letter congratulating dr. babatunde osotimehin on his appointment as the head of the UNFPA

January 26, 2011 babatund

26 January 2011


Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
605 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10158 USA


Dear Dr. Osotimehin, 

Warm greetings from the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)!

We sincerely extend our heart-felt congratulations for your appointment as the new head of UNFPA. We are glad that you, a strong and lifelong advocate for women’s health and rights, are at the helm of the agency, and wish you all the best for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and UNFPA in realising the sexual and reproductive rights of all.

ARROW is a regional, ECOSOC-accredited non-profit organisation based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that has been working for the past 17 years to enhance civil society capacities to hold governments accountable to their international commitments related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). ARROW’s work spans information and evidence generation, capacity building, regional monitoring of progress, partnership building for advocacy, engagement at international and regional fora and contributing towards enhancing the organisational strength of both ARROW and partners. We currently work with 26 national partners* in 13 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam, and will also be soon expanding our work in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Fiji, Maldives and Sri Lanka. (For more information about ARROW and our work, please visit www.arrow.org.my)

Our recent engagements with UNFPA include a consultancy with UNFPA Cambodia to assist the Gender Mainstreaming Action Group (GMAG) of the Ministry of Health of Cambodia in mainstreaming gender into the health system; and a project with UNFPA APRO on producing a brief that aims to inform policy-makers and decision-makers on the critical linkages between eliminating gender-based violence and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (please visit www.arrow.org.my/publications/GBVBrief.pdf to download the publication).

On behalf of our partners and our constituencies around the Asia-Pacific, a diverse region which accounts for more than 60% of the world’s population and the world’s women, and where almost one-third of the population are young people, we respectfully urge you to:

  • Lead UNFPA in exhibiting strong leadership in the continued implementation and review of the ICPD PoA agenda to ensure that gaps in meeting objectives related to sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s empowerment are met;
  • Ensure that UNFPA’s focus go to universal access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health, realising the sexual and reproductive rights of all women, and strengthening health systems, and to allocate financial, human and technical resources to the same (please see the attachment for reasons why we say this); and
  • Engage with women’s groups that represent Southern and regional voices such as ourselves, particularly in discussions related to the ICPD, MDGs and framing the development agenda, as well as on programming and policymaking related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Many thanks in advance for hearing our concerns and considering our recommendations. We look forward to working with you during your tenure as the UNFPA Executive Director.



Saira Shameem
Executive Director
Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) 
No. 1& 2, Jalan Scott, Brickfields
50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 603 2273 9913 / Fax: 603 2273 9916
Website: www.arrow.org.my
Organisational Email: [email protected]



Bangladesh: Naripokkho; Cambodia: Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC); China: Beijing Qianqian Law Firm (formerly known as the Beijing Women’s Law Studies and Legal Aid Centre); College of Management of Ningxia Medical University; Heilongjiang Women’s Federation; Shanghai Women’s Healthcare Institute; and Yunnan Health and Development Research Association (YHDRA);India: Academy of Nursing Studies and Women’s Empowerment Research Studies; Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA); Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ); Rural Women’s Social Education Centre (RUWSEC) and SAHAYOG; Indonesia: Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) and Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan; Lao PDR: Post-graduate Studies Department, National University of Laos; Malaysia: Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM); and Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM); Nepal: Beyond Beijing Committee (BBC); Pakistan: Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre; Philippines: Likhaan Centre for Women’s Health; and Reproductive Health, Rights and Ethics Center for Studies and Training (ReproCen); Thailand:Southeast Asian Consortium on Gender, Sexuality and Health; Tonga: Women’s and Children Crisis Centre (WCCC); and Vietnam: Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP); Institute for Reproductive and Family Health (RaHF); and Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED)



Data from the Asia and Pacific region reveal the urgent need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services to all that are gender-sensitive, rights-based and address social equity and justice. Comprehensive SRH services should include the full range of contraception; maternal health care and services, which includes emergency and comprehensive obstetric services; treatment for infertility, reproductive cancers and sexually transmitted infections (including HIV); safe abortion services; services to address gender-based violence; adolescent reproductive health services; and sexuality information and education, amongst others, and should be available and accessible to all.

  • 139,550 women die yearly from childbirth and pregnancy-related causes in Asia and the Pacific. One out of 220 Asian women and one out of 110 Pacific women are likely to die from the same causes. However, access to emergency obstetric care, post-natal care and the continuum of quality maternal health services are inadequate in many parts of the region, including South Asia. Anaemia, one of the major indirect causes of maternal health, is also a major problem, particularly in South Asia.
  • Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in Asia, with as many as 24,000 women dying per year because of unsafe abortions in south-central Asia alone.
  • An estimated 2.8 million women in Asia and the Pacific suffer from morbidity due to pregnancy and childbirth that in many cases remain untreated and cause lifelong pain and psychological suffering.
  • Access to contraception and other reproductive health supplies, and the provision of services around informed choice, remain a challenge in many Asia-Pacific countries.
  • Unintended pregnancies among adolescents and young women in the region are high, with some Pacific countries having the highest in the world and with almost 1 in 10 girls becoming pregnant by age 16 in South and Southeast Asia. A large number of youth (2/3 in some Pacific countries) are sexually active, but contraceptive use is generally low. Unfortunately, accurate, reliable, comprehensive, evidence-based sexuality information and education is unavailable in most Asia-Pacific countries, or if it is, not comprehensive enough or implemented fully.
  • Every year, 265,884 Asian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 42,735 die from the disease. About 1 in 10 women are estimated to have cervical HPV infection. Meanwhile, breast cancer is the most common cancer and a leading cause of death among women. Yet, awareness-raising, screening, treatment and care of reproductive cancers are hampered in the region.
  • As high as 71% of women experience gender-based violence in the region. There is a need to see the inter-linkages between this issue and SRHR.
  • There is also a need to promote integration and inter-linkages between HIV/AIDS and SRHR: 1.2% of maternal deaths in Asia and 1.2% in Oceania are due to HIV, there is an upward trend in HIV infection among women, and women with HIV have reproductive and sexual health needs as well.
  • Access to sexual and reproductive health care and services is more difficult for women who are discriminated against, marginalised and/or suffer from a variety of political, spatial and social exclusions—including those who are poor, young, less educated, internal migrants, non-citizens, displaced (due to conflict, ‘natural’ disasters or climate change), HIV positive, in sex work, from ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous populations and from lower castes, as well as those who do not follow gender and sexual norms, have disabilities, live in remote, rural or urban slum areas and live in conflict and disaster areas (among other intersecting aspects of identities and axes of discrimination and privilege).
  • There is a need to address the social determinants of health, including eradicating poverty and investing in strengthening health systems. There is also a need to improve the overall health and nutrition of all women.

Read more: http://www.arrow.org.my/?p=letter-to-dr-babatunde-osotimehin#ixzz3Wly18dB5

Comments are closed.