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23. February 2011

Mehru Jaffer

Mehru Jaffer, Author and Journalist from India

Yolande Dreihann

Yolande Dreihann-Holenia, Haiti's Honorary Consul in Vienna

Press conference audience

Participants at the Press Breakfast

Millennium Development Goals - Miles Away?

On 18. February 2011, two experts on reproductive health and development spoke at a round table event organized by SWI entitled: Millennium Development Goals Miles Away?

Yolande Dreihann-Holenia, Honorary Consulate for Haiti, and Mehru Jaffer, an author and journalist from India, gave insights into the situation on the ground in their respective countries, and suggested innovative steps that Western countries like Austria can take to support the achievement of the MDGs. The breakfast, held in Neni im Zweiten, Praterstraße 1, 1010 Vienna, attracted a varied audience of journalists, educational specialists, and members of civil society, who engaged the speakers in an in-depth discussion.


Over a year after the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Yolande Dreihann-Holenia, Honorary Consulate for Haiti, spoke about the emergency situation that still reigns in the country. Already stricken by poverty, one million of Haiti’s people were made homeless by the earthquake, most of whom are still living in tent cities. Unwanted pregnancies have increased three-fold, as education on sexual health is almost non-existent and poverty makes contraception unaffordable. Furthermore, gangs roam the tent cities after dark, raping and beating women. The situation is entirely opposed to the achievement of MDGs such as gender equality, the combating of HIV/AIDS, the reduction of child mortality and the improvement of maternal health. Straight after the earthquake, Austria donated 32 Million Euros to Haiti. Mrs. Dreihann-Holenia suggests that Austria should now ensure that its aid targeted, specific, coordinated and organized. Austria should:

- Set the protection of women and children as its priority for aid, as these two groups make up more than half of the affected population.
- Austria is a leader in renewable energy. The country should support projects that install street lighting into tent cities, powered by solar energy and armed with an alarm system to ensure against vandalism.
- Austria should focus on educating local psychologists and trauma experts. A 20-part radio program should be created that informs on how all sections of the population can protect women and reduce violence.
- In the future, Austria should react to such crises with well coordinated, practical projects that are effective and sustainable, and that support the population psychologically and socially.


Although India has risen towards superpower status over the last decade, its social practices are often still stuck in the third world. Mehru Jaffer highlighted the fact that the battle against illiteracy, violence against women and poor healthcare is still ongoing. Women suffer through high child and maternal mortality rates, and the practice of sex selection remains a scourge in some areas. In the Punjab there are only 793 girls to every 1000 boys, as many parents decide that they do not want to raise female children. Women also receive far less education than men, prejudicing their ability to take an active role in society. However, there is hope. A recent ruling cemented the status of maternal mortality as a human rights violation in India, and a scheme to deliver free contraception to the doorstep of villagers is approved. But India has already admitted that it will miss its target of population stabilization by 2045. Ms. Jaffer underlined the fact that, to achieve the MDGs, the following steps must be taken:

- The improvement of the healthcare system that will end sex selection practices, promote reproductive health care and use of contraception, and reduce maternal and child death rates.
- The improvement of education on all levels that will ensure women have the same economic and social opportunities as men.
- An immediate end to Violence Against Women, including the sterilization that is the most common form of contraception in most of India.

To read Ms. Jaffer and Ms. Dreihann-Holenia’s full statements and a short biography of each, please follow this link and download the attached document.


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