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When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled the Obama Administration's new approach to foreign policy, which now includes development as a central tool, she stressed that one key point of the new strategy will be to focus on working with women and girls. This includes renewed support for the goals laid out in the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, or ICPD.
This 1994 Cairo conference established 20-year goals in the areas of education, especially for girls; gender equality and equity; infant, child, and maternal mortality; and the provision of universal access to reproductive health services.
For the first time, a global consensus developed around the concept of reproductive rights and acknowledged that the empowerment of women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health, as well as the education of girls, were integral to meeting global population and development goals, and that "ensuring women’s ability to control their own fertility [was] a cornerstone of population and development-related programs."
"It's hard to believe ... that Cairo was the first ever global forum that recognized the connection between women’s health, the quality of women’s lives, and human progress on a broader scale," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during an event she recently hosted to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Cairo conference and re-commit the U.S. Government to achieving its goals and objectives.
"We have made measurable progress since 1994 in improving the health and the lives of women and children, especially girls. ... However, vast inequities remain. ... Women ... still are the majority of the world’s poor, unschooled, unhealthy, and underfed. ... And ... far too many women still have little or no access to reproductive health services, including family planning and maternal healthcare," she said.
Secretary Clinton said that in many places, the elite have access to every form of healthcare, but that access to quality care is often denied by law, culture, or resources to the vast majority of women in the same societies. That is unfair, and Secretary Clinton stated that such inequities are unacceptable.
Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s strong support for the goals adopted at Cairo. She said "we are rededicating ourselves to the global efforts to improve reproductive health for women and girls. ... The U.S. Congress recently appropriated more than 648 million dollars in foreign assistance to family planning and reproductive health programs worldwide."
"Every woman everywhere deserves high-quality care. ... at every single stage of life," said Secretary Clinton. "That’s our goal and that’s our responsibility."