Speech Article from
Address by Minister Bibeau to a press conference on funding for the United Nations Population Fund
March 7, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario
Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to Canada the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA], Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Dr. Osotimehin, you are a long-standing champion for the rights of women and girls, and we are proud to support your work.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, I am pleased to renew the partnership between Canada and the UN Population Fund.
Our approach will be founded on the analysis of facts and not on narrow ideological considerations. Our programs will be directed and developed on the basis of a needs analysis, an approach that focuses strongly on the poorest and most vulnerable. An approach that fully recognizes women’s rights. An approach that will stress prevention and the education of young women on their sexual and reproductive rights.
This morning, my message to Dr. Osotimehin and his agency is simple: Canada will be a key partner in supporting efforts to improve the health and rights of women and girls in developing countries.
Our government is committed to a better and more comprehensive approach to supporting the health of women in developing countries—an approach that is based less on ideology and more on evidence and outcomes, an approach that fully recognizes the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, an approach focused on the health of women, children and adolescents that also looks at ending child, early and forced marriage.
Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls. That is why our government is proud to help address these critical health issues facing vulnerable young women, mothers and newborns around the world. Educating young women—and young men—about rights and sexual health will also be at the heart of our programs.
Dr. Osotimehin, we share the same goals: to reduce poverty and ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every girl and woman is treated with the dignity and respect she deserves.
In this regard, the Government of Canada is announcing today three new measures that illustrate our commitment to a more integrated approach to women’s reproductive health and rights and our commitment to the UN Population Fund:
- We will proudly renew our institutional support to UNFPA by providing $15.6 million toward its annual 2016 budget.
- We will resume our support for the UNFPA contraceptive supplies program by contributing $5 million.
- In Honduras, we will contribute $11 million over five years to UNFPA’s efforts to prevent adolescent pregnancies.
In addition to these measures, we are announcing a $50-million contribution to UNFPA to train midwives and other front-line health care providers in South Sudan, a country that has one of the world’s worst maternal mortality rates.
For our government, women’s health is not limited to the health of mothers and newborns. There are gaps to be addressed, starting with the assurance of fundamental rights and the fight against the exploitation of, and discrimination against, women, adolescent girls and young girls.
For us, as for the UN Population Fund, this means investing in actions that will:
- help educate young women—and men—on their rights and sexual health;
- help women plan and space pregnancies; and
- help women and adolescent girls access the birth control methods of their choice.
The analyses and the facts are clear: the more advances that are made in health and reproductive rights, the better the results for maternal, newborn and child health.
In Honduras, for example, 35 percent of girls are married or living as a couple before their 18th birthday. Moreover, 24 percent of women in Honduras—one out of four—become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19. This is the second-highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. That is why I am proud of our $11-million contribution over five years to support the efforts of the UN Population Fund for the prevention of teen pregnancies in Honduras—pregnancies that are all too often the consequence of sexual abuse or the result of lack of education or access to contraceptives.
In Honduras, as in many other countries, these adolescents drop out of school, become destitute and lose control over their lives. That is exactly what we want to change by creating an environment and public services that will enable these thousands of young women to obtain the tools they need to make informed choices about their future.
Much progress still needs to be made in health and reproductive rights. This has been acknowledged in the 2030 sustainable development goals. These goals, which our government fully supports, recognize the importance of universal access to reproductive care, such as birth control and sexual education, equality among the sexes and the empowerment of women and girls.
That is why, today, I am announcing that Canada will reinstate its support for the UN Population Fund dedicated to the contraceptive supplies program. We will be contributing $5 million to this program.
Canada will also be renewing its institutional support for the UN Population Fund by providing $15.6 million for its 2016 budget.
In addition to these new measures, $50 million will be allocated to the efforts of our UN Population Fund partner to train midwives and other health professionals in South Sudan. The Canadian Association of Midwives will collaborate on this project with the Fund through its network by providing valuable mentoring support for midwives in that country.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, Dr. Osotimehin, who will say a few words.
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