2024 May 28 Call to Action

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This May 28 – International Day of Action for Women’s Health, organizations and activists mobilize, take action, and amplify demands for sexual and reproductive health and rights and justice (SRHRJ) for all through inclusive, accessible, and available SRH information and services! Demand the prioritization of SRHR in all development agendas, human rights conventions and treaties, and electoral agendas! Resist right-wing, populist, anti-rights narratives; resist weaponization of family and cultural values to undermine SRHR; resist despair that such reactionary forces aim to cultivate.

Globally we are seeing forward strides in health, rights, and justice, taking more people closer to sexual and reproductive health that is truly accessible, inclusive, and affordable. France has officially become the first country in the world to explicitly recognize abortion rights within its constitution. This landmark decision is a significant milestone for the rest of Europe and the global north to follow, affirming measures that ensure sustained protection of gender rights and SRHRJ. In September of 2023, Mexico decriminalized abortion on a federal level, calling all health facilities in the country to provide abortion care. Tanzania just passed the registration of mifepristone through the collective efforts of the Coalition to Address Maternal Morbidity and Mortality due to Abortion and its Complications (CAMMAC). Nepal in November 2023 approved the registration of same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, similar advancements are on the way in Japan as courts published the ruling that denies same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, urging lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage.

Progressive policies and programs on SRHR, including safe abortion, on the one hand, can greatly advance the quality of these services, contributing to lesser maternal mortalities and long-term health issues, and improved overall well-being. These are important steps toward empowering people to claim and exercise their rights. On the other hand, however, without justice and addressing structural inequalities, access can only be reserved for the rich, able-bodied, and people with other levels of privileges.

Despite abortion being decriminalized and having legal provisions in the cases of Thailand, Japan, India, and Mexico, among many more, safe abortion access is often dubbed as healthcare only the rich and able-bodied can afford; legal restrictions across the world have hindered pregnant persons, to fully access safe abortion. The continued discrimination and in some cases outright criminalization of diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Expression,Identities (SOGIE) have been life-threatening to trans and gender non-conforming individuals as they continue to be denied affirmative care. Stigma, language, urban-rural divide, and access to technology are more systemic challenges that hinder people from accessing the health care they need.

The events of 2023 to 2024 laid bare the authoritarianism, wartime atrocities, natural calamities, climate and other crises that demand our action. From Ukraine to Palestine, Sudan to Yemen, and from Iran to Myanmar, women, children, and gender-diverse people bear the brunt of these hostilities. In these conflict-stricken areas, people are forced to carry pregnancies, give birth, and raise children without access to basic necessities like health care. 70% of deaths in Palestine during genocidal acts are women and girls, while more than 50,000 pregnant people will be giving birth without proper medical care. Sudan’s healthcare system suffered greatly due to repeated assaults on medical facilities and personnel, the forced closure of hospitals, and the occupation of healthcare facilities by armed factions. In Iran, dozens of women human rights defenders are being unjustly arrested, imprisoned, and killed every month. The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have left many pregnant women without access to essential reproductive healthcare services. Based on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2023, more than 226,000 pregnant women in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria among earthquake survivors required immediate access to reproductive healthcare.

These regressions on human rights globally did not deter organizations and activists working in cross-movement solidarity in persisting for the full realization of SRHRJ of all. The gains we see globally stand as our guidepost this May 28 and are strong reminders of how we must build upon our wins; we take action together to advance health, rights, and justice, protect our gains, and demand governments to uphold their human rights commitments.

2024 presents opportunities and new platforms for us to collaborate on advocacy strategies. Elections will take place or have concluded in 64 countries this year, representing nearly half of the world’s population. Civil society, UN member states, and UN agencies will come together and develop a negotiated, action-oriented Pact for the Future later this year.

Our intersectional, inclusive, and globally concerted mobilization comes at the most opportune moment this May 28, especially in light of these upcoming opportunities for collaboration. While elections, human rights mechanisms, and multilateral spaces offer potential avenues for progress, we must remain vigilant. There exists a very real threat that anti-rights actors will seek to exploit these opportunities to roll back on our hard-won gains, control women’s bodies, and limit our participation. We raise alarms against conservative and anti-rights political candidates rallying behind abortion restrictions, genocides, and gender discriminatory, racist, and anti-poor legislation. We raise alarms against the shrinking civic spaces and opportunities to engage human rights monitoring bodies and multilateral spaces like the Summit of the Future, where health and SRHR are being deprioritized.

Governments and global organizations are pledging commitments to achieve gender equality, tackle crises, end genocides, torture and conflicts, eradicate poverty, and empower young people, among other goals. In light of these efforts, our actions and demands on May 28 will be strong reminders of the centrality of the SRHR, and bodily autonomy of every women, girl, and gender-diverse person, regardless of sexual orientation, class, caste, marital status, religion, education, or geographical location within every election, development agenda, and action plan.

Speak up!

We are in a juncture of turbulent times characterized by wars, injustices, crises, and authoritarianism. However, the year also presents us with pivotal opportunities to demand global leaders to commit to a future where women, girls, and gender-diverse people’s SRHR is fulfilled, protected, and promoted. This entails ensuring that everyone has the power to make decisions about their own bodies and futures, free from coercion and discrimination. Commitments to the freedom, justice, and rights of all individuals must extend to ending genocides, wars, and conflicts.

This May 28, we call upon governments and international institutions to:

  1. Uphold your international commitments to human rights, including SRHR, as outlined in international conventions and treaties, and incorporate these commitments into national legislation, policy frameworks, and development agendas. Center these commitments at the Summit of the Future, and Beijing+30 processes, among other multilateral, human rights spaces.
  2. Address multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination and structurally embedded barriers to accessing SRH information and services! Ensure that all individuals have equitable access to essential SRH services, regardless of their SOGIE, sexual characteristics (SOGIESC), class, caste, marital status, religion, education, or geographical location, and many other forms of identities or social status.
  3. End unjust conflicts and occupation! Cease all military hostilities in conflict zones such as in Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, and Myanmar, among others, and establish permanent ceasefires. Put an end to the injustices that jeopardizes the safety of women and girls, limit or entirely deprive them of essential healthcare infrastructure and services, and exacerbate gender-based violence. Prioritize the provision of humanitarian aid and essential healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health services, in these areas.   
  4. Uphold equality and inclusion – ensure the genuine, meaningful participation of diverse women, girls, and people of intersecting identities in decision-making spaces and areas of leadership that affects their health and rights . Eliminate discriminatory practices that exclude vulnerable groups of people on the basis of race, age, socioeconomic status, ability, indigenous heritage and many other forms of identities or social status.
  5. Address all cases of gender-based violence, discrimination, and many more forms of violations to SRHR. Ensure access to justice for victim-survivors and ensure that perpetrators are accountable under the law.
  6. Enact and enforce legislation and policies on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and contraception based on principles of reproductive rights and justice that protect and promote SRH of all. Ensure that these laws, policies, and programs are inclusive, gender-affirmative, and accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. 
  7. Ensure access to and availability of youth-friendly SRH information and services, including CSE, contraception, and safe abortion services. Enact and enforce legislation and policies that prioritize youth-friendly SRH initiatives, ensuring inclusivity, gender affirmation, and accessibility for young people.
  8. Decriminalize abortion now and protect, respect, and fulfill the right to safe abortion.
  9. Ensure the genuine, meaningful, and protected participation and consultation of civil society organizations, advocacy groups, and marginalized communities in the development, implementation, and monitoring of SRHR policies and programs.
  10. Improved data collection and monitoring mechanisms to track progress on SRHR indicators, identify gaps in service provision, and inform policy-making and program development so that it is evidence-based, rights-based, and inclusive.
  11. Protect and support healthcare workers and facilities from attacks, harassment, and intimidation, especially those providing safe abortion care. Enact measures to ensure their safety and security in conflict-affected areas and other high-risk environments.

Take Action!

  1. Mobilize and Organize: Mobilize organizations and activists locally, regionally, or internationally to mark May 28 with various events. Organizing teach-ins, forums, dialogues, or mobilizations.
  2. Speak out: Develop your own statements to amplify your demands and raise awareness on critical issues from your context and beyond. Collaborate with organizations to co-create campaign materials and strategies that resonate with diverse audiences.
  3. Lobby and advocate: Share the demands with your government to lobby and advocate for the fulfillment and protection of SRHRJ.
  4. Bust the Stigma: Address the stigma surrounding abortion and other SRHR issues by organizing workshops and discussions aimed at challenging misconceptions and fostering understanding and empathy.
  5. Occupy Online Spaces: Utilize social media platforms to host virtual rallies, Twitter spaces, live streams, or tweet-a-thons. Use hashtags such as #WomensHealthMatters, #SRHR4All, and #May28 to amplify your message and reach a broader audience.
  6. Harness the Power of Stories: Share personal stories and experiences of women, advocates, and community members. Conduct research, and interviews, create documentaries, or host storytelling sessions.
  7. Engage in Artivism: Use creative mediums to convey our calls and demands such as posters, placards, music, dance, and other forms of artivism. Make creative spaces for healing and refuge through art.
  8. Inspire Action: Share recent successes and victories in advancing SRHR in your contexts. These are our guideposts to celebrate, mobilize around, and inspire victories. Highlight the lessons learned from past campaigns and initiatives to guide future advocacy efforts.
  9. Collaborate: Foster collaboration with other organizations and SRHR activists. Show up for one another in cross-movement solidarity to collectively campaign this May 28.