A capacity development workshop for members of parliament on issues of sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS is scheduled to take place in Otjiwarongo on Thursday and Friday this week.
This workshop follows the launch of the second phase of the three-year SADC Parliamentary Forum on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights, HIV and AIDS Governance project early this year by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi.
The project, funded by the Swedish Embassy at the cost of US$3.2 million, involves 14 SADC member countries, including Namibia, that continue to grapple with sexual reproductive health rights challenges, with mostly women and girls on the receiving end.
It culminated from a resolution during an assembly session of the SADC-PF in 2007 in Malawi, which has compelled SADC parliaments to address SRHR issues at both national and regional levels.
The project will run from 2019 to 2022 after the successful completion of the first phase that started in 2014 and concluded in 2018.
It seeks to sensitise individuals on choices regarding their sexuality and reproductive health rights despite their age, gender or HIV status.
At the legislative level, the aim is to empower members to debate motions and scrutinise bills in Parliament that seek to address issues of sexual reproductive health rights. Previously, Namibian parliamentarians visited various regions in Namibia to ascertain the condition of state health facilities and look at issues of reproductive health including HIV and AIDS in general. This was done in partnership with experts from civil society organisations.
Reports emanating from such fact-finding missions have already been tabled in parliament for discussions and further action.
Challenges uncovered at the time included poor accessibility to health facilities, lack of health personnel, lack of and poor health infrastructure, poverty, high teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and discrimination of key populations, among many others.
The latter include men who have sex with other men, transgender people, sex workers, prisoners and people who inject drugs, who are mostly cut off from mainstream health services and are at high risk of contracting HIV than the ordinary population.
The second phase is anchored on five key thematic areas that include sexual gender-based violence and gender inequality, early and unintended pregnancy and safe abortions, commodity security and universal health coverage, comprehensive sexuality education and non-discrimination and protection of key populations. This workshop is the first intervention under phase two.
It intends to impart lawmakers with the necessary knowledge to be able to come up with the solutions to pressing SRHR issues through legislation for the next two years.
Key Parliamentary Committees identified to champion these issues include the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender, Social Development and Family Affairs and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources and Community Development.
Social distancing, hand sanitising, temperature screenings, as well as wearing of masks will be strictly enforced during the meeting as part of Covid-19 regulations. Only 35 Members of parliament are expected to attend.
*George Sanzila works in the Division: Research, Information, Publications and Editorial Services at the National Assembly