NEW DELHI--- During his recent trip to India, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin engaged government officials, civil society representatives, corporate icons and movie stars in discussions about some of the Fund’s fundamental issues—from family planning and gender inequity to opportunities for young people and India’s role in international forums.
His three-day visit was packed with back-to-back meetings across both Mumbai and New Delhi, and included a visit to a National Council of Educational Research and Training campus, where a UNFPA-supported capacity building workshop for adolescents was underway.
At the workshop, students from 20 schools were being taught to draw comics, as a means to expressing their ideas on issues such as sexuality, gender stereotypes, peer-relationships and HIV.
The Executive Director was keen to learn the students’ views. “We as adults always talk about what we need to teach our children,” he said. “I have five children and even though I am a qualified doctor, it was easier for me to teach other children than my own. These are fairly difficult issues to deal with your own children. It takes orientation to do that.”
During his talks with Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Osotimehin requested that India play a prominent role in the Family Planning Summit scheduled for this July.
Dr. Osotimehin also met Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra; Syeda Hameed, Planning Commission Member; Ms. Neela Gangadharan, of the Ministry of Women and Child Development; Dr. C. Chandramouli, Registrar General of India; and other key government officials.
While in Mumbai, Dr. Osotimehin spent an evening with leaders of India’s corporate world and movie industry at a special event to promote the UN Secretary-General’s Every Women Every Child initiative and discuss the role of popular culture and corporations in helping India make progress on the Millennium Development Goals.
Dr. Osotimehin underscored UNFPA’s renewed focus on young people and on improving maternal health (MDG5) Although India is increasingly prosperous, some 60,000 women die every year giving birth here, accounting for one in every four maternal deaths across the globe. Seventy per cent of the deaths are concentrated in 264 districts (out of 635 in all). The Executive Director emphasized that meeting the needs of women for contraception is a critical component in curbing maternal mortality – fewer births and longer spaces between births reduce risks.
During his various meetings, the Executive Director emphasized the need to integrate the right to reproductive health in the post-2015 development agenda, the upcoming Rio +20, ICPD beyond 2014 and 20-year anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. He remarked that the key to achieving this lies in understanding cultural nuances and encouraging community dialogue, engagement and ownership.