A Message from the President of Uplift International
It has been a rough year. The Trump administration has imposed sweeping policy changes globally and locally that adversely affect women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). At the same time, we have seen a growing movement of empowered women claiming their rights in 2017. This should give us hope.
The Trump administration instituted a draconian policy that undermines women’s right to reproductive health. The so-called Global Gag Rule de-funds foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. government money if they discuss, refer to, advocate for or provide medical abortion services. This applies to organizations that work in programs outside reproductive health, such as programs focused on Zika, HIV, or any other public health program. It is far-reaching and applies even if the organization is using other funds, not U.S. funds, for this type of education or service. It is disturbing that U.S. foreign policy intentionally interferes with a foreign government’s own law and policy about abortion. Even when abortion is legal in a country, the Global Gag Rule holds foreign NGOs hostage in their own country to U.S. policy in order to receive U.S. funding.
In the U.S., there seems to be a war on women too. From the appointment of the new Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, to the relaxing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) rules, there has been a strategy by the current administration to roll-back access to abortion and to birth control. How can this be happening? Opponents of abortion would logically want to increase access to birth control. One thing is perfectly clear. When women do not have access to services that only they need, it is discrimination.
Yet 2017 was also a remarkably encouraging year for women. In January, what started as a Women’s March all around the U.S., arguably the largest demonstration in U.S. history, became a global phenomenon. For many months, sexual harassment of women in the workplace has been headline news and men have been held accountable for their actions. Courageous women in the U.S. and around the world have told their stories. The #MeToo Movement has emerged as a powerful force. It is beginning to change the fabric of our society, from corporate culture to political elections and it continues to grow.
Women live in patriarchal societies around the world and they are increasingly claiming power to decide about themselves, including their bodies. As women, it is our right to decide what we want to do with our bodies and when we want to do it—for sexual and reproductive health.
I am optimistic. The #MeToo Movement is not going away and its strong links to reproductive rights give me hope that in 2018 we will see engaged women and men taking strong stands against policies that harm women’s health and violate their fundamental rights. Every woman and girl has the right to decide if and when to be pregnant, no matter where she lives.
This is the time to fight for what is only fair and right. We are on the right side of history. Stand with us this coming year and stay tuned for news about the next Women’s March on Jan 21, 2018.
I wish you and your families and communities all the best in the new year.