Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality, 18 October 2017


Simone Giger’s Speech at the launch of UNFPA the State of World Population Report 2017 Worlds Apart

Dear Minister Grigoras,

Dear UN Representative Dafina Gercheva,

Dear UNFPA Representative Rita Columbia,

Dear partners and friends, 

We are gathered here today to talk about two very important, interlinked topics: Inequalities and the rights of women. 

As one of the main development partners of Moldova, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation is convinced that inequalities negatively affect the country’s development. 

We all know that inequalities are widespread in Moldova. They are palpable in all spheres of life – political, economic, social, and private. Just by driving outside of Chisinau for half an hour, a different Moldova presents itself to the observer. 

Inequalities often lead to social exclusion. They prevent people from getting out of the vicious circle of poverty, discrimination and stigmatization. They reduce the capacities and opportunities of people to use their human potential and live a dignified life. 

Inequalities and social exclusion particularly affect people with disabilities, and they particularly affect women. For women with disabilities at two types of exclusion intersect and they therefore belong to one of the most socially excluded groups. 

When it comes to reproductive rights, women and girls with disabilities face particular difficulties. This is true not only for Moldova, but virtually for every country I can think of, including Switzerland. 

Due to the stigmatization of disability, women with disabilities are often viewed and depicted as dependent, in need of care and asexual. They are denied the same sexual and reproductive rights as other women, and are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse during their lifetime. 

Furthermore, women and girls with disabilities face numerous barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services. 

The Healthy Generation project – a joint effort of SDC, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health (MoH) – has made a small but significant step towards acknowledging and affirming the sexual and reproductive rights of girls and women with disabilities in Moldova. 

In order to make the services of Youth-Friendly Health Centres (YFHC) more accessible, 30 centres across the country have been equipped with gynaecological seats adapted to the needs of girls with disabilities. 

By this, the basic conditions were set to grant women with disabilities access to gynaecological care. A collaboration between Neovita and the disability NGO “Motivatie” started, special trainings for YFHC employees to counsel women with disabilities, targeted outreach activities will follow, to make sure that gynaecological care is not only physically accessible but also used by women with disabilities and their sexual and reproductive health improves. 

Switzerland has supported reforms in the Moldovan health system for more than 10 years. Among other things, SDC has assisted the MoH in modernizing mother and child healthcare, creating responsive youth-friendly health services, delivering high quality paediatric emergency care, and providing patient-centred mental health services. 

Removing all kinds of barriers that prevent excluded groups from accessing and enjoying quality services have always been an important part of our assistance. 

Nonetheless, we acknowledge that these efforts have been insufficient and need to be further strengthened in order to close the gap between different population groups. 

Addressing inequalities and providing opportunities for excluded groups will therefore be in focus of our new Cooperation Strategy with Moldova for the years 2018-21.