Remarks by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem at the 2022 High Level Political Forum Town Hall meeting on “Building back better and advancing the SDGs”

05 July 2022

Your Excellency Mr. Vice-President of ECOSOC


Dear friends

As we meet, decades of progress for women and girls are under threat. Covid-19, conflict, climate change, economic hardship and regressive policies are forming a deadly combination of multiple intersecting crises that compound their risks and vulnerabilities.

The right to sexual and reproductive health – to make decisions over one’s own body and future – is central to gender equality and empowerment, which in turn accelerate attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sexual and reproductive health services are essential for women and girls’ well-being, their very survival.

A woman trapped with an abuser; or forced to flee violent conflict.

The girl married against her will, pregnant before her body and mind are ready.

Eleven million girls who may never return to school after Covid, excluded by poverty and the digital divide.

Women living with disabilities. Women migrants due to climate impacts, looking for work and at greater risk of sexual exploitation and abuse.

So how do we build forward better?

First, high-quality disaggregated data. To close gaps, we need to see them.

UNFPA layers geospatial data upon population data, identifying women who need reproductive health services and protection from gender-based violence; and monitoring SDGs 3 and 5 and links to other SDGs

Second, central to a woman’s healthy and fulfilling life, and the well-being of the family, is her ability to decide whether and when to become pregnant.

Yet today, over 200 million women and adolescent girls cannot readily access contraceptives, hindering equitable recovery from the pandemic — and holding back our collective efforts to realize all 17 SDGs.

Comprehensive sexuality education for girls and boys is also protective, so adolescent girls can remain in school, acquire skills to raise lifetime earnings and break the cycle of poverty.

Finally, prioritize women and girls at the centre of the humanitarian, development and peace nexus. Women should lead. They well understand the needs of their communities. That’s why some 40% of UNFPA humanitarian support is deployed through local and women-led organizations.

As the late Adrienne Germain pointed out: “There will be no global peace or security until we secure every woman’s right to a just and healthy life … imperatives in their own right and building blocks of stable societies and growing economies.”

That’s where to start. Build back better with women and girls at the centre, and do so now.

Thank you.

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