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Reproductive Rights and the Millennium Development Goals

The world has made huge strides towards reaching the halfway point of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in terms of reducing global poverty. However, there are many African countries that will likely fall short in women’s rights standards established by the United Nations. These countries include Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Senegal, and Guinea. Many of these areas are deemed the worst places in the world to live in and be a woman.

The women living in these African countries lack fundamental reproductive rights, like family planning, access to contraceptives, and health counseling. When a young woman unintentionally becomes pregnant, she and her child are at risk for numerous health complications. In addition to health risks, the unexpected child puts a severe financial strain on the mother and, if the mother is in school, increases the probability that she will drop out. Thus, reducing the likelihood that the woman will obtain a high paying job later in her life contributing to gender inequality.

Another aspect of reproductive rights is the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Without access to contraceptives, women are at risk for STDs as well as HIV and AIDS. When women have the right to use condoms, the spread of these diseases and viruses is reduced. Condom use will also decrease the number of orphans whose parents die from HIV and AIDS. In spite of all of these benefits reproductive rights have on women and on society in general, many countries still discourage it.

Culture and social norms play an important role in determining women’s rights in many of these African countries. These are complicated issues, but a key way to ensure that a country will change is through foreign investment. By investing in health and education for women, foreign aid organizations are creating a new generation of women who will fight for their rights and demand equality. Although some countries may not meet the MDGs by 2015, with the help of foreign investment, we may see women’s rights taking a huge step forward by 2030, when the UN plans to have ended global poverty.

– Mary Penn
Source: GBN
Photo: AJWS