She Decides conference in Brussels attracts great interest

More than 40 countries have said they will attend the She Decides conference in Brussels on Thursday. The conference will focus on maintaining family planning programmes in developing countries which recently saw their funding withdrawn by the new government of the United States. ‘It’s fantastic that so many countries are committed to helping women and girls who face the imminent risk of losing access to sex education, birth control, obstetric care and safe abortion,’ said development minister Lilianne Ploumen, who launched the She Decides initiative.

The long list of countries ranges from EU member states to African and Asian countries including Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Vietnam, Nepal and Japan. Canada will also be attending, as will representatives of various NGOs, private foundations and businesses. ‘Another important step is that Global Citizen – a movement supported by millions of mostly young people in North America – has now embraced She Decides. All in all, the expected turn-out is impressive, especially considering the initiative was only launched five weeks ago,’ Ms Ploumen added.

She Decides was prompted by the US government decree (known as the Global Gag Rule) withdrawing support from organisations that perform or actively promote abortion as part of their family planning programmes. As a result, developing countries are in danger of losing a broad package of services with a total value of $600 million a year. ‘She Decides aims to fill that gap as much as possible. We cannot let all those millions of women and girls down. Our goal is an ambitious one. But in a broad international coalition we can achieve great things,’ the minister said.