German government dialogues with faith, political, corporate and NGO stakeholders, re-affirming its commitments for sexual and reproductive health and rights

Berlin, February 12 2019 – Representing more than 100 faith institutions from across the world, Faith to Action Network participated in an informal dialogue with the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development/ BMZ. The debate reflected global SRHR politics: within a stark polarization, stakeholders felt urged to position themselves. After repeating the German government’s financial commitments, Parliamentary State Secretary Dr Maria Flachsbarth shared her reflections as President of the Union of the Catholic Women’s League of Germany. She felt that the human dignity of every woman to decide on the number and spacing of her pregnancies was essential for her own wellbeing, that of her children and her families. Coupled with education, empowerment and livelihoods, this would contribute to the flourishing of societies. She was followed by speakers from IPPF and ‘She Decides’ who emphasized the destructive consequences of the US-government’s Mexico City Policy. Stefan Sengstmann from World Vision Germany, emphasized that progress in realizing women’s and men’s sexual and reproductive health and rights can only be achieved in partnership with faith institutions. Their social and political influence make them unavoidable stakeholders in social norming and their health and education infrastructure is essential in bringing sexual and reproductive health information and services to the most marginalized communities. Surveys show that globally more than 85% of the population is affiliated to a religion. In Sub-Saharan Africa 75% say that they follow the teachings of religious leaders. A speaker from Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung, Ms Renate Bähr, described the positive normative shift, away from concepts and terminologies which prioritized “Population control” towards human-centred approaches which put women’s and girls’ ability to freely choose when and how to give birth to children. Matthias Brucker from Faith to Action Network looked ahead and called on stakeholders to develop new language that is religiously and culturally acceptable. Rather than sticking to blueprint and dogma, he encouraged everybody to approach faith champions and enter into constructive dialogues and cooperation. Faith to Action Network is a member of the Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development/ PaRD which offers a platform for such dialogue. Stefan Sengstmann informed about current PaRD initiatives, such as a research into the joint programmes between faith institutions, governmental and intergovernmental institutions to realize adolescents sexual and reproductive health.

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