SADC Parliamentary Forum secretary-general Esau Chiviya yesterday said there was need to strengthen capacity of national Parliaments to respond to challenges related to sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR).
By Phyllis Mbanje
Addressing delegates at a SRHR workshop for Zimbabwe’s female parliamentarians in Harare, Chiviya said archaic cultural practices were hampering women’s access to reproductive health services.
“Health systems in some member States have failed to cope with the demand for SRHR services, thereby compromising the health of countless women and girls. In many of our member States, SRHR are still wrongly regraded as women’s issues and this has made the situation worse,” he said.
The regional sexual health capacity-building programme will run for three years targeting parliamentarians and encouraging them to promote SRHR issues in their member States which include Angola, Lesotho, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe .
The programme is funded by the Swedish government.
Recent surveys have exposed gaps, challenges and opportunities in the countries in respect of SRHR and HIV and Aids responses.
“These orientation sessions are necessary to bring stakeholders up to speed with the SRHR challenges and reflect on what needs to be done,” Chiviya said.
Speaking at the workshop, Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda said the SRHR and HIV and Aids were matters of concern to parliamentarians.
“Parliament of Zimbabwe embodies the will of the people in government and is responsive to their pressing problems and confronting them,” he said.
The programme comes at a time when the country is still battling the HIV and Aids burden which largely affects women more than men.
Last year during a media training on SRHR, Botswana High Court Judge Oagile Key Dingake challenged the courts to take the matter seriously.
“And as for the courts, there can be no finer moment than cutting through concise legal reasoning to bring down the walls of prejudice,” he said.
The judge said occasionally it was necessary for the courts to aid the birth of a new society based on equality, by resorting to Caesarean delivery.
“This is so because promoting gender equality demands changes to existing power relations. Women and girls are still disadvantaged to negotiate safer sex due to cultural and economic reasons,” he said.