The 28th U.N. Climate Climate Change Conference (COP) currently meeting in Dubai until Dec. 12, is being hailed as the “Health COP”––promising to bring the climate and health agenda into the mainstream. Yet we are seeing almost no direct focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, which is a critical gap because climate change creates barriers to fulfilling those rights.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee directed the U.S. to address rampant discrimination against women in American law and society, including epidemic rates of violence against women and girls as well as violations of their sexual and reproductive rights.
The committee specifically directed the U.S. government to recognize the fully ratified Equal Rights Amendment.
Kriti Bharti founded her nonprofit, Saarthi Trust, in 2011 to fight child marriage and empower women and girls. Since then, she has helped legally annul 49 child marriages and prevented 1,700 more from being “solemnized” in ceremonial engagements. She has aided in the rehabilitation of 20,500 children and women, and has conducted orientation programs that resulted in 35,000 villagers taking oaths to resist child marriages.
“One day,” she said, “we should be able to say, ‘Once upon a time, there was something called child marriage.’”
(This article originally appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Ms. Join the Ms. community today and you’ll get Ms. in print delivered straight to your mailbox!)
The world is letting girls fall behind at an alarming rate. This International Day of the Girl, the world must reassess its commitments to girls everywhere—for a flourishing world and, most importantly, for the individual health, rights and well-being of each girl, no matter what.
Girls will reach their fullest potential when global governments comprehensively prioritize their education, safety, health and autonomy.
U.S. foreign policy prevents the protection of refugees, those in conflict zones, and those impacted by natural disasters. Yet the House Appropriations Committee has chosen to pass a budget that will defund the agencies and programs that are most prepared to expertly respond to the needs of girls and women on conflict zones.
It is far past time that Congress passes the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act, which will repeal the Helms Amendment; and the Support UNFPA Funding Act, which would restore funding to UNFPA for the next five years. With the stroke of a pen, the Biden administration also has the power to issue guidance to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Helms Amendment interpretation, preventing a chilling effect and expanding the agency’s reach.
Last summer, almost one year after the Taliban takeover, I spoke to 17-year-old Farzana about her life in Kabul. Now, two years since the U.S. withdrew their troops, Farzana, 18, feels she has very little to live for.
“It has been two years and the future looks dark. It’s not being alive, and not being dead. We have permission for neither. … I had the hope to be a great athlete and leader in the world—a leader for Afghan women. These are still my hopes and my goals, and even in this hard situation, I am doing my best to get an opportunity to find a university outside of Afghanistan.”
“One thing that we see now, even with all of the challenges of a totalitarian government and of the Taliban dictatorship, is that the people on the frontlines of this fight are the women of Afghanistan. It is incredible that they are coming into the streets to fight for fundamental freedoms. I think this is a big lesson for all of us, even for those in the United States and others in the international community, to see these women now.”
(This essay is part of Women’s Rights and Backsliding Democracies project—a multimedia project made up of essays, video and podcast programming, presented by Ms., NYU Law’s Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network and Rewire News Group.)
The year 2013 saw the worst accident in the history of the international garment industry: A clothing factory collapsed outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing at least 1,127 workers, mostly young women, and injuring another 2,500.
“Ten years later, the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster offers an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done to ensure decent conditions for Bangladesh’s more than four million garment workers.”
It’ll only take us three more centuries to gain equality, because conservatives in the U.S., Iran and Afghanistan and elsewhere don’t want equality at all.
The last century has largely been a good one for women’s progress. But with every large step forward, we’ve seen backlash, and this is a global trend.
On Dec. 12, the U.S. government launched its updated and long-awaited Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. On paper, the strategy looks great. But, as always, the questions we’re left with are: What does the U.S. government do with this document now? How is it implemented? Will funding increase and be sustained?
As the halfway mark of this administration’s current term approaches, we need to ensure that words are backed up with action.