Sexual & Reproductive Health

Sexual and Reproductive Health: It’s a Human Right in Every Setting

This blog was cross-posted on Medium.

Women and girls displaced by conflict or crisis face a host of sexual and reproductive health-related risks. These include sexual and gender-based violence; sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV; unintended pregnancy; and complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Indeed, lack of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care is one of the leading causes of death, disease, and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age.

An exploration of gender-based violence in eastern Myanmar in the context of political transition: findings from a qualitative sexual and reproductive health assessment

This article appeared in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters.

By Mihoko Tanabe, Alison Greer, Jennifer Leigh, Payal Modi, William W. Davis, Pue Pue Mhote, Eh May Htoo, Conrad M. Otterness Jr, Parveen Parmar

In March 2011, the Myanmar Government transitioned to a nominally civilian parliamentary government, resulting in dramatic increases in international investments and tenuous peace in some regions. In March 2015, Community Partners International, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and four community-based organisations (CBOs) assessed community-based sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in eastern Myanmar amidst the changing political contexts in Myanmar and Thailand. The team conducted 12 focus group discussions among women of reproductive age (18–49 years) with children under five and interviewed 12 health workers in Kayin State, Myanmar. In Mae Sot and Chiang Mai, Thailand, the team interviewed 20 representatives of CBOs serving the border regions. Findings are presented through the socioecological lens to explore gender-based violence (GBV) specifically, to examine continued and emerging issues in the context of the political transition. Cited GBV includes ongoing sexual violence/rape by the military and in the community, trafficking, intimate partner violence, and early marriage. Despite the political transition, women continue to be at risk for military sexual violence, are caught in the burgeoning economic push–pull drivers, and experience ongoing restrictive gender norms, with limited access to SRH services. There is much fluidity, along with many connections and interactions among the contributing variables at all levels of the socioecological model; based on a multisectoral response, continued support for innovative, community-based SRH services that include medical and psychosocial care are imperative for ethnic minority women to gain more agency to freely exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.

Innovative approaches to understanding the reproductive health needs of adolescent girls affected by conflict or displacement

This blog was cross-posted from Medium.

Can you remember the first time you talked to someone about puberty? Maybe it was telling your mother when you got your period, or asking your older sister about wearing a bra. At 11 or 12 years old, it’s likely you were embarrassed, even to talk to someone close to you. Now imagine, at that age, if a stranger came to ask you about all the embarrassing changes your body was going through or wanted to know what girls your age thought about pregnancy and marriage. How likely would you be to open up and fully express your concerns and your needs?

Even when adolescents feel comfortable sharing sensitive information, it can be difficult to express needs and priorities about topics that they are unaware of. For example, how can a 16-year-old girl express a need for contraception if she does not know that it is possible for a girl her age to get pregnant? Or why would she describe a lack of menstrual hygiene materials as a major challenge if she is not fully aware of what products are available?

New UN Security Council Resolution on Sexual Violence Omits Critical Needs of Survivors

Today, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented his new report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence to the UN Security Council at an open debate on conflict-related sexual violence. 

Women’s Refugee Commission Joins New Consortium to Lead UK Government-Funded Program Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

New York, NY  The Women’s Refugee Commission welcomes the announcement by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) that a consortium led by the International Planned Parenthood Federation(IPPF), in which we are a partner, has been selected within the UK Aid Connect program under the theme of promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

RDPP, UNICEF, UNFPA Announce Projects to Aid Survivors of Sexual Violence in Iraq

According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, “refugee women are extremely vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation, including rape. Prevention of sexual violence, services for survivors and access to sexual and reproductive health care is critical in crisis situations when vulnerabilities are drastically increased.”

We’ve Come A Long Way

This blog was cross-posted from Medium.

Earlier this month, more than 200 sexual and reproductive health (SRH) professionals — from 50 countries and 100 agencies — gathered in Athens, Greece, for the 17th Meeting of the Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in Crises. By contrast, my first IAWG meeting, in 2013, was so small that we opened the meeting by having each attendee stand up and introduce themselves and their respective agencies. IAWG has come a long way in the last four years alone, and as I stood in front of 220 SRH colleagues, champions, advocates, and allies at the opening of this year’s meeting, its transformation could not have been more apparent.

Reproductive rights supporters protest decision barring undocumented teen from getting abortion

“Justicia para Jane! Whose bodies? Our bodies!” chanted a group of about 30 protesters in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building Friday morning. The protesters, made up of mostly Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America organizers and staff, were speaking out against the Trump administration’s decision to bar an undocumented teenager from getting an abortion for her unwanted pregnancy. The young woman, identified as Jane Doe in court, was detained after crossing the southern U.S. border in Texas.

Undocumented Minors Who Suffered Rape May Be Denied Abortions In Government Custody

Many undocumented immigrant girls seeking safety in the United States are raped during their journeys. Once they arrive, they are put in custody of a government that is now obstructing access to abortion.

Trump Administration Stops Underage, Undocumented Immigrants from Getting Abortions

The Trump administration has taken steps to prevent underage, undocumented immigrants from getting abortions.

Trump official halts abortions among undocumented, pregnant teens

The policy marks a departure from the Obama administration, when an undocumented teen’s request was not reviewed unless she sought federal funds.

Humanitarian Settings a Key Focus At Family Planning Summit

2017 Family Planning Summit Marks First Time Humanitarian Settings is Elevated as a Specific Area of Focus

London, UK – Marking five years since the inaugural 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, donors, governments, NGOs, agencies, and advocates to London gathered in London today to assess progress on the original goal to empower 120 million additional women and girls in the 69 lowest income to use modern contraception by 2020.

While progress has been made – since the original commitment 30 million additional women and girls are using modern contraception – current progress is not on track to achieve the 2020 goals. According to providers, implementers, and advocates, one of the areas where family planning services have not been prioritized by donors and governments is in humanitarian settings.

An Ounce Of (After-Sex) Prevention: At The Family Planning Summit, Let’s Talk About Emergency Contraception

Crossposted from The International Consortium for Emergency Contraception

To meet the global Family Planning 2020 goals, a full range of family planning methods must be available, including user-controlled, short-acting methods. The Guttmacher Institute’s analysis, Adding it Up, estimates that 214 million women of reproductive age in developing regions want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern contraceptive method. Half of unmarried women with an unmet need for family planning report infrequent sex as the reason that they do not use a family planning method. A quarter of married women not using contraception fall into the same category. Not feeling themselves at high levels of risk, these women may wish to avoid the appointments and waiting times, dependence on providers, side effects, discomforts, and other commitments that long-acting contraceptive methods sometimes entail. Other women may not be using modern contraception because they are unaware of their options or are faced with inaccessibility due to distance barriers, poor health infrastructures, stock outs, or high prices. As well, many women are located in humanitarian and fragile settings where contraceptive access can be challenging.  For many women and girls not currently using a long-acting contraceptive method, a simple, discreet, user-controlled, low-commitment, one-time “on demand” form of contraception that can be accessed easily and quickly is a critically important option. This method already exists: emergency contraception.

New Strategies to Address GBV in Urban Humanitarian Settings

Displacement is increasing dramatically and it is increasingly urban. Today 65.6 million people around the world are displaced by conflict and 60% of those who are refugees have found refuge in urban areas. This necessitates a re-think of humanitarian service delivery including for the prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV). Specifically, it is imperative that we all dig deep to better understand, prevent, and respond to GBV in urban settings.

11 Experts to Watch on Refugee Health

Refugee health has been called “a public health crisis of this century,” needing as much attention and collaboration over resources as global epidemics such as polio and HIV/AIDS.

From war trauma to women’s health, refugees have a complex spectrum of medical needs, bringing challenges for displaced populations, their host countries and aid organizations.

Many refugees who have fled war or ethnic and political violence are exposed to exploitation and abuse along their migration route, leaving them vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some children born in conflict zones may have to deal with toxic stress for their entire lives.

Statement of Sarah Costa, Executive Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission, on the passing of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

NEW YORK – In response to today’s announcement of UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin’s passing, Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) Executive Director Sarah Costa issued the following statement:

“On behalf of the Women’s Refugee Commission, I want to express our deepest condolences to Dr. Osotimehin’s family, friends, and UNFPA staff during this difficult time. He brought to UNFPA significant service experience and a deep understanding of family planning and adolescent girls’ needs including in humanitarian settings. He will be sorely missed.

Women's Refugee Commission at 10th Session of the Conference of State Parties

The Women's Refugee Commission will be participating in the 10th Session of the Conference of State Parties (COSP10) to the CRPD taking place at the U.N. Headquarters from June 13 - 15, 2017. 

Budgets are Moral Documents and this One Fails

Budgets are moral documents and the President’s budget request released this week is a moral and practical failure for displaced women, children, and youth around the world.

As the White House delivered President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress this week, Ambassador Nikki Haley – who is on her first international trip as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – visited the Za’atari camp in Jordan to see how refugees there are coping. Clearly moved by the bleak setting, Haley told reporters "We're the number one donor here through this crisis. That's not going to stop. We're not going to stop funding this." Referencing a convoy of trucks carrying food aid, Haley said "This is all in the name of our Syrian brothers and sisters… We want you to feel like the U.S. is behind you.”


NEW YORK – The White House delivered to Congress today President Donald J. Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget request. Titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the president’s budget request includes drastic cuts to U.S. foreign assistance including a 31 percent cut to the U.S. Department of State and USAID, and significant increases in funding for immigration enforcement, detention, and the militarization of the border in the United States. 

Women’s Refugee Commission Stands for Strong Customs and Border Protection Hiring Standards

Washington, DC - Women’s Refugee Commission, today, expressed opposition for proposed legislation that would weaken Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hiring standards by waiving the use of polygraph for certain applicants. The bill was introduced last month by U.S. Representative Martha McSally (AZ-02). The use of polygraphs has identified countless cases of criminal activity by applicants that might otherwise have been entrusted with the safety of our nation’s borders. This elimination would leave holes for widespread corruption within the agency and endanger the lives of migrant children and in fact anyone traveling across borders.