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Women’s health, 25 years on, is still an unfinished agenda

From the WHO | Updated on March 14, 2020

The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains the world’s most progressive blueprint for advancing gender equality worldwide. Twenty-five years after it was affirmed by 189 countries, what progress has been made in raising this blueprint off the page?

On International Women’s Day, the World Health Organization, United Nations University - International Institute for Global Health and the British Medical Journal launched a special series marking ‘Beijing+25’. It shines a spotlight on health, education, environment, work and other critical foundations of life as they empower or restrict the rights and well-being of girls and women.

Every person’s right to control their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health is linked to their human rights. This makes sexual and reproductive health and rights a cornerstone of the Beijing strategy.

The Beijing Declaration affirms that the human rights of women cannot be separated from the universal human rights — but that without concrete actions to strengthen them will remain rights in name only. Some advances in this area since 1995 can be measured by health outcomes, including a reduction in both maternal mortality and rates of female genital mutilation. Positive change is also reflected in public awareness: concepts of period poverty and sexual harassment, once taboo, are being taken up in day-to-day language.

And yet today, sexual and reproductive health conditions remain one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity for women and girls. Violence against women and girls is the most frequent human rights abuse worldwide.

Twenty-five years on, the Beijing agenda is still relevant and still unfinished.

Published on March 14, 2020

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