Nepal | November 14, 2019

Nepal’s ICPD progress remarkable but hurdles remain

Rajan Pokhrel

KATHMANDU: Nepal, which has played a significant role in advancing the programme of action adopted during the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, has still a long way to go before it can claim to have lived up to the commitments pledged in Cairo, according to stakeholders.

At a time when several countries around the world are opposing the principles of reproductive rights, Nepal has demonstrated its strong commitment to the ICPD vision through the adoption of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act in 2018, as a fundamental human right, said UNFPA Representative for Nepal Lubna Baqi.

Talking to THT, Baqi said, “Since 1994 Nepal has played a significant role in advancing the ICPD agenda at national level as well as globally,” adding that Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, was the product of decades of activism from civil society organisations and in particular, women’s and youth networks in Nepal.

While acknowledging the progress, Nepal still has a long way to go before it can claim to have lived up to the commitments pledged in Cairo, she said, adding that there was, however, a strong foundation in place in the country based on the new constitution, federalism and commitment to Sustainable Development Goals that must shape how the unfinished business of the ICPD Programme of Action will be addressed in the coming years.

As real reproductive choices have become a reality for more women and girls in Nepal, they are making individual choice to avoid an unplanned pregnancy and safeguard their health and well-being.

Millions of women in Nepal are exercising their rights to make decisions about their own bodies, including whether, when, and how many children to have.

“It is a reflection of the very high level of political support in the country for safeguarding reproductive rights. Therefore Nepal has an important role to play in the upcoming Nairobi Summit in sharing its success story and reinvigorating the global commitment to the full and accelerated implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action,” the UNFPA representative said.

According to the UNFPA, the world is committed to achieving the SDGs by 2030, but this cannot be done without the ICPD agenda. “The governments of Kenya and Denmark, and UNFPA are co-convening the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 in Nairobi from 12 to 14 November with its goal to elicit commitments to end preventable maternal deaths, eliminate unmet need for modern contraceptive methods, and end gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls, as an indispensable part of Agenda 2030.

The Nairobi Summit will also provide an inclusive platform for member states and a broad range of stakeholders to come together around the universally applicable principle of rights and choices for all, the UN- FPA added.

“We hope that a strong national delegation will represent Nepal in the Nairobi Summit as the summit will be a springboard for governments, businesses, foundations and other organisations to announce their commitments at the global, national and local levels to help accelerate further progress,” Baqi said.

According to her, each member state, including Nepal, will share its commitments towards achieving full and accelerated implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action at Nairobi Summit and this will be a unique opportunity to bring new energy for the Cairo vision and help improve the status of women, girls and their families.


WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE CAIRO CONFERENCE

  • The pregnancy-related mortality ratio has come down from 660 (1995) to 258 (2015)
  • The births attended by skilled health personnel has gone up from 9% (1996) to 58% (2016)
  • The total fertility rate has decreased from 4.6 (1996) to 2.3(2016)
  • The adolescent fertility rate has decreased from 127 (1996) to 88 (2016)
  • The modern contraceptive prevalence rate has gone up from 26.0% (1996) to 43.0% (2016)
  • Unmet need for family planning has slightly dropped from 24.6% (2006) to 23.7% (2016)

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

Despite the remarkable progress, millions of women and girls in Nepal still cannot exercise their sexual and reproductive health and rights:

  • In Nepal, 239 mothers die for every 100,000 births. Many more suffer from injuries and chronic disability incurred during childbirth. This is long way from the global target set in 1994 to reduce maternal deaths to fewer than 75 per 100,000 live births, and the Agenda 2030 target of 70.
  • About 1.5 million currently married women in Nepal who would like to control their own fertility still do not have access to modern contraceptives. Without this access, they lack the power to make decisions about their own bodies, including whether or when to become pregnant. The lack of this power—which influences so many other facets of life: education,income, safety—leaves women and girls unable to shape their own futures.
  • Still 22 per cent of women in Nepal age 15-49 have experienced physical violence since age 15 and 7 per cent have ever experienced sexual violence.

A version of this article appears in print on July 03, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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