SRHR dialogue to begin tomorrow; family planning conclave next week

KATHMANDU: A High-Level Policy Dialogue is being organised by Family Welfare Division (FWD) of the Ministry of Health and Population on Friday to determine priority actions to drive progress in realising the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women and girls.

The programme is being conducted with a focus on closing the gap for some of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in Nepal, according to a press statement.

Discussions at the dialogue -- informed by a provincial-level dialogue in all seven provinces that took place on December 16 -- will focus on barriers that continue to impact women’s and girls’ ability to exercise their reproductive rights in Nepal.  Both dialogues will draw on the 2018 Guttmacher-Lancet Commission report, which offers a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in line with the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) vision.

The Government of Nepal is committed to realising rights and choices for all as evidenced by Nepal’s Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act 2018, its commitment to fully implement the ICPD Programme of Action at the Nairobi Summit last year, and its commitment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Notwithstanding these commitments, however, progress in Nepal has been uneven and many women and girls in remote areas and from marginalised groups are unable to exercise their choice over their bodies, their lives and their futures, further reads the statement. Around 1,200 women die every year during pregnancy and childbirth and nearly one in three rural women who want to delay or postpone pregnancy are not using a modern method of contraceptive – this figure is significantly higher in hard-to-reach populations in Nepal.

The FWD Director said, “Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights must be ensured for all.  This is not just essential for the well-being of women and girls, but will transform society and the country and is a prerequisite to accelerating sustainable and inclusive development in Nepal.”

The FWD will also hold a Family Planning Conclave on December 23 to identify and scale up good practices in Nepal and to secure commitment to expand the family planning programme to reach underserved groups, with a clear roadmap for the way forward despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The FWD is organising the Policy Dialogue and Family Planning Conclave with support from UKaid, UNFPA and ADRA.

Lisa Honan, the Development Director at the British Embassy in Nepal, said, “The UK is at the forefront of efforts in Nepal to increase women and girls’ autonomy and ability to protect and uphold their sexual and reproductive health and rights. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of these meetings and actions to accelerate progress to reach those who are being left behind.”

The Dialogue takes place as Nepal ­continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, which has the potential to exacerbate existing inequities and derail progress towards national and global targets to reach universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Lubna Baqi, UNFPA Representative in Nepal, said, “We have a chance to address the inequalities, discrimination and exclusion through meaningful dialogue, strong leadership and firm commitments. This is an opportunity to aim for universal coverage that upholds the fundamental rights, well-being and dignity of all women and girls in Nepal.”