We got the opportunity to talk with Hans Linde, Laureate of the UNFPA Award for Leadership and Commitment to Achieving Rights and Choices for All. Here is what he had to say about this recognition for his outstanding leadership in promoting inclusion, respect for diversity, and health and right of all people.
How does it feel to be the Laureate of this prestigious Award from UNFPA?
I am of course, deeply honoured to receive this Award especially here in Nairobi at this important Summit and from UNFPA at a time when we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of ICPD. I am very thankful!
Highlight in your leadership journey in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)?
One of my highlights was when I was elected the President of RFSU by the members of the General Assembly. I had then been working within the SRHR space for a number of years as a Parliamentarian and to receive trust and confidence from RFSU was a great honour.
What are those challenges that have stood out for you when it comes to SRHR?
I felt the challenges in SRHR right from the starting point of my own experience as I was growing up in a rural area in the South of Sweden. This was an area that is very conservative and a stronghold of extreme rights. I remember so vividly when I went to high school in a small town that was a refuge of a Neo-Nazis group at the time. They were really threatening and attacking everyone who challenged their view on how we should live our lives, how we should form our relationships and how we should express our sexuality. It then became very apparent to me that I should stand up for myself and for my friends. That I should stand up for our rights, our own bodies, our own sexuality and for the freedom on how we wanted to live our own lives. So, for me, that was the big eye-opener and to be confronted with the opposition in my own community was quite the challenge.
What are those glaring gaps that we need to fill in SRHR?
When we look at the world today and we see the 25 million unsafe abortions that take place every year, I think that is an urgent issue we need to address because we have all the resources, we have the knowledge to ensure that everyone has the right to decide what happens to their bodies and their sexuality. It is about time we put an end to unsafe abortions! That would be one gap that needs to be addressed.
Coming from an organization working with Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for the last 86 years, I can really see the importance of ensuring that every young person in the world has access to information about their own bodies and sexuality. I know we are facing resistance when it comes to CSE but we have never in our work faced any opposition from the youth. I can feel that youth all over the world have questions and they want information and they want to dialogue over issues that concern them.
What can you tell our young parliamentarians here in Africa on how to become champions of SRHR?
Well, I learnt in my time in Parliament that parliamentarians can really make a difference when they come together and show leadership, they can really make a difference in society and in the everyday lives of their citizens. So, I really call upon parliamentarians in Africa to take this opportunity that we have right now to make a difference to ensure access to SRHR for all.
When it comes to women and girls’ rights, what would like to see happen in the future?
The thing I have learnt from my work with SRHR, it is that societies, cultures, norms and attitudes can really be changed but they can never change on their own or by invisible hands. Societies are changed by brave women and men who come together to break the silence especially in controversial issues and call for action. So, I think if we build alliances and come together, we have all the opportunity to deliver on the promises given in Cairo to the women and men, girls and boys in this world.