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World leaders call for a proper discussion on reproductive health

Reproductive health and rights have slipped from the international agenda, say world leaders who are working to push the issue to the top of the development agenda.

Investing in global reproductive health will act to reduce poverty, improve child health and empower women around the world, says the newly launched Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health.

Chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, the council is a group of senior leaders from more than a dozen countries aiming to widen access to reproductive health across the world’s poorest countries.

When women and men have access to voluntary family planning, poverty rates go down, education rates go up and families and communities live in less poverty, it said.

It is as an issue that touches a wide spectrum of development goals. But despite these facts, the debate around reproductive health has been sidelined, the council says, resulting in poor reproductive health policies and lack of funding for global reproductive health.

More than two hundred million women around the world want, but have no access to, modern contraception. Young women often suffer health problems through unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, or simply having more children then they can provide for.

If women who want contraception had access to it, unintended pregnancies would drop by 53 million per year, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute which work to improve reproductive health round the world. Dangerous abortions would also fall by 73 per cent, avoiding serious medical problems and death for millions of women.

 “I would love to see a more normalized discussion about reproductive health", said GCL member, Ambassador Jan Eliasson, former president of the United Nations General Assembly.

I don’t know why it should have such a taboo character or be politicised, we need to put the woman in the centre,” he told Media Global yesterday. (Sunday)

The way forward is to stop treating reproductive health as simply a ‘women’s issue' and instead make it everyone’s responsibility, the GCL say. "I think we must accept that this is a common responsibility among men and women," said Mr Eliasson. “Women have carried a huge burden and I have seen it myself all over the world, most recently in Darfur. I think it is important that we show that this is a basic issue with has to do with human dignity but also which has to do with security and development.

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