Deputy information minister Emma Theofelus envisions and hopes to see a future in 2030, where adolescent girls and women in Namibia and the world are free from sexual and gender-based violence and issues about their bodies.
Theofelus was speaking at a high-level political forum, focusing on Intergenerational Action for Bodily Autonomy – Accelerating Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3, convened by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the government of Argentina.
UNFPA hosted the dialogue, bringing together governments, civil society, youth leaders and academia, discussing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and bodily autonomy to accelerate progress towards a more gender-equitable world.
“I envision and hope to see a future in 2030, where adolescent girls and women in Namibia, Africa and the world are free from sexual and gender-based violence, discrimination when they are making decisions about their bodies,” she stated.
Furthermore, she also wishes to see women and girls equipped enough to protect their bodies from harm – both offline and in digital spaces online.
“The global community needs to avail funding for universal health coverage, comprehensive sexual education and allow young people of childbearing age to decide, design and lead such interventions,” she suggested, adding that gender equality is impossible if women do not have control over their bodies and decision making.
Bodily autonomy is about the right to make decisions over one’s own life and future. It is about being empowered to make informed choices.
Theofelus said Namibia has taken decisive action to improve health and the protection of systems to uphold and protect citizens’ health rights, but there are still issues like HIV/AIDS, which continue to be a burden, with an adult percentage of 11.7, where women are prevalent to the virus than their male counterparts.
UNFPA stated that sexual and reproductive health and rights have a direct bearing on bodily autonomy and integrity for all people, particularly for women and girls.
The inability to control one’s sexual and reproductive choices and to live free from violence effectively becomes a form of control in and of itself, and has implications for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Ib Petersen, a UNFPA executive, said women’s bodies and choices continue to be controlled by others – and the most affected are women and girls, adding that this trend needs to end.
“UNFPA is committed to this mission, and it is central to all that we do. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown our world into upheaval. The rights we hold so dear are at risk of negation, violation and dismantling,” stated Peterson.
He added: “The SRHR services that countries have put in place have been dismantled – its workforce transitioned to immediate pandemic-related services and care. With increases in gender-based violence and harmful practices, alongside the worrying reductions in access to healthcare, employment and education, we cannot wait – the time to act is now”.