Saving our women and girls
July-September 2017
By: Meg Taylor

It is within our power to prevent cervical cancer through integrated sexual and reproductive health services, coupled with bulk procurement of HPV vaccines. Supplementing these goals, it is also important to invest in data collection and management, so the Pacific has the right information and services on how women, young women, adolescents and youth in fragile settings are accessing basic services. This is one of my priorities as part of the High-Level Steering Group for Every Woman, Every Child. Members of the steering group have welcomed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as the group’s third and senior co-chair. He has stated his desire to ensure that the health of women, children and adolescents is at the forefront of his agenda. In addition, Guterres will be the group’s flag-bearer for the Every Woman, Every Child program. Members have recently reviewed its 2020 partners’ framework. As members, we recognized the importance of this framework, both in the context of a shifting and unpredictable development landscape and UN reform, and have endorsed it unanimously.

Effective implementation of the regional response to cervical cancer requires sustained political will and drive by Pacific Islands Forum leaders. The coordinated action across the range of regional and national institutions to deliver on this work must be driven by them. They must drive the implementation of this activity through regional and national institutions, ensuring adequate resourcing to support implementation and ensuring that development partners align their support to the delivery of this work. Innovative strategies that create pathways to reduce cervical cancer need to be employed in the context of access to lifesaving vaccinations for women. Our governments must commit resources for our women’s sexual reproductive health and rights, and to prevent violence against women.

We know that cervical cancer is thoroughly preventable. We know the vaccinations exist, and we know from best practice in other parts of the world, as well as from local success stories, what it takes to roll out an effective program of prevention. But none of this is possible without political will, born out of recognition of the burden that this disease presents for our women and girls, their families, communities and ultimately for our region. Political will is a prerequisite to address cervical cancer in the Pacific. The leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum have made a decision to address cervical cancer. If they maintain their collective will and resolve to deal with it, I have no doubt that we can defeat it within a generation. So, we look to our leaders to continue to take up this fight, for the good of our women and girls, and indeed for us all. 

Meg Taylor is secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, based in Suva, Fiji.

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