(Monday, 3 March 2014) As International Women’s Day approaches, Doctors of the World – Médecins du Monde is launching an international campaign to promote universal access to contraception and to safe and legal abortion.  

World governments have not kept their promises with respect to women’s rights and health. In 1994, during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, 179 countries committed to guaranteeing all women access to family planning services and to post-abortion care whatever the legislation in place in the country.

Twenty years later, more than one in four women in the developing world still have no access to modern means of contraception. Moreover, the number of illegal abortions has reached alarming levels: nearly one out of every two abortions in the world takes place in deplorable conditions. Nearly 50,000 women die every year from these illegal abortions and eight million more suffer permanent or temporary disability.

As governments will be gathering at the UN in September as part of the Cairo+20 to debate sexual and reproductive rights, Médecins du Monde is calling upon the international community to renew its commitment to women’s rights and health.

Made up of female first names, the visual component of the campaign calls upon the public to mobilise via a website (names-not-numbers.org) throughout September. A mobilisation will also be organised in Paris on 8 March: International Women’s Day.

We’re calling for international mobilisation to promote women’s right to decide what to do with their own body and to freely choose whether to have children. For the first time, Médecins du Monde’s international network will be bringing this message to the general public in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, the UK, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

It is essential that the international community now tackles the ICPD’s unfinished business and renews its commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Médecins du Monde urges States to guarantee improved access to contraception as well as safe and legal abortion in order to empower women to decide for their own lives.