Community Development Health Social

Regional symposium tackles SRHR, teen pregnancy and HIV

Mr. Edward Kallon

A regional symposium underway in Zimbabwe’s resort city of Victoria Falls has seen stakeholders gathering to chart the way forward in ending teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence, and HIV infections in East and Southern Africa.

While significant progress has been witnessed in strengthening SRHR outcomes in the region, girls and young women and key populations remain vulnerable to child marriage, teenage pregnancy and increased risk of HIV infection.

Stakeholders realise the need to be decisive and united with programming that is responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable in the communities.

Dr. John Mangwiro, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, on behalf of Honourable Vice President and Minister for Health and Child Care, Dr. Constantino Chiwenga officially opened the event.

Organized by UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO under the banner of the Joint UN Regional 2gether 4 SRHR Programme, the symposium seeks to highlight progress made in the region in advancing SRHR and lessons learnt, and outline strategies and approaches.

In his speech at the symposium, Mr. Edward Kallon, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Zimbabwe said the regional knowledge-sharing symposium was apt in that it coincided with the 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child.

“We have a cause to celebrate today! The 2gether4SRHR programme has clearly demonstrated how strategic partnership and joined-up efforts of Governments, Development Partners, civil society, the UN agencies at the regional and country level can successfully work together and deliver integrated services for women and girls on Sexual Health Rights, HIV, and tackle gender-based violence,” Mr. Kallon said.

He paid tribute to the fact that the symposium paved the way to support upstream interventions at all levels. The interventions entail high-level advocacy; support for data generation and accessibility; setting policy frameworks and enhancing pre-and in-service training for health workers; as well as development and piloting of innovative approaches among others.

The knowledge-sharing symposium also provides a timely opportunity to amplify the collective lessons drawn over the past five years of implementation of the 2gether4SRHR.

Mr. Kallom said the strong partnership has supported East and Southern African countries to strengthen sexual and reproductive health outcomes for all people and contributing to accelerated efforts towards achieving the SDGs.

 

In Zimbabwe, a strong partnership has been developed between UN Agencies, Sida, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council, the National AIDS Council, and several civil society organisations as they worked together to implement the programme.

 

Funding provided through the 2Gether4SRHR programme facilitated identifying and addressing bottlenecks, that were preventing the intended beneficiaries from enjoying their right to appropriate health care and wellbeing. Integration of available services was identified as a key enabler for broadening service access while at the same time improving quality and demonstrating the value for both human and financial resources.

He thanked Sweden for its willingness to let the 2Gether4SRHR programme adapt to unforeseen challenges that the country faced during the funding cycle.

For example, Cyclone Idai in March 2019 cut its victims off from essential supplies and other critical health services. Just one year later, Zimbabwe experienced the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Again, this affected the vulnerable more, limiting access to critical health services and supplies, and causing emotional and economic devastation.

Funding from 2Gether4SRHR enabled agility in responding to these public health emergencies through the strengthening of community systems that supported the most vulnerable members of society, and the health system through emergency procurement of equipment and supplies – demonstrating the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.

Mr. Kallon said the Sida funding was instrumental in in-service delivery on the integration of HIV, SRHR, and GBV at all levels. It facilitated complementarity with other sources of funding including PEPFAR and the Global Fund.

It also enabled the UN Development System to deliver together across various government sectors, partnering beyond the four UN agencies (UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, and WHO).

For example, such undertakings include the UN Global Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls supported by the EU; Comprehensive Sexuality Education; integration of SRHR services and messages with food assistance delivery; high-level advocacy with parliamentarians, work with Faith-based organisations and the Office of the First Lady.

Over and above all, there was a strengthened interface between the region and countries, including the SADC parliamentary forum working with partners in the country; and collaboration with CSOs in other countries such as SONKE Gender Justice.

He added that the collaborations in this programme shed a light on gender equality, masculinity, and the prevention of violence against women and girls in private and public spaces.

“These achievements should not end here but continue under the Zimbabwe UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework which began implementation in earnest this year and collaborate across the entire region to deliver the SADC SRHR strategy and scorecard. ”

Mr. Kallon urged all stakeholders to continue joined-up efforts to ensure sexual and reproductive rights are respected, protected and fulfilled as part of COVID-19 socio-economic recovery and measures to address menstrual hygiene poverty, sexual and gender-based violence, child marriages, and teenage pregnancy.

He emphasised the need to ensure girls receive the right healthcare and facilitate the right environment for them to grow up with greater self-confidence and bodily autonomy.

In this regard, he said Governments must take measures to destigmatize sexual reproductive and health rights services that ensure a step towards gender equality. This should also include the importance of involving men and educating boys on gender equality to play their fair share including in household chores.

He encouraged all stakeholders, together with and led by Governments, to ensure all SRHR services including family planning and antenatal care are affordable for all women and girls, particularly those living in poverty.

Mr. Kall0n called o stakeholders to ensure all girls have access to school and remain in school.

“When girls are educated, they are more likely to lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. Many girls and young women had their education ended by the COVID-19 pandemic. We must get them back to school. Education is the ticket for girls to understand and stand for their rights, including the right to live without the threat of violence and to stay safe and report abuse,” he added.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende