The Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi, is hopeful that the second phase of the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS Governance project will replicate the successes of its predecessor.
Katjavivi shared these sentiments when he officially launched the second phase of the Southern African Development Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) initiated project that will run for a period of four years from 2019 to 2022.
The project funded by the Swedish government to the tune of US$3.2 million culminated from a resolution during an assembly session of the SADC-PF in 2007 in Malawi that has bound parliaments to address SRHR issues at both national and regional levels. The project 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 introduce motions and scrutinize bills in parliament that seeks to address issues of sexual reproductive health rights.
Reports emanating from investigative visits have already been tabled in parliament for discussions and further action.
The project will be implemented in 14 SADC countries including Namibia that has continued to grapple with sexual reproductive health rights challenges with mostly women and girls at the receiving end.
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.
Previously, Namibian Members of Parliament 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 the expertise of Civil Society Organisations.
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.
According to Katjavivi, the first phase of the project that started in 2014 and concluded in 2018 recorded many successes for Namibia.
This, despite the country having only joined the project towards the end of 2016.
“The project during its first phase enabled parliamentarians to hold government to account on key SRHR issues such as interrogation of comprehensive sexuality education programmes and the implementation of interventions to prevent early and unintended pregnancies and child marriage as well as policies for the protection of key populations,” noted the speaker.
Katjavivi stated 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.
The speaker implored fellow lawmakers to advance the interests of the less privileged by influencing the enactment of legislation that promotes inclusion.
“As lawmakers we are in a better position to influence and advocate for laws best suited to the needs and aspirations of our people.
Laws that impact on economic and social development should be placed high on the agenda,” noted Katjavivi.
Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs, Gotthard Kasuto echoed similar sentiments, noting that the success of the project depended on the commitment of all stakeholders.
*George Sanzila works for the Division: Research, Information, Publication and Editorial Services at the National Assembly.