Blog Goedele Liekens from New York
New York, 21 september 2017 - Today is the big day: at the request of Alexander de Croo I will moderate a UN High-Level Event on “The use of geospatial data for better access to family planning”. This sounds complicated. Not exceptional in a UN context. Essentially they want to improve aid by assessing the needs in the field. As a matter of fact, even development cooperation could and should be more effective.
Lots of high officials and smart people around the table: ministers from Benin and Senegal, the ceo of a hightech data processing company and last but not least our Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander de Croo. He’s the man who launched the SheDecides initiative together with his Dutch counterpart: a global movement fighting for better rights for girls and women and more specifically better reproductive and sexual rights.
More and better rights for women. Haven’t we devoted sufficient discussion to this subject? By no means! Only a small minority of the girls worldwide has access to modern contraceptives. Very often they are not even aware they exist. So what??
The choice over whether and when to have children, how many (and –um- with which partner J) is of vital importance. In the truest sense of the word. Girls who thanks to contraception are able to take their fate in their own hands – and thus attend school, get a diploma and have a job and income of their own – are much more competitive in life. They participate in society on a personal, social and economic level. They become independent, strong personalities, hurray! The risk that they will ever fall victim to gender based violence (abuse and sexual violence) is steadily reduced by every additional year of study after the age of 12.
This conscious choice to have children enhances their opportunities as well: they live longer and in better health and their study period is twice as long. Resulting then again in better lives for their children. How more sustainable can development aid get?
In order to improve access to contraception, Belgium has launched a pilot project in Benin and Senegal. As I understand it (not being a digital expert at all) we collect all data available and analyze them in the best possible way. Where do the girls need which contraceptives? How big are the stocks? How about the expiry dates and is there qualified staff on the spot, e.g. for administering a hormonal shot? In short, using these data makes it possible to carry out this essential form of development cooperation in a better, quicker and more economical way. And I have been part of all that! The others will tell you what it was like. To me it was a lovely experience. Combining fun and useful tasks. A wonderful feeling!