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The SheDecides movement is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year. In 2017, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden launched She Decides. It was originally a response to the U.S. administration's backtracking with the reintroduction and expansion of the so-called 'Global Gag Rule' policy that targeted U.S. funding for NGOs operating abroad if they provided abortion services or contributed to abortion advocacy. The U.S. government has since reversed this decision.
SheDecides has since grown into a global movement centered around bodily autonomy, fueled by community action, and with youth at its core. The movement is based on the belief that every girl and woman everywhere has the right to make the decisions that only she should make: decisions about her body, her life and her future. This means that women and girls, in all their diversity, have access to information about their bodies and their rights, that they have the ability to act on those rights to make decisions, and that they have access to services that support those decisions.
Despite the progress that has been made, mobilization for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls must continue and be strengthened more than ever in the face of reactionary tendencies driven by ultra-conservative movements and in the face of great need after two years of crisis related to COVID-19.
Belgium's commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights
Gender equality and the full enjoyment of human rights for all are priorities for Belgium both internally and in its external relations. Belgium understands access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in a broad sense and throughout the life cycle, including access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, modern methods of contraception of choice and safe abortion, and comprehensive sexuality education. A legal framework and effective access to information are essential for making informed decisions about sexuality and family planning.
This commitment is supported by development cooperation through sexual health and reproductive rights components in bilateral government cooperation programs, general budget funding from organizations such as UNICEF, UNFPA, UN WOMEN, UNAIDS and specific funding, including She Decides (EUR 400,000 for 2021 and 2022); the Global Survivor Fund launched by Nobel Peace Prize winners Drs. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad and via calls for projects, such as the one devoted in 2021 to transformative masculinities and women's empowerment and leadership through work on social norms and gender stereotypes.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in charge of Foreign Affairs, was at the origin with his Dutch colleague Lilian Ploumen, of the She Decides initiative and is strongly committed to women's rights. He is a Champion of the SheDecides movement.
The Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy Meryame Kitir is part of the fight to guarantee the rights of girls and women. She presented strong commitments in this sense, as part of the coalition for action 'Bodily Autonomy' of the Generation Equality Forum held in Paris in July 2021.
Meryame Kitir: “full access to sexual reproductive rights is not just the business of a few specialized entities. Our support to She Decides movement contributes to give a voice to the grass-roots and local organizations who promote bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive rights.”
The SheDecides +5 Conference
On the occasion of SheDecides' fifth anniversary, Belgium is proud to co-organize this new international conference bringing together SheDecides champions and many high-level speakers.
This conference will take place over two days on May 19 and 20, 2022 and will physically bring together approximately 160 people, including representatives of ten governments, development agencies such as Enabel, United Nations organizations (UN Women, UNFPA, WHO, UNESCO), international organizations, private foundations and civil society from the North and South.
The first day (May 19) of the conference is dedicated to high-level political panels with the main objective of strengthening political leadership around the SheDecides movement and advocacy for the right of women and girls to decide about their bodies, their lives and their future (body autonomy). The day will conclude with a ministerial segment where different like-minded government representatives will present their key achievements of the past five years and also share their future ambitions.
The second day (May 20) is a day for senior technical experts representing different governments and organizations. Themes will be discussed to determine how and to what extent the SheDecides movement can support all partners on issues such as youth, abortion, comprehensive sexuality education and accountability for commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development +25 in Nairobi and the Generation Equality Forum in Paris.
The conference will feature 49 SheDecides Champions. 7 new champions, including 2 nominees from Belgium, will be officially presented at a reception.
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