Since 1987, October 17 allows us to reflect on international progress in the eradication of poverty in the world, which is an imperative need: poverty is a violation of the human rights of all people and it is serious that it continues to exist, since we already have all the technologies and knowledge to eradicate it. However, its elimination requires responses with a gender perspective: in Latin America and the Caribbean, women are 30% less likely than men to have access to employment and are more likely to live in poverty and to reach old age without a decent pension.
In this sense, today is also a day to remember that guaranteeing sexual and reproductive rights to women and girls, in all their diversity, is also a basic pillar in the fight against poverty. And that is why civil society organizations in the region continue to work to mitigate the impact of poverty on girls and women, specifically in everything related to their full access to services and information on sexuality and reproduction. Still, it is important to call attention to the responsibility of States, because, unfortunately, the data indicates that the governments of our region, in general, need to do much more to ensure that girls, women and transgender people have equal economic opportunities and, until this happens, that they have access to social security programs to help them survive.
This has been an ongoing effort by all IPPF's member and partner organizations, present in more than 27 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. They work directly in their communities providing medical and health services such as access to contraception, STI treatment and other services associated with gender-sensitive, person-centered sexual and reproductive health. And the challenge remains great: in the region, one in four girls marries before the age of 18 and most become pregnant before the age of 20. This negatively impacts their future, as most drop out of school, and spend twice as much time engaged in unpaid work such as housework and caregiving.
Likewise, the needs are the most basic, such as the lack of access to sanitary pads, tampons, or menstrual cups, which aggravates the situation of women and girls who do not have the economic resources to access them, endangering their health by using unhygienic supplies. According to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, only 9 out of 31 countries in the region consider menstrual hygiene products as necessities and 30% of girls in Latin America and the Caribbean are absent from school when they are menstruating, limiting their learning and development opportunities, which perpetuates the cycle of gender inequality. As Chanelle Beatrice, co-executive director of Feminitt Caribbean recalls, "Ending period poverty isn't just a matter of providing necessities –– it's supporting people regardless of gender and sexuality, ensuring that every person can exist without barriers, and ensuring they have the dignity they deserve. Menstrual equity must exist to sustain the eradication of poverty."
Finally, also among the most neglected populations by public policies, today we also need to remember that, for the transgender community, the impact of poverty and poor access to sexual and reproductive health services is even stronger in the face of discrimination against them. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) itself calls attention to the fact that trans persons "face poverty, social exclusion and high rates of inaccessibility to housing, pressuring them to work in highly criminalized informal economies, such as sex work or sex for survival". In other words, with so much data and evidence before us and with so many possibilities for progress, today is, above all, a day to remind all Latin American countries of the need to take better care of their people and to accelerate actions that will lead us to reduce the alarming levels of inequality and poverty in our region.