The International Planned Parenthood Federation Africa Region (IPPFAR) participated in the 1st Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Women’s Parliamentary forum dubbed “Road 60/2: Ending HIV for women and girls” that was held on 5th and 6th July 2017 in Mahe, Seychelles. This forum is the result of the adoption of Resolution 60/2 entitled “Women and the Girl Child and HIV and AIDS” in March 2016 at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held in New York, USA.
The aim of the forum was to increase access to information and free sexual reproductive health (SRH) rights and services through reinforcing commitment and engagement of leaders in parliament. The Female Parliamentarians, UN Agencies, Civil Society Organizations and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Practitioners came together to deliberate on the legal and policy frameworks on Access to SRHR information and services for adolescents, girls and young women; Access to safe abortion; Gender-Based Violence; Issues facing Women and Girls. IPPFAR is proud to be part of this historic moment. IPPFAR played a key role in pushing for the motion on Access to Safe Abortion to be passed and adopted.
The Mahe Declaration provides the framework for SADC States to align their country laws and policies to ensure SRHR are accessible to women and girls. The declaration was deliberated during this forum to ensure that the experiences and lessons learnt from stakeholders within the region are captured and collated to develop ideas. These ideas will help in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals viz (SDG) 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. IPPF Africa Region is committed to lend its technical expertise in SRHR advocacy and service delivery to achieve these goals.
With 94 million Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services provided within the Africa Region in 2016, IPPFAR remains the leader in the provision of SRH services in the region. Through our Member Associations (MAs), quality SRH services are accessible to youth, men and women in both urban, peri-urban and rural settings. IPPFAR is also the leading voice in advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights in the region.
IPPFAR calls upon the leaders of SADC and the Africa continent in general to commit to the implementation of the Mahe Declaration at the country level. Furthermore, IPPFAR invites all stakeholders including Governments to intensify efforts at creating public awareness regarding international, regional and national human rights protocols and mechanisms to decriminalize safe abortion care and services.
It behooves on service providers, policy makers and leaders to listen to the feeble voices of women and girls to uplift their dignity. In this regard, the clarion call by 16-year old girl Natasha Mwanza of Zambia during the forum should be given serious consideration: "Let us speak out! Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Services are our right not privilege!" Young Natasha reminds all and sundry that it is time to enact and enforce laws and policies that safeguard the reproductive health and rights of women and girls.
It is the firm belief of IPPFAR that the forum has provided the necessary impetus and the legal and policy framework to improve access to SRH rights and services including safe abortion care on the African continent. This will eventually contribute to ending HIV infections in women and girls. We need to acknowledge that promotion of free access to SRH rights and services will lead to empowerment of women and subsequently lead to the development of the African Continent.