Why it matters that She Decides: A youth leader’s perspective

2 MARCH 2017 | BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

What led to She decides?

This year US President Donald Trump reinstated the Gag Rule, which comes with an executive order banning organisations receiving US government funding from providing, advocating for or counselling on abortion as an option for family planning.

How will the Gag Rule affect global health in the world?

This rule will apply to 15 times more funding than normal, it applies to all global health funding. Funding cuts go beyond abortion and even beyond contraception. The ripple effects and intended consequences will have devastating effects on the health of women and girls who want to access family planning services as well as health organizations in 60 low and middle income countries.

So why is there this "She decides" meeting?

This is a high level ministerial meeting led by the government of Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Netherlands to support the global fundraising initiative SHE DECIDES. It focuses on maintaining family planning programs in developing countries which recently saw funding worth of US$600million withdrawn by the new US government.

Why I'm I at this meeting?

“We are not merely dealing with policies, commitments, campaigns BUT lives, the lives of women and girls ….Their lives matter and they need to be given the choice to survive and thrive.”

Tikhala Itaye

Because as a Social Justice Lawyer, Youth leader, I support, Her liberty supports, AfriYAN supports, our partners in health: Southern African AIDS Trust, UNFPA and the Partnership on Maternal, Newborn & Child health strongly support the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights for girls and women. Knowing that our generation with its increasing fertility rates, adolescent girls facing early and unintended pregnancies, child marriage etc., choosing not to speak out and take action to this will cause implications for every women's and girl's health, socioeconomic situation and personal development.

Yes there is a cut in US aid but it's a call to our own governments and stakeholders in our respective countries to:

Prioritise and increase domestic resources in family planning services and to enforce accountability measures for commitments made on agenda 2030, SDG3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well- being for all. It is no longer a donor's responsibility but a country's urgency to act upon.

Deepen awareness on the implications this will have on family planning services, treatment and education.

Stop working in silos but to join forces with civil society organisations and the private sector to collaborate, have a common voice and joint programs that look at the intersectionality of women and girls’ health.

Think and reflect that we are not merely dealing with policies, commitments, campaigns BUT lives, the lives of women and girls who are exposed to sexual abuse, fistula, HIV, teenage pregnancy, lack of sexuality education and information and face many sexual reproductive health challenges. Their lives matter and they need to be given the choice to survive and thrive.

Tikhala Itayeis the President of AfriYAN for East & Southern Africa, Co- founder of Her Liberty and a PMNCH Board member representing the Adolescent & Youth Constituency. She wrote this piece while attending the She Decides Conference in Brussels on 2 March 2017

Follow #SheDecides to keep with all the news.