Director’s End of Year Message

21 December, 2017


Time flies! It is hard to believe that already a year has passed since I wrote my blog summarising 2016. It is time to review 2017. This year started with dismaying news for the SRHR movement: the re-enactment of the Global Gag Rule, a backward policy that will have far-reaching consequences for many people around the globe, jeopardising the advances in women’s rights, and costing lives. But 2017 was also the year that saw the bold reaction of other governments and leaders to this policy and the establishment of the SheDecides initiative.

These developments were against the backdrop of an enduring financial crisis, growing right-wing populism and radical conservatism in different parts of the world, and an upsurge in regional conflicts and civil wars, which further highlights the magnitude of the challenges ahead. Women and girls remain most vulnerable to these political and social instabilities, with persistent threats to their sexual and reproductive rights. Organisations such as RHM have an increasingly vital role to play in this challenging global environment, through inspiring dialogue about the rights to dignity and bodily autonomy, and fostering research that can guide evidence-informed and rights-based policy and programme implementation, safeguarding sexual and reproductive rights as the fundamental human rights that they are.

In 2017, we implemented activities and introduced a number of changes to strengthen RHM as a relevant source of SRHR evidence, and a leader in the field. We transitioned to a fully open access journal with a new publisher with the aim of increasing and facilitating access to RHM articles. We also expanded the journal by introducing a third, open issue for continuous publication throughout the year of papers falling outside our two themed issues, ensuring that RHM offers a flexible and dynamic forum for timely and rapid publication of articles on emerging issues, such as the expanded Global Gag Rule and Zika.

We remained committed to topics of continuing concern, such as safe abortion and gender-based violence, as well as giving greater coverage to subjects that tend to receive less attention, such as the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people with disability, and re-visiting the timely subject of the right and access to sexual and reproductive health services in humanitarian crises. We also published a supplement with important research coming out of the work of the Reproductive Health Working Group in the Middle East and North Africa Region.

We have moved on with several initiatives, in line with my vision of convening researchers and policy makers, bridging the research and policy divide, and contributing to advancing the right to the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services. From presenting evidence in support of safe abortion at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, or shedding light on the implications of right-wing populism on women’s reproductive rights at the EURONGOs conference in Brussels, to highlighting the ethical, methodological and financial constraints of conducting research in humanitarian settings at the Annual IAWG Meeting in Athens, and our multi-stake holder meeting on disrespect and abuse in maternal care prior to the SVRI forum in Rio de Janeiro, our activities in 2017 reflect our diverse efforts to ensure that RHM remains a relevant regional and global SRHR leader.

We continue our mission. We will publish a supplement on disrespect and abuse in maternal care in the New Year. I would also like to draw your attention to the call for papers on our upcoming theme issue in 2018, which will shed light on the inequities in access to and utilisation of SRHR services.

As many of you know, I am leaving my position as the executive director of RHM and the editor-in-chief of the RHM journal by the end of this year. During these past three years, together with my team, we have accomplished a great deal, which I have briefly outlined in my farewell Editorial. It is now time to hand over a thriving organisation to my successor, to whom I extend my warmest wishes for a vibrant and growing role for RHM . In the interim, the organisation is in the capable hands of the RHM team, while the Board of Trustees continue their search for a new Director and Editor-in-Chief. This is an exciting opportunity to make a difference, so please widely circulate the job ad among your network.

It has been a remarkable journey, and I have been honoured to lead a wonderful team, and have had the privilege to work with so many dedicated experts, advocates and activists, passionate about SRHR. These achievements were also made possible by the commitment and support of associate editors, editorial board members, trustees, donors, partners, authors and peer-reviewers. It is with blended feelings of pride, satisfaction and gratitude that I would like to close 2017 and my time at RHM, and thank you all for your sustained commitment to SRHR.

Happy holidays and warmest wishes for 2018.

Shirin Heidari

Outgoing Director and Editor-in-Chief