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Sexual reproductive health and rights essential – Speaker Katjavivi

Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi officially opening the SRHR, HIV and AIDS governance project

 

  Story by George Sanzila

Otjiwarongo - Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Prof. Peter Katjavivi is hopeful that the capacity building workshop on sexual reproductive health and rights for members of parliament that took place recently in Otjiwarongo, will culminate into good legislation to tackle the many challenges Namibia is grappling with. Hon. Katjavivi said this when he officially opened a two-day workshop last week.

The gathering that follows the launching of the 2nd phase of the SADC Parliamentary Forum’s SRHR, HIV and AIDS governance project by the Speaker early this year is intended to empower lawmakers with the necessary knowledge and skills to actively engage in fact based debates and formulate legislation.

The project aims to sensitize 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 scrutinize bills in Parliament that seeks to address issues of sexual reproductive health rights.

According to Hon. Katjavivi, apart from legislation, members of parliament as representatives of the electorate could also serve as advocates for sexual reproductive rights. “It is expected to empower MPs to introduce motions and analyse Bills tabled in the National Assembly that seek to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights. It seeks to sensitize individuals on choices regarding their sexuality and reproductive health and rights. As lawmakers, we are in a position to influence and advocate for laws best suited to the needs and aspirations of our people”, said the Speaker.

He noted that the implementation of the project that will run from 2019 to 2022 will depend on key parliamentary standing committees. 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.

He further stated that targeted legislation is expected to tackle a myriad of sexual reproductive issues such as sexual gender based violence, early and unintended pregnancies, discrimination and the rights of key populations among others.

 

The Speaker revealed some of the legislative successes made since the project’s inception in 2014 adding that a number of motions were introduced including SADC PF model laws that have been adopted in the region. He singled out the model law on eradicating Child Marriage and protecting children already in marriage and the Minimum Standards for the protection of key populations in the SADC region. The SADC PF is also currently finalising a gender based violence model law for adoption later this year.

Echoing similar sentiments, SADC Parliamentary Forum Secretary General, Boemo Sekgoma stated that during the first phase of the project numerous oversight visits took place in different regions of Namibia with many sexual health issues uncovered that have since been intergrated into parliamentary debates and motions. 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.

She further lauded the parliament of Namibia for its pro-activeness. “The parliament of Namibia was among the first SADC parliaments to adopt a motion in relation to the eradication of child marriage and betrothals”, said Sekgoma who addressed lawmakers virtually.

Sekgoma is also concerned about increasing cases of sexual gender based violence in the SADC region amidst the COVID 19 calamity. “Evidence has illustrated the alarming increase in rates of SGBV amidst lockdown restrictions, resulting in unintended pregnancies as well as forced and child marriages”, moaned Sekgoma.

The current project, worth 3.2 million US Dollars will be implemented in 14 SADC member states. It is funded by the Swedish government.

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