Key takeaways: Bold support and funding to expand gender equality and abortion access
Ipas was a proud partner and co-organizer of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), the largest feminist gathering of the last 25 years, which took place in Paris from June 30 – July 2.
Organized by UN Women and co-chaired by the governments of Mexico and France, the GEF presented an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate action for women’s rights—including the right to safe abortion. Ipas actively collaborated with UN Women to ensure meaningful participation from progressive civil society at the forum, as well as to ensure strong commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and intersectional gender justice.
By the end of the event, approximately 1,000 participants from around the world—including 440 civil society organizations and 94 youth-led organizations—had made strong, sustainable policy and program commitments toward gender equality. Governments and foundations pledged over $40 billion to support these commitments (Forbes and Global Citizen provide summaries of the largest and most noteworthy pledges).
Historic progress for sexual and reproductive health and rights
The forum was structured around six “action coalitions”—innovative partnerships between diverse stakeholders including governments, private institutions and civil society organizations—that set a five-year agenda for funding ambitious efforts to expand women’s rights and gender justice. Strong, progressive language in the Action Coalitions Global Acceleration Plan in support of bodily autonomy and SRHR decisionmaking for all represented a huge step forward for abortion rights.
The Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights committed to:
- expand comprehensive sexuality education
- increase the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of contraception and comprehensive abortion services
- increase SRHR decisionmaking and bodily autonomy
- strengthen, enable and empower girls’, youth-led, SRHR, women’s and feminist organizations and networks to promote and protect bodily autonomy and SRHR
Specific support for abortion access: During the Forum, some leaders of the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and SRHR made a global collective commitment to expand “access to safe abortion for all people who can become pregnant by influencing change in national legislation in as many countries as possible to ensure that abortion is decriminalized and that legal and policy barriers to abortion, including to self-managed abortion, are removed.” This commitment displays an historical level of political will from diverse stakeholders to advance abortion rights internationally.
“It’s really encouraging to see such explicit language and consensus about the vital importance of access to comprehensive abortion care as a fundamental tenet of bodily autonomy,” says Jeanne Hefez, Ipas senior policy and advocacy advisor, who sat on the Civil Society Advisory Group, one of the GEF’s decisionmaking bodies. “The next five years will be crucial to see if this new format of transformative multilateralism can deliver with accountability on these commitments.”
Ipas made five abortion-focused commitments, mostly with partners, on access to comprehensive sexuality education, climate justice, and self-management of abortion with pills.
Ipas commits to decriminalizing abortion—including self-managed abortion with pills—in line with human rights standards by improving laws and policies at the global, regional and country levels. Ipas also commits to expanding access to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programs and to supporting social movements dedicated to bodily autonomy and the decriminalization of abortion. This includes specific commitments to:
- Decriminalize abortion by working with national stakeholders to remove legal and regulatory barriers to abortion care—including self-managed abortion—and contraception; by implementing national guidelines and policies based on WHO guidance; and by facilitating telemedicine.
- Ensure over-the-counter access to contraception and medical abortion pills.
- Ensure harm reduction models are available and implemented within and outside public health systems, including in humanitarian settings and where abortion is highly restricted.
- Ensure women and girls can fulfill their SRHR decisions by making available accurate information, resources and CSE in line with UN international technical guidance on CSE.
- Collaborate with diverse social movements to expand access to SRHR services and to decriminalize abortion.
- Expand bodily autonomy and SRHR by deepening our partnerships with local movements and social justice organizations, including youth, feminist, climate justice and LGBTQ+ organizations.
- Collaborate with youth and youth-led organizations and movements to advocate for abortion rights in global and regional multilateral spaces.
Ipas and Le Centre ODAS (Organisation pour le Dialogue pour l’Avortement Sécurisé / Organization for Safe Abortion Dialogue), commit to expanding access to safe abortion care in Francophone Africa by working across the abortion ecosystem with regional champions and technical partners. During the GEF, the government of France awarded five million euros over five years to support Le Centre ODAS. The first feminist institution in Francophone Africa devoted to expanding access to safe abortion, Le Centre ODAS is made up of community, medical and legal organizations; government institutions; and technical partners from 12 West African countries and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Specifically, ODAS commits to:
- Support regional technical working groups that accelerate progress in abortion service delivery, community engagement, research, policy and advocacy.
- Strengthen partnerships and the capacity of community organizations and feminist movements to educate on and implement the Maputo Protocol in their settings and to advocate for government policies that align with international treaties and local laws governing the right to abortion.
- Strengthen national coalitions to improve the sociocultural context that influences abortion access
- Organize in each country regular national dialogues with government and civil society to create common objectives and mechanisms for accountability and monitoring
Ipas joins the joint commitment of the Global Safe Abortion Dialogues to implement the Common Agenda for Comprehensive Abortion Care developed in April 2021 to address eight priorities: intersectional movements; responsive funding; person-centered quality abortion care; coordination across and beyond our movement; supporting risk, creativity and advocacy; addressing the opposition movement; and improving abortion access in humanitarian settings. Signatories also commit to creating platforms for continued dialogue and collaboration, including at least one more Global Safe Abortion Dialogue in the coming five years.
In partnership with Women Deliver and Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Ipas made a joint commitment, alongside many other partners, to collective action and joint advocacy at the nexus of gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and climate justice. Enhanced collaboration for joint advocacy at this nexus can help advance mutual goals of effective climate action, gender equality, and strengthened girls’ and women’s health and rights. This commitment is grounded in a rights-based approach that protects and promotes individuals’ rights to bodily autonomy.
Ipas is part of the Global Partnership on Comprehensive Sexuality Education, which committed to providing a unique platform with at least 80 members—representing various sectors and regions, including youth-led organizations—to collaborate and build a strong, united voice to promote comprehensive sexuality education. The platform will enable partners to share best practices related to CSE, to mobilize policy and social dialogue about CSE at all levels, to build evidence-based research, and to coordinate leadership on CSE.
Ipas’s internal commitment is to build sustainable abortion ecosystems around the world and to accelerate the decentralization and decolonization in the fields of global health and development, beginning with our own organization. This commitment is driven by two guiding frameworks:
1. Our sustainable abortion ecosystem model defines a dynamic condition where local stakeholders and systems are actively accountable, responsive, and committed to abortion rights. It is rooted in local expertise, designed by local stakeholders, and is being rolled out in countries where Ipas is active and beyond.
2. Our organization-wide shared leadership approach addresses the power dynamics between the Global North and South to equitably distribute responsibility, authority, and accountability. We aim to dismantle harmful power structures, particularly neo-colonialism imbedded in Global North-based INGOs and global health organizations. Ipas is committed to being locally managed while drawing on global best practices. Ipas is unique among INGOs for always having local staff leading and managing our country offices. Likewise, our technical material is developed collaboratively, drawing on talent and experience from around the world.
Ipas participated in the following GEF events:
Euphrasie Coulibaly, youth and community engagement advisor for Ipas Francophone Africa Regional Office, spoke on the panel “Our Bodies, Our Choices, Our Genders, Our Feminisms” organized by the Collectif Générations Féministes.
Maria Antioneta Alcade Castro, Ipas Central America and Mexico director, moderated the panel “Advancing Gender Equality by Countering the Extremist Manifesto,” organized by the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
Gillian Kane, Ipas senior technical manager for policy and advocacy, moderated the panel “Amplifying Feminists Power: Resisting Anti-Rights Movements,” organized by AWID, RESURJ, PRA and Ipas.