International Women’s Day statement from Anika Rahman, President, Americans for UNFPA

March 8, 2010

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On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Americans for UNFPA, I am proud to join the global community to commemorate International Women’s Day. As we observe International Women’s Day, let us remind our elected officials that a country’s economic and political health can be measured in the health of its women.

This week activists from across the United States will join us in Washington D.C. to participate in our annual lobby day. Concurrently in New York, the UN and NGO communities are meeting to assess progress towards meeting essential health goals set forth 15 years ago at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The Platform for Action, developed at these forums, affirmed the right of women to enjoy lives of dignity, equality, and health—including sexual and reproductive health.

15 years later, with only five years remaining to meet these targets, progress is lagging. Governments globally have not fulfilled their commitments to improving women’s health. Between 1995 and 2004, donor assistance worldwide to international family planning dropped by almost $300 million.

It is with disappointment that I acknowledge that the United States contributed to this decline. From 2001-2008, the United States withheld funds from UNFPA. During this time, members of Congress allocated a total of $244 million to support UNFPA’s life saving work, yet for political reasons these funds were not released by the administration.

Despite these setbacks, Americans for UNFPA continued to fight for U.S. funding for UNFPA. We rallied Americans to engage in political advocacy, to raise public awareness about the global needs of women, and to contribute what they could to support UNFPA’s work.

Today, the Obama Administration, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has signalled a commitment to improving the status of women globally. These leaders view the promotion of women’s health and dignity worldwide as integral to strong foreign policy. In his first week in Office, President Obama announced that the U.S. would restore support for UNFPA. Shortly thereafter $50 million dollars was released to UNFPA. Further, in early January, as one of her first priorities for 2010, Secretary Clinton presented a landmark speech addressing the health of women globally.

Still, our work is far from done. The global needs of women are urgent and life threatening. Every minute a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth, from largely preventable causes. On behalf of women everywhere and with supporters hailing from every corner of the United States, Americans for UNFPA will continue to advocate for increased support for UNFPA.

As we promote UNFPA’s efforts to end maternal death, ensure access to contraception and improve women’s lives, I am hopeful that leaders worldwide will also invest more in women.

As leaders continue to meet this week at the 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and we congregate on Capitol Hill, we ask you too, to use this opportunity to call on our leaders to meet the commitments agreed upon 15 years ago. We must hold our leaders accountable to ensure that women’s rights are guaranteed as human rights.

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Americans for UNFPA builds moral, political and financial support within the United States for UNFPA. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, provides women’s health and promotes the rights of women in 150 countries.

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