Internationale Vrouwendag

t is our pleasure to, on behalf of our parliamentary group the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, welcome all of you in the Belgian parliament. In particularly I would like to welcome my colleague-parliamentarians and our guest speakers who are amongst us today.

We are gathered here today because we all care about women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. Because we all believe that it is "She " [Sabien maakt aanhalingstekens], who has "to decide".


It is She who has the right to decide over what happens to her future, to her body, her life. These rights, so often taken for granted, need to be fought for.

These rights need to be respected and protected. Indeed, this is the bitter truth the reinstatement of the Global Gag rule reminded us of.

A rule that prohibits American development aid for organizations that dare to provide information about the option of safe abortion or refer women to abortion clinics.

A rule that effects many committed organizations, involved with plight of women, youth and health; A rule that is shameful and unsettling, undermining the rights and health of so many women and girls, including women and girls in humanitarian crisises, the topic of this seminar.

One year ago Belgium, together with other countries and partners, launched the "She Decides" movement and organized an international conference here in Brussels. The main message of 'She Decides' was that every girl and every woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.


But can she decide in times of crisis? 135 million people around the world need humanitarian assistance. Of all those people in need, 1 in 4 are women and girls of childbearing age. In times of crisis, many of them would like to avoid or postpone a pregnancy or childbirth. During humanitarian crises, women and girls are also at greater risk of being a victim of sexual and gender-based violence, including rape, human trafficking, prostitution  and forced marriages.

Some of you may have recently seen the shocking CNN documentary in which two female journalists followed under cover the journey of migrants who, via Libya, are trying to reach Italy, and then go to UK. This documentary shows that for many refugee women and girls, sexual violence is a sad reality. UNICEF ​​published a report last year with compiling testimonies of women and children. Nearly half of them were sexually abused during their journey.

Ensuring women and girls full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health and rights is not always considered a priority in humanitarian interventions. However, field experiences show that sexual and reproductive health services can be provided even in the most challenging environments. Based on their professional experiences, our three guests will elaborate on this topic. 

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 Internationale Vrouwendag