Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been following SheDecides since it was still an idea, which I encouraged while I was still in the Cabinet in Nigeria, and continue to do so since its launch earlier this year.
I commend the supporting countries and lead organizations for the progress made so far in providing a platform to change the narrative around access to, and information about, sexual and reproductive health and rights.
SheDecides is like one of those fresh gusts of wind that can bring about most needed change, with a new approach to old challenges. It is bringing the discourse about women’s and girls’ rights to another level.
The SheDecides manifesto is clear about the importance of women’s and girls’ self-determination and empowerment so they can voluntarily make better decisions related to their own bodies and their own lives.
Investing in the health and rights of women and girls will yield gains that will propel development forward and are critical to the success of the 2030 Agenda.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will depend significantly on how well the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people, particularly adolescent girls, are fulfilled.
Women who own and exercise their rights -- and are able to decide freely about their sexual and reproductive health -- have better chances of achieving their full potential.
Children born to them tend to be healthier and also have better chances of thriving.
Women and girls with decision power and improved health are also more empowered to seek and keep better jobs, and to fully participate in their communities and nations.
They are better-off financially and their children receive better education, helping trigger a cycle of prosperity that will carry into future generations, breaking deeply entrenched poverty and inequality.
Above all, access to sexual and reproductive health is a human right and a woman’s right.
In this day and age, the fact that someone else can be in charge of making decisions for women hurts the very principles of equality we fight for.
By the same token, comprehensive sexuality education within the full range of sexual and reproductive health services should be available to all who need it.
This goes beyond any single country or any personal beliefs that do no harm to others.
It is also a matter of partnerships.
Partnerships allow us to involve different sectors, including communities, to explore new opportunities, push boundaries, sustain investment on innovations and allow resources to be applied more efficiently and more broadly.
If we are to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health, we cannot work alone.
We need combined global commitments to radically affect the lives of the 214 million women and girls who still have an unmet need for contraceptives.
If we work together, we can address funding gaps, laws and policies around sexual and reproductive health services and programmes transforming societies for the better.
We have a window of opportunity to streamline actions, as well as break siloes in this area.
The 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda are indivisible and interconnected, so that efforts around different goals can be mutually reinforcing.
For women and girls to be empowered, we must see progress in education, water and sanitation, employment and so on -- all of these can have a positive impact, building resilience and fostering health.
Existing platforms, such as Every Woman Every Child, are ready to work together to move this agenda forward and promote integrated, multi-sectoral efforts.
We all share the same goal: a world where women and girls are free from oppression, coercion and violence.
By reaffirming women’s and girls’ rights, we place a firm emphasis on addressing root causes and finding lasting solutions.
As a woman, a mother and grandmother, I join you in the hope that the voices of women and girls will not be silenced anymore, that every girl and woman will be able to exercise her rights.
These are the foundation of a more just and prosperous world for all.
Let me introduce one of the torchbearers who will keep this flame alive: Minister Lilianne Ploumen, of the Netherlands, who has been a champion for SheDecides since its inception.
Thank you all for your commitment.