Access to contraception is only one element of reproductive health

On May 29 2013, during the Women Deliver Conference, global leaders made a call for Accelerated Progress on Family Planning.   This important initiative certainly deserves attention.  Not only because it aims to improve access to contraception, also because initiatives as this one, aimed to improve opportunities for family planning, must take sexual and reproductive rights into account.  Almost 20 years after the adoption of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, it is still necessary to stress that reproductive health is more than counselling and care related to reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases. It implies a constellation of methods, techniques and services that contribute to reproductive health and well-being by preventing and solving reproductive health problems, which includes a recognition of people’s right to be free to decide if they want to reproduce, as well as when and how often.  This requires the recognition of the right to information, and to access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning; as well as the right to have access to appropriate health care services during pregnancy, childbirth and after birth.

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Cairo 20 years later – the challenges in Latin America

The 1994´s scenario in Latin America, when the “IV International Conference on Population and Development” in Cairo took place, no longer exists. This conference showed the need to fully respect women’s rights for the purpose of development.  In those days, several Latin American countries had incipient democracies, faced the emergence of serious corruption, as well as violation of human rights cases,  and a very deep economical crisis, so deep that it made us fear it would impossible to recover from it.

Twenty years have passed and the scenario seems to be quite different. The region shows encouraging macroeconomic figures. According to the Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean – ECLAC data, 54% of the population was poor in 1994.  By 2012, this figure was down to 28%. North-South and East-West trade agreements have been established and most Latin American countries are no longer destinations considered just for adventure trips.  Now the region has fancy hotels and a range of tourist destinations to choose from.


Photo: Alex E. Proimos on Flickr

Nevertheless, some things never change, especially when we talk about marginalized groups, not touched by the economic growth. This has caused the region to be considered as one of the most inequitable. In fact, Latin America still has a lingering poor cluster, and it is the same as it was back in the nineties: indigenous and rural people, whose delay in development goes back about four decades and whose prospects of improvement are not promising at all.  Their basic needs, such as education and health, that should be covered by the state, do not seem to be fulfilled, condemning them to unending poverty.

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