WINDHOEK - The SheDecides global campaign to promote, provide, protect and enhance the fundamental rights of women and girls was launched in Namibia on Tuesday evening in light of the inequalities that continue to prevail between men and women.
South Africa launched its edition of SheDecides campaign on
August 9 and the aim is to launch it in SADC and Africa as a whole, said the Executive Director of the Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS), Lois Chingandu while officiating at the launch of the campaign in Windhoek.
Chingandu said governments have a responsibility to create a policy environment which would enable women to make better choices about their lives and sexual reproductive health rights.
“The governments have a responsibility to make sure you have money in your pockets. The reason you can decide is because you are economically empowered. When a woman doesn’t have money in her pockets, the choices become limited.”
“The voice is limited and we see this with young women who date older men, or go into sex work because their voice and choices have already been taken away and it is now just about survival,” added Chingandu. She also stressed the need to create an environment in which young women can know from birth that they have the right to make decisions for themselves.
“I want my daughter to know that she has a choice and not to think that in every critical stage in her life, a man has to decide for her and tell her what to do,” she said.
The need to start the SheDecides campaign in Africa was inspired by the findings in the SADC Gender protocol barometer which cited views of people who believe that “women must listen to men”.
“Why was it not men and women must listen to each other? Why is it one sided? We are all equal and we need to treat each other as such and if men can make decisions, why can women not make decisions?” said Chingandu.
SheDecides was created as an urgent response to US President Donald Trump’s reinstatement and dramatic expansion of the Global Gag Rule – also known as the Mexico City Policy – in January 2017.
The rule prevents non-governmental organisations outside the US from receiving money from the US government if they provide safe abortions or information about abortion and has devastating effects on women, girls and their communities around the world.
This attack on women’s human rights prompted then Dutch
Minister for Foreign Trade and International Development, Lilianne Ploumen, along with her counterparts in the governments of Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, to launch SheDecides as a global initiative to defend those rights. They were immediately joined by other governments, organisations and individuals.
SheDecides became the rallying call for leaders and citizens alike to stand up as a matter of urgency to protect the rights, health, safety and livelihoods of millions of girls and women around the world.
Chingandu said women have the right to decide about sexual reproductive health, the right to decide when they want to get married and to whom they want to get married. “That is what deciding is all about and once you have made that basic decision about yourself and your body, once you can make that decision, it means you can make decisions about other things in your life.” She added that the SheDecides campaign should not necessarily be led by non-governmental organisations. Instead, people must ask themselves on how they would ensure that a girl child moves forward at family, community and personal levels.