Open Letter to:
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, M.P., Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau. M.P., Minister of International Development
Ms. Kamal Khera, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development
The Honourable Bill Morneau, M.P., Minister of Finance
The Honourable Maryam Monsef, M.P, Minister of Women and Gender Equality
The past year has been a difficult one for the global sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement. In the face of rising conservativism and populist movements, the rollback on reproductive rights has been acutely felt around the globe. Women in particular have experienced an attack on their right to bodily autonomy and others, such as young people and LGBTQI+ people, face discrimination and increased barriers in accessing essential health services.
Among the many challenges and setbacks faced in 2018, Canada’s commitment and bold action in support of women’s rights and gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, stands out as a shining example of the leadership that is so sorely needed. We are thankful to Canada for its principled approach to these issues and willingness to stand-up for the rights of women and girls on the global stage.
As we embark into 2019, this bold and brave Canadian leadership is needed now more than ever. We urge you to not let up.
In an era divided between hostility and progress towards realizing women’s rights – and all people’s inalienable rights – Canada can’t afford to back away from the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls around the world.
We, global leaders on SRHR, work daily to promote these rights around the world and we see the direct impact when these rights are not upheld – or are directly attacked:
- Every single day, some 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth (“Maternal Mortality”. World Health Organization. 16 Feb 2018. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality).
- Further, 61% of maternal deaths occur in fragile states, many of them affected by conflict and natural disaster (“Maternal mortality in humanitarian crises and in fragile settings”. Nov 2015. https://www.unfpa.org/resources/maternal-mortality-humanitarian-crises-and-fragile-settings).
- Each year in developing countries, 200 million women want to prevent pregnancy but do not have access to modern contraception (“Family Planning/Contraception”. World Health Organization. 8 Feb 2018. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/family-planning-contraception).
The USA’s expanded Global Gag Rule has slashed access to comprehensive health services, such as access to safe abortion, and put life-saving care out of reach for many communities. Preliminary studies from countries such as Uganda, Senegal and Nepal show that the Global Gag Rule has already led to decreased access to contraceptives, the deterioration of sexual health referral networks, and the scaled back delivery of critical services (“Access Denied: Preliminary Impacts of Trump’s Expanded Global Gag Rule”. PAI. 17 Dec 2018. http://trumpglobalgagrule.pai.org/). These cuts are most acutely felt by rural, hard-to-reach, and vulnerable populations, including refugees, the LGBTQI+ community, and youth.
Women human rights defenders around the world who are advocating for law and policy change in their communities face physical violence simply for challenging harmful gender norms and stereotypes that seek to limit their decision-making capacity. Realizing young people’s right to comprehensive sexuality education remains a challenge worldwide with many decision-makers believing they know what is best for children and youth rather than listening to young people themselves.
Canada showed its genuine commitment to sexual and reproductive rights with its $650 million three-year investment in SRHR in 2017, positioning itself as an emerging global leader on this issue and signaling to others that Canada is back.
The cumulative impact of Canada’s actions is incredibly significant. The $43 million spent by the Government of Canada in 2017-2018 on family planning alone resulted in 1.4 million women and couples receiving contraceptive services and supplies and the prevention of 387,000 unintended pregnancies (“Just the Numbers: The Impact of Canadian International Assistance for Family Planning, 2017–2018”. Guttmacher Institute. 17 Dec 2018. www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/article_files/2018_just_the_numbers_canada_pdf_-_final.pdf).
Canada’s support of women and girls claiming and exercising their rights to bodily autonomy, to make choices about their reproductive health, and to be treated with dignity and respect is driving economic, social and political progress around the world. For women and girls, their families, communities, and countries, investing in critical SRHR services saves lives, results in cost-savings across health systems, and leads to secondary and tertiary benefits in education, employment, and gender equality and empowerment. Supporting the advocacy efforts of feminist and women’s rights organizations and movements is vital for holding this ground.
With Canada’s three-year commitment set to run out this year, it is critical to women all over the world, that Canada continues to be a champion for women’s and girls’ health and rights.
We endorse the proposal of the Future Planning Initiative to galvanize Canadian leadership for SRHR. This initiative would empower 18 million adolescents and women – the same number as all girls and women in Canada today – with full access to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Future Planning Initiative, with support from global allies, is calling on Canada to invest $500M/year over 10 years starting in 2020 in the neglected areas of SRHR, which include: advocacy for SRHR, adolescent SRHR and comprehensive sexuality education, safe abortion care, comprehensive contraceptive care, and SRHR in emergency settings. An increased commitment to these priorities would safeguard the gains that have been made in recent years and go a long way in reaching the most marginalized adolescent girls and women. This investment aligns with the Canadian global health sector’s broader vision of a comprehensive approach to Canada’s post-2020 leadership in global health (The Thrive Agenda is a collective vision for the future of Canadian leadership in women’s, adolescent and child health and rights around the world, created and endorsed by over 100 of Canada’s leading organizations in global health.).
Canadians and people around the world have been inspired by your government’s bold commitments and brave stance in a challenging global context.
SRHR leaders from around the world will convene in Vancouver in June 2019 for Women Deliver. As we work to uphold these critical rights, we need your continued support. We urge Canada to stay the course and continue to speak out against the global rollback on SRHR. We urge you to remain strong on your commitment and increase your investment in this critical space, where so few other donors have been brave enough to lead.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are the cornerstone of healthy lives, strong economies, and gender equality. These principles can be the foundation of Canada’s global impact.
Members of the Future Planning Initiative
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH)
And endorsed by:
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
- Acacia In Kenya
- Advocate For Youth Africa
- African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET)
- AIDOS – Italian Association for Women in Development
- Akina Mama wa Afrika
- Asia Pacific Alliance for SRHR
- Asia Pacific Alliance for SRHR
- Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development
- Association of persons living with disabilities
- Austrian Family Planning Association (OeGF)
- Beautiful Minds Org.
- BOCS Foundation
- Canadian Association of Midwives
- Canadian Council for International Co-operation
- Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
- Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH)
- CARE Canada
- Center for advocacy in gender Equality and Action for Development – CAGEAD
- Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Center for Reproductive Rights
- Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA)
- CHOICE For Youth & Sexuality
- Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda)
- Coalition for Women of Tunisia
- Dandelion Africa
- Dandelion Kenya
- Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)
- Dignitas International
- Echoes of Women in Africa Initiative
- ECIS – Educación, Clínica e Investigación en Sexualidad
- End FGM European Network
- EWB Canada
- FEDERACIÓN PLANIFICACIÓN FAMILIAR ESTATAL
- Foundation for Leadership Initiatives (FLI)
- Girls Go Green Initiative
- Global Canada
- Global Citizen, LLC
- GROOTS Kenya
- Health Development Initiative
- HEPS UGANDA
- Independent Young People Alliance
- Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development
- International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion
- International Planned Parenthood Federation
- Inter Pares
- Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP)
- LEAD INITIATIVE
- Marie Stopes International
- MINISTRY OF GENDER, LABOUR AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
- Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial (MFPF)
- ONG Carbone Guinée
- Oxfam Canada
- Oxfam Quebec
- Pari o Dispare
- Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO)
- Passion for Women and Children
- Pathfinder International
- Population Foundation of India
- Population Matters
- Population Services International
- RESEAU MUSONET MALI
- RESULTS Canada
- Rwanda Esther’s Initiative (REI)
- Rwanda Women’s Network
- Safe Engage Foundation
- Save the Children Canada
- Sex og Politikk
- Society for Education in Contraception and Sexuality (SECS)
- Society for Feminist Analyses AnA
- SRH Serbia
- Strategies for Northern Development (SND)
- Sukaar Welfare Organization
- The Kesho Alliance
- The MATCH International Women’s Fund
- This Ability
- This-Ability Trust
- Uganda National Health Users/Consumers’ Organization
- Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum (UYAHF)
- Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
- WaterAid Canada
- WISER NGO
- Women and Girl-Child Empowerment Initiative
- WOMEN’S ACTION GROUP
- Women Deliver
- Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
- Women’s Promotion Centre (WPC)
- Women’s Refugee Commission
- World University Service of Canada
- World Vision Somalia
- WRA Uganda
- YouAct – European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
- young women and girls movement for development
- Young Women Christian Association (YWCA)
- Young women-led organization Gasy Youth Up
- Youth Advocacy Foundation Uganda-YAfU
- Youth Advocacy Network (YAN)
- Youth Association for Development
- Youth Changers Kenya
- Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights