Source: African Independent 

Civil society and health sector organizations from South Africa and India recognized the unique opportunity presented by the 10th BRICS Summit and commended South Africa for proposing the creation of a Gender and Women’s Forum. 

The initiative will go a long way in acknowledging the discrimination that women continue to face and in underlining the urgent need to address it to ensure women's empowerment and participation as equal partners to men, the organisations -- Amnesty International South Africa, Ipas South Africa, Sonke Gender Justice from South Africa and Family Planning Association of India, Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India, Ipas Development Foundation, Pratigya Campaign from India -- said on Tuesday. 

"We reassert that women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights – which includes the right to life; the right to equality; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to equal protection under the law; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination; the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the right to just and favourable conditions of work; the right not to be subjected to torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field," the organisations said.

They said, they reaffirm the commitments that reiterate these freedoms in relevant international declarations, notably the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome documents of its review conferences, the global call-to-action of the UN Secretary General's High-Level Panel for Women's Economic Empowerment, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"We appreciate the BRICS leaders’ commitment to the recommendations of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and call upon them to ensure their expeditious implementation," they said. 

"We recognize the structural barriers to women’s empowerment such as various forms of discrimination in the public and private spheres, gender stereotypes and negative social norms, attitudes, and behaviors. We also reiterate the importance of setting concrete qualitative and quantitative targets to eliminate these barriers and welcome outcomes related to gender equity from a timely realization of these targets." 

They underlined and reasserted the importance of ensuring a woman's right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health which can enable her to lead a happy and healthy life and become an equal partner in the advancement of her country.

"We urge the BRICS leaders to acknowledge that today, more than twenty years after the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, full enjoyment of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights remains but an aspiration for millions of women and girls." 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), each day, around 800 women die giving life; more than 225 million women want to delay or avoid childbearing but are not using modern contraception, and one in three girls in developing countries is married before the age of 18. 

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