Central and Eastern European Women's Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
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ASTRA, a new network of activist organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, was established in December 1999. Its main objective is to promote women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in the region and to ensure a prominent place for these issues on national and regional agendas.
At the Beijing +5 PrepCom in New York, alongside lobbying their own government delegations, ASTRA members are participating in the NGO Coalition for Health and Rights to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights receive the highest attention and are treated with adequate priority in the Outcomes document.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights constitute fundamental human rights, form a vital aspect of the women's empowerment agenda and are key to the achievement of gender equality. However, we are dismayed to see sexual and reproductive health and rights continuously absent from women's empowerment and development policies and programs in Central and Eastern Europe.
Striving to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights in the region, while simultaneously hoping to bridge the gaps between women's issues, health issues and rights issues, ASTRA has been established by organizations of the region who share common concerns and goals. ASTRA will strive to increase awareness about these issues and to ensure that the specific reality of women's sexual and reproductive rights and health in Central and Eastern Europe receive the highest attention and are treated with adequate priority on international and regional agendas.
ASTRA believes that women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in Central and Eastern Europe must find a prominent place within the multilateral processes in which our Governments are currently engaged. These include the Beijing +5 review process, as well as the anticipated accession of many of the countries of the region to the European Union and our participation in the Council of Europe. The absence of sexual and reproductive health and rights on the European preparatory meeting agenda for Beijing +5 in Geneva, January 2000, is of great concern to the members of ASTRA. The sexual and reproductive health and rights issues of the women of our region must be adequately recognized and addressed.
ASTRA hopes that the Network's activities will strengthen cooperation between its member organizations, thus building our capacity to effectively achieve our goals, while also bringing the attention of the international community to our strengths and skills. In this way we hope to make a meaningful contribution to international and regional activities that address women's sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Planned activities of the ASTRA Network include:
Join ASTRA - Women's Health and Rights NOW.
Some highlights about the region of Central and Eastern Europe
The region of Central and Eastern Europe consists of 27 countries with economies in transition having a population of 627 million inhabitants from many diverse cultural backgrounds. However, the effects of political and economical transition confer a similar profile to these former communist countries in terms of general trends and reproductive health. Women face many barriers in accessing satisfactory reproductive health services and in exercising their reproductive rights, i.e. the right to free and informed decisions concerning reproduction and sexuality.
The use of modern contraception is low and abortion is widely used as a method of fertility regulation. In some countries restrictions to legal abortion have been introduced or are being considered on the basis of ideology or religion. Sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) have increased dramatically and infertility is of major concern. The sexual health of young people is in great risk due to limited access to sexual education and services. Violence against women has been neither recognized nor satisfactorily addressed.
Reproductive and sexual health and rights are, therefore, issues of critical importance for the countries of this region - crossing borders, political systems and cultural differences. At the same time, women of the region remain underrepresented in political and economic arenas, consistently receive lower wages than men for equal work, shoulder and overwhelmingly large portion of responsibility for child rearing and domestic work, and suffer from widespread violence. All of these trends are interrelated.
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