UK government unveils £200 million sexual, reproductive health rights programme for women and girls

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United Kingdom
United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) government, on Wednesday, unveiled a £200 million sexual and reproductive health rights programme for women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is to help prevent up to 30,600 maternal deaths, 3.4 million unsafe abortions and 9.5 million unintended pregnancies.

The programme, expected to reach 10.4 million women and girls, comes under the ambit of the Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme, focused on sub-Saharan Africa.

It is alongside the UK’s global Women and Girls Strategy that will tackle gender inequality across the globe, which was launched on International Women’s Day by the British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly.

A statement by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that Mr Cleverly announced the initiative in the Southern Province town of Bo in Sierra Leone where his mother was born.

He was visiting a school and a hospital to see how UK-funded projects are having a positive impact on women and girls.

In the hospital, he saw how UK support is improving blood banks and equipment, increasing electricity access and saving the lives of pregnant women.

In the school, Mr Cleverly heard about girls’ aspirations for the future.

The overall strategy puts a continued focus on educating girls, empowering women and girls, championing their health and rights and ending gender-based violence – the challenges the UK government believes are most acute.

The strategy aims to tackle increasing threats to gender equality from climate change, humanitarian crises, conflicts, such as the war in Ukraine, and recent attempts to roll back women’s rights in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan.

For the first time, this strategy commits the FCDO to more than 80 per cent of its bilateral aid programmes, including a focus on gender equality by 2030.

Mr Cleverly said: “Advancing gender equality and challenging discrimination is obviously the right thing to do, but it also brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, and strengthens security.

“It is the fundamental building block of all healthy democracies.

“Our investment to date has improved lives around the world, with more girls in school, fewer forced into early marriage and more women in top political and leadership roles.
“But these hard-won gains are now under increasing threat.
“We’re ramping up our work to tackle the inequalities which remain, at every opportunity,” Mr Cleverly added.

The UK is also increasing support for women’s rights organisations and movements, recognising their critical role in advancing gender equality and protecting rights, and amplifying grassroots women’s and girls’ voices.

Most of this £38 million programme will be delivered through a new partnership with the Equality Fund, whose co-CEO, Jess Tomlin, said: “We’re really excited about this partnership because it shows that every sector can come together – with boldness and urgency – to deliver resources to women’s rights organisations everywhere.

“A just, sustainable, thriving future depends on the solutions of feminist movements, and it’s time for all of us to trust and robustly resource their leadership at scale all across the world.”

Up to £5 million is going to a consortium led by Gender Links, a South African-based women’s rights organisation.

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