Resources Lesson 1: Reproductive Health

To start, please explore this pamphlet from the UN Office of the Human Rights Commission on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity. We have seen a quote from it in the introduction to this section on reproductive health, and the pamphlet concludes: "The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has produced a body of work in recent years emphasizing that maternal mortality and morbidity is a matter of human rights. The first report of the High Commissioner to the Human Rights Council in 2010 on maternal mortality and morbidity lays out a conceptual framework for understanding the human rights dimensions of maternal mortality and morbidity. The report outlines seven principles which underpin a human rights based approach in this area: accountability, participation, transparency, empowerment, sustainability, international cooperation and non- discrimination. In a second report, presented in 2011, the High Commissioner identified common features of good practices in applying a human rights based approach to the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity. These include: enhancing the status of women, ensuring sexual and reproductive health rights, strengthening health systems, addressing unsafe abortion, and improving monitoring and evaluation."

You might also explore the web site of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to see Human Rights Based Approaches to Women and Children’s Health, and this paper Human rights in the new Global Strategy.

In Assessing the Impact of a Human Rights-Based Approach across a Spectrum of Change for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health, Thomas et al introduce the topic as follows: "Global momentum around women’s, children’s, and adolescents’ health, coupled with the ambitious and equalizing agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), has exposed a tension between the need for comprehensive, multi-actor, rights-based approaches that seek to “close the gaps” and a growing economic and political imperative to demonstrate efficiency, effectiveness, and returns on specific investments."

The paper sets this in the context of the "new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health 2016–2030. At the heart of this strategy is a renewed commitment to integrate human rights, including gender equality, into health policies and programs. The Global Strategy has three main objectives:
1. Survive: End preventable mortality.
2. Thrive: Enhance health and well-being.
3. Transform: Expand enabling environments."

The "paper proposes a framework to measure “results” in a way that offers a more nuanced understanding of the impact of human rights-based approaches and their complexity, as well as their contextual, multi-sectoral, and evolving nature. We  argue that the impact of human rights-based approaches is best measured across a spectrum of change—at the individual, programmatic, structural, and societal levels. Such an analysis would allow for more accurate assessments of the cumulative effect of these changes" and reflects a more broad initiative to ask the question: "What Is the Evidence of Impact of Applying Human Rights-Based Approaches to Health?"

The paper by Thomas also quotes: "The multidisciplinary, multi-country series of studies Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health revealed that up to 50% of the gains made in reducing child mortality were a result of health-enhancing investments in other sectors—such as education, women’s participation, the environment, governance, and poverty reduction—that emphasized the indivisibility of human rights. It also identified commonalities across the strategies adopted by the low- and middle-income countries that had made the most progress, many of which drew from human rights principles (such as community mobilization, participation, and accountability) or were explicitly rooted in a commitment to promoting human rights (for example, through constitutional and policy reform)."

In order to assess the extent of the problem, and monitor progress, it is important to be able to access a good database. The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) contains many excellent resources, so please explore it and search for all the various indicators that apply to your own geographic setting.

You might want to explore this extensive Lancet Series on Women’s and Children’s Health in Conflict Settings which "aims to improve understanding of and address the special requirements of providing sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition services in conflict settings."

Arrow's web site includes a wide range of resources also, and a description of Arrow's work in the following areas can be considered as an agenda for the exploration of human rights and reproductive health: maternal health, contraception, safe abortion, reproductive cancers, HIV/AIDS, comprehensive sexuality education, young people, sexual rights, international processes, intersectionalities, and means of implementation.

Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 4:36 AM