Here are some ideas.
1. First, the vast network of groups that now make up the global women’s movement must find ever more compelling ways of cooperating on a massive scale to increase access to contraception and safe abortion. The movement needs to support local leaders in the countries where women have the most at stake to relentlessly keep fertility control on the agendas of the governments of Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Angola, and India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia. If outside financial help is needed, the movement should keep working with the 57 nations and private foundations that pledged $200 million in the Dutch Government-initiated “She Decides” campaign on March 2nd, followed days later by the Canadian government pledge of $650 million, a doubling of their current level of investment in reproductive health.
2. Second, the global women’s movement should champion new technologies and non-traditional allies that can bypass government bottlenecks and get information, products and services directly to the women most at risk. The 800 million women in the world who want to use modern contraception represent one of the largest, underserved markets in the world. Pharmaceutical companies are producing ever better contraceptive products – longer lasting and with fewer side-effects – while for-profit and not-for-profit startups like nurx, The Pill Club, Lemonaid Health, Women on Web and Muso Health are finding ways to deliver contraception and safe abortion right to a woman’s doorstep. The vast private sector is still a relatively untapped source in the fight for fertility control.
3. Third, the global women’s movement should allocate the vast majority of its resources – financial, time and talent – to getting women into at least half of all decision-making roles in the institutions that influence women’s health, education and labor market participation. This means going after positions of the highest influence and making sure there is a pipeline of stellar women to run/apply. The movement needs to play a major role in the establishment of hundreds of organizations supporting women to run for political office and corporate leadership in every region of the world. 50% women leaders across governments, business and civil society is THE key to securing the global transformation the women’s movement has always sought.
As for restricting access to safe abortion and contraception, we know how that story ends. Have we forgotten Romania? When women are forced to become mothers, when abortion is outlawed and contraception impossible to get, countries can say goodbye to a prosperous future. Nine out of every ten women who die from unsafe abortion is African or Asian. Does the world really need to erect yet another barrier to hold these women back?
But no amount of good arguments or solid evidence will persuade away the Global Gag Rule. And rather than spend the next eight years fighting it, the global women’s movement now has the power to run right over it.