Global Consultation Process on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Contexts of Crisis

Anya Victoria-Delgado [1]

In October 2020 we successfully completed a global consultation process on women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in contexts of crisis. Our initiative responded to a call for submissions from the UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls (Working Group) of the Human Rights Council. We convened expert feminists and activists in Nairobi (November 2019) and Kathmandu (January 2020) and conducted a series of online consultations addressed to activists in Latin American and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Africa from July to September 2020. Finally, we prepared a contribution that was submitted to the Working Group in October 2020. Along with the consultation process, we organized webinars focused on women’s human rights activism utilizing the Working Group. This effort was specially important as we found many activists didn’t know a lot about the Working Group, which is one of the most progressive and feminist mandates we currently have. Together we learned from Independent Experts of the Working Group -Melissa Upreti and Alda Facio*- how to use the mechanism’s work -resolutions, reports, country visits, etc. – to strengthen our own actions and strategies.

Our contribution to the Working Group delves into women and girls’ experiences with accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights in situations of crisis, including during armed conflicts, natural disasters, and health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The document details trends and challenges, promising practices for mitigating and responding to crises, and recommendations to States’ Parties. 

The whole consultation process was neither linear nor easy. Unexpectedly, in March 2020 WHO declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic. We had uncertainties, we didn’t know how long the lockdown was going to last or if we were going to be able to travel again anytime soon. So we just rolled up our sleeves and set to work. Fortunately, we found allies and partners willing to work and participate in this important process. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our regional partners: Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), Women’s Human Rights Education Institute (WHRI), Arab Institute for Women (AIW) and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), without whom it would have been very hard to complete this work in such circumstances. All my appreciation also goes to the amazing activists that shared their experiences and thoughts around sexual and reproductive health and rights in situations of crisis, which in many countries is compounded by the pushback against women’s human rights by fundamentalists actors. The expert activists that participated in the global consultation process are from Argentina, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Egypt, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Palestine, Poland, Puerto Rico, Sierra Leone,  South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

In June 2021, the Working Group will present its thematic report before the Human Rights Council. We are going to widely disseminate the recommendation and promote actions to ensure accountability towards reproductive justice in this context. Let us know if you would like to support FAR in the dissemination of the upcoming report.

*Alda Facio ended her mandate as Independent Expert of the Working Group in October 2020.

[1] Mexican feminist human rights lawyer. Global Coordinator of FAR.

Activist from Nepal speaking during consultative session in Kathmandu.
Consultative session in Kathmandu, January 2020.