Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has called on leaders in government, business, the not-for-profit sector and civil society across the world to help encourage health ministers in the SADC region to adopt the new SheDecides Scorecard at the next SADC Health Ministers meeting to be chaired by Namibia in November.

SheDecides was established in 2017 by the (then) Dutch Minister Lilianne Ploumen in reaction to the Global Gag Rule, a law that prohibits the allocation of US funding to foreign non-governmental organisations that offer abortion services or information about the procedure.

SheDecides is focused on ensuring that the fundamental human rights of adolescent girls and women to decide for themselves about their bodies are respected, and that they have access to the information and services they need and are entitled to.

The new SheDecides Scorecard tracks progress and holds governments accountable for actions to improve the rights and health of young women and adolescent girls in the SADC region.

The SheDecides Scorecard was shaped by the SA National Department of Health (NDoH) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) together with the SheDecides Support Unit. It was announced by Deputy Director-General Dr Yogan Pillay on behalf of Dr Motsoaledi, as the first-ever SheDecides Day came to an end in Pretoria last week. The flagship event was hosted in collaboration with the Danish government.

As well as the new SheDecides Scorecard, other key outcomes of the day included commitments by world leaders and the UN – through UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – to escalating the fundamental rights of young women and adolescent girls internationally.

The economic imperative of SheDecides was also underscored. Representatives of the governments of South Africa, Denmark, Canada, Finland and Tanzania agreed that unless the power of young women and adolescent girls was given back to them, global strategies to eradicate poverty and inequality, such as the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), would be extremely difficult to achieve.

“Huge support for the SheDecides flagship event in South Africa was received and our one-year old movement matured beautifully in just one day. Tangible commitments were made, giving SheDecides the integrity and credibility it needs to put our vision of a new normal for women and adolescent girls everywhere into action,” said Co-Lead of the global SheDecides Support Unit, Robin Gorna.

As part of the NDoH’s conclusion to SheDecides Day, Dr Pillay also called for support against a Bill currently in parliament in SA that proposes amendments to the 1996 Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act. Dr Pillay said if passed, accessing termination of pregnancy services in South Africa will become far more difficult.

Around 250 people attended the South African event which included 100 young leaders from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The rules, laws, policies and myths that block young women and adolescent girls from making decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures were unpacked and challenged.

Meanwhile, other events took place in 219 cities and 44 countries across the world, each bringing national and international leaders, business and civil society together to find ways to create a new normal where adolescent girls and young women make decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures – without question.

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