Speech by Minister Schreinemacher at the SheDecides+5 Conference Ministerial Segment

Speech by Liesje Schreinemacher, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, at the SheDecides+5 conference ministerial segment, 19 May 2022.

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Let me start by thanking Prime Minister De Croo and Minister Kitir for organising this timely and important event to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the SheDecides movement.

I can’t believe it’s only been 5 years since SheDecides was launched. I vividly remember that moment as it was one of my predecessors, Lilianne Ploumen, present here today, who immediately came to action. I am honored to follow in her footsteps.

It was a powerful response to the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy.

Thanks to the SheDecides movement, its Champions and its friends, hundreds of millions of euros have been successfully mobilised.

This has helped NGOs to continue fighting for women’s rights worldwide: ensuring access to safe abortion and other essential sexual and reproductive health services.

Thankfully, the Mexico City Policy has been abandoned again under the current US administration.

I think it’s heartening that right from the very start of the movement, the Belgian government responded to the call for action…

… together with other like-minded countries, organisations and individuals.

Many have joined since then, from all over the world, and made important contributions. No questions asked.

SheDecides is truly a testament to the power of solidarity.

But we’re not there yet.

Just like five years ago, SheDecides is still very much needed.

The pushback on the achieved rights of women and girls and their bodily autonomy is real, growing every day. In every country.

… Pushback on commitments we collectively agreed upon.

… Pushback on policies and laws.

… Pushback on the rights of women and girls, who already face violence, exclusion and discrimination.

The truth is that in this field a stand still simply means backsliding.

And of top of this COVID-19 has also reversed some of the hard-won progress we’ve made in recent decades.

… School closures and economic hardship forced more girls into marriage.

… During the lockdowns, gender-based violence increased dramatically.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We’re losing sight of the Global Goals for 2030.

Gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights are key conditions for sustainable development. So yes, we need SheDecides more than ever.

The Netherlands is fully committed to taking action. We already invest around 500 million euros a year

… in improving access to sexual and reproductive health and rights,

… in strengthening health systems,

… and in advocating the bodily autonomy of all women and girls.

We do this not only because we believe every girl and every woman should have control over her own body.

We also do this because we’re convinced that investing in women and girls is one of the smartest things any country can do.

And for those that still need convincing.

It simply makes sense.

Investing in women and girls means tapping into a huge amount of potential.

It means investing in millions of potential doctors, entrepreneurs, politicians and scientists.

And crucially, it means developing the leaders we need to tackle the global crises of the 21st century.

In our efforts, we put particular emphasis on meaningful youth participation.

I’m very pleased to be joined today by our Youth Ambassador for SRHR, Gender Equality and Bodily Autonomy, Laura Bas.

Her mission is to give young people a voice in Dutch foreign and development policy.

I’m also pleased to announce that I’ll be assuming the role of SheDecides Champion.

It’s humbling to find myself among this diverse group of change-makers, who have already done so much to empower women and girls.

It’s up to all of us to stand up and speak out.

I will do this by calling attention to the rights and health and safety of women in my meetings with decision-makers around the world…

… and by organising a dialogue on Comprehensive Sexuality Education with governments, civil society and young people in Africa.

Which fits perfectly in our recently announced Feminist Foreign Policy.

United in the SheDecides movement, we need to accelerate our efforts for the health and wellbeing of women and girls.

This is no time to sit back.

Only by working together, speaking out and acting on our promise, we will get to a future where SheDecides.

Let’s make this future happen!

Thank you.