UNFPA supports a gender- and rights-based approach to reproductive and sexual health, one that empowers women throughout their lives.
Reproductive rights become tangible, however, only when reproductive health services that offer a high quality of care are made widely available. Availability includes both affordability and convenience, which generally implies a range of services under one roof.
The critical importance of reproductive health was endorsed at the highest level at the 2005 World Summit. At that convocation, the largest-ever gathering of world leaders recognized that reproductive health is critical to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. They reaffirmed the need to keep reproductive health high on the development agenda, and to make universal access to reproductive health by 2015 a reality.
UNFPA gives priority to providing basic reproductive health services to young people, pregnant women, and hard-to-reach populations, including those displaced by humanitarian crises. Linking reproductive health services to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care is increasingly being seen as a critical strategy to expanding access to both types of care. In recognition that men are integral to reproductive health, the Fund also is expanding its support to services that can make men healthier and more responsible sexual partners.
Both men and women need access to information and appropriate health services throughout their lives. Such information and services should be gender sensitive and allow:
Almost all programme countries struggle to expand access to services. Because of limited resources, many countries initially offer a core package of basic services, which can be expanded as resources become available. For the convenience of users, and streamlining of management, reproductive and sexual health services should be integrated within a system that offers primary health care and referrals for more specialized needs.
A full sexual and reproductive health package includes:
Reproductive and sexual health is a societal issue — not only the responsibility of the health sector. It is important to build partnerships with other public and private sectors, as well as with civil society.
Effective health service delivery can be achieved by:
Communities can play an important role in building demand for appropriate reproductive health services. For instance, they can mobilize and build awareness at the local level about reproductive health issues. They can organize to pool resources in micro-insurance schemes. They can collectively exert more pressure for public health service improvements than individuals. Such efforts can be especially effective and timely as health reform and decentralization is underway in many countries. Innovative and participatory approaches are needed to ensure that reproductive health issues receive adequate attention during this transition. The UNFPA-supported Stronger Voices project is a good example of how this can work.