancies and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and child marriage.

We, therefore, call today for action on multiple fronts to tackle all forms of inequality of sexual reproductive health and rights from the root, laying the foundation for an alternative–equitable–future. A future where all women govern their own lives with equal access to sexual and reproductive health care, where they are free from unintended pregnancies.

A future where all women, men, girls and boys may understand and enjoy their rights and have the knowledge and the power to set their own course in life.

So, to close, inequality is indeed about power–about the few who have it and the many who do not. Worlds Apart–the 2017 UNFPA State of World Population report–is a clarion call for putting power in the hands of women to control their reproductive choices and their futures. With that power in women’s hands, Worlds Apart no longer holds. With that power, instead of separation and inequality, fairness prevails–and a more equitable world for women and girls is the reward.

Dr. Kanem is the Executive Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Number of vasectomies plunges amid fears relationships won’t last

Number of vasectomies plunges amid fears relationships won’t last


The number of vasectomies carried out by NHS hospitals and clinics has dropped by nearly two thirds in a decade, official figures show.

Experts said the trend could reflect social shifts, with greater awareness that relationships might not last, and a reluctance to take steps seen as irreversible.

It could also be a symptom of deepening NHS rationing, they said, or changes in practices with the surgery increasingly offered by GP practices.

The new data from NHS Digital shows 29,344 vasectomies took place in hospitals and sexual health clinics in 2005/6, falling to 10,880 in 2015/16.

Over 2015/16, the number of procedures dropped by two per cent, the statistics show.

Sexual health experts said men were increasingly waiting until they are older to start families, or avoiding the procedure in case relationships failed and they wanted to have more children later in life.

NHS funding for vasectomies has been  restricted in some areas, as part of efforts to reduce spending.

A spokeswoman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPASA) said: “The fall in vasectomies may reflect the fact that there are more GP practices offering men this service which are not captured in the statistics.

“However, some men may be finding it harder to access the procedure – and we know women sometimes feel under pressure to accept a long-acting reversible contraceptive like a coil or an implant when their partner requests a vasectomy.

“This is not acceptable as vasectomy offers couples a way for a man to take the burden of contraception that his partner may have long shouldered.

“But the decline may also reflect social shifts – couples are waiting longer to start and complete their families, and there may also be greater awareness that relationships can fail and that vasectomy is generally an irreversible choice.”

Natika Halil, chief executive of the Family Planning Association (FPA), said: “Being able to choose the right contraceptive method for you is incredibly important, and given the lack of choices currently available for men, this makes access to vasectomies even more vital.

“Some commissioners in England, in areas including Essex, are now no longer offering vasectomies on the NHS, which means men may have to pay up around £500 for a private procedure.

“Unfortunately evidence shows that cuts to services, a fractured commissioning system, a lack of accountability, and a lack of training for healthcare professionals have all led directly to a reduction in access to contraception.”

She said “dramatic” cuts in public health budgets had exacerbated the problem, with £800m reduction in six years.

The figures show that overall, 1.19 million people had contact with sexual reproductive health services in hospitals and clinics in 2015/16, compared with 2.48 million a decade before. However, some of the change may be because increasing numbers of GPs surgeries are offering the service.

Seven per cent of women aged between 13 and 54 had contact with such services – compared with just one per cent of men of the same age, the statistics show

Vasectomies are more than 99 per cent effective, according to the NHS, and the procedure – which involves cutting, blocking or sealing the tubes that carry sperm from a man’s testicles to the penis – takes around 15 minutes. It is usually carried out while the man is under local anaesthetic, and the NHS warns that it can lead to painful swelling of the scrotum as well as “ongoing pain” in the testicles.