AFRICA’S URBAN INFORMAL SETTLEMENT

Presently, however, the advantages of urban life in Africa are unevenly distributed. Residents of Africa’s urban informal settlements represent one population group that is increasingly left behind and at elevated risks for poor sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes, including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion, and sexual and gender-based violence. Poor urban Africans experience heightened negative social, economic and health outcomes. Compared to their non-poor urban counterparts, they have higher rates of HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion, maternal mortality and morbidity, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). For instance, across Africa, unintended pregnancy is among the leading reasons that urban poor adolescent girls drop out of school.
In developing countries, over 880 million urban residents live in slum conditions. In Sub Saharan Africa, 59 percent of the urban population live in slums and by 2050, African urban dwellers are projected to increase to 1.2 billion. It is important to note that Africa’s population is predominantly youthful and makes up about 60% of its total population.1 Indeed, the Draft Maputo Plan of Action 2016-2030 notes the need for investing in the SRH needs of adolescents, youth and other vulnerable marginalized populations (orphans, the elderly, people with disabilities, rural populations, displaced persons, and migrants) by improving access to and uptake of quality information and services for youth, that also includes family planning through provision of quality integrated youth-friendly adolescent SRH services.

Urbanization is an inevitable trend, though it takes place at different rates in distinct places. In Africa, there is a phenomenal increase in urban population that has not seen a corresponding increase in the provision of social services and infrastructure. The result is that a significant percentage of the urban populations in Africa live in the informal settlements.
The human desire to attain the highest standard of living often results in mobility to find a secure place especially from rural to urban areas and international migration. Slum growth is, in a significant way, an outcome of governance decisions to limit access to the city for the poor, by limiting service provision to informal settlements or by forced evictions and resettlement of the urban poor to peripheral or under-serviced areas.
Urban slum dwellers are predisposed to a higher vulnerability due to several issues including the lack of security of tenure; poor sanitation; weak or no access to clean water; inadequate supply of basic services, space, privacy; and the general precarious quality of slum constructions. In most urban slum communities, unwholesome gendered and cultural practices are rampant which further worsen the vulnerability of the dwellers.
Statistics indicate that the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and services results in unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and a general unmet need for contraceptives. Africa is the world region with the highest number of abortion-related deaths. In 2014, at least 9% of maternal deaths (or 16,000 deaths) in Africa were from unsafe abortion. Further, it is reported that in 2017, about 58 million women of reproductive age in Africa recorded an unmet need for modern contraception—that is, they want to avoid a pregnancy but are either not practicing contraception or are using traditional methods, which are less effective than modern methods.

CONFERENCE OBJECTIVES

1. Identify promising/best practices on policy and actions that respect, promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in urban informal settlements (slums); and
2. Propose actions to promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in urban informal settlements (slums) at regional and country level, thus deepening the effective implementation of the ICPD PoA, Beijing Platform for Action whilst advancing achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.

PARTICIPANTS

A broad-based participation of all stakeholders is encouraged including Highest Level of governance in Kenya; High level policy makers; Women and girls from informal settlements; policy experts and advocates; programme managers; CSOs, Adolescents and youth; Academia; Community and religious leaders; Media; Development partners, UN system, continental institutions (AUC) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), private sector, etc.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendations from the Conference will be presented for consideration of the Policy organs of the African Union Commission as well as those of the relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Participants will also be encouraged to engage their national governments with the conference recommendations as appropriate

HOST ORGANISATION

African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust
GEM is a cutting edge not for profit organization that works to advance gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights. GEM’s strength lies in working with marginalized women and adolescent girls in and out of school living in low resourced areas, sex workers and women living with HIV on their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

BACKGROUND

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) marked a watershed in the global quest to advance access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for all. The ICPD Programme of Action (POA) reflected a remarkable global consensus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as the basis for both individual well-being and social development. It asserted that everyone counts, that the focus of development policy and actions must be the improvement of individual lives, and that the measure of progress should be the extent to which we tackle inequalities.
Globally, there has been uneven progress in improving access to SRHR, with Africa making the least progress and in some cases experiencing significant roll back of gains. Despite several laudable policy and programme initiatives by the African Union (AU) and member-states to fast-track universal access to SRHR information and services, many people in the region continue to be left behind. Several factors account for this: conflicts and resultant humanitarian crisis, traditional beliefs and practices, religious barriers, poverty, ignorance, poor program implementation, uneven distribution of and poor access to services, gender norms etc.
Africa has also continued to witness rapid population growth and sustained rural-urban migration. The region is urbanizing at a rate of 3.5% per year – the fastest urban growth rate in the world today. Africa’s 1.1 billion citizens will likely double in number by 2050, and more than 80% of that increase will occur in cities. By 2025, 100 African cities will have more than one million residents, and by 2050, 1.339 billion Africans will be city dwellers, corresponding to 21% of the world’s projected urban population. Africa is not ready for this level of urban population explosion. Currently, over half of the residents in Africa’s largest cities—and a growing proportion of Africans overall— live in congested informal settlements, also called slums.

SEXUAL REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RIGHTS WITHIN INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS

The Sexual and Reproductive Health indicators, morbilities and mortality of women and girls living in informal urban settlements (slums) in Africa are severe compared to those in the general population including early sexual debut, unprotected sexual intercourse, high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, unplanned pregnancies, unmet need for family planning (FP), unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, gender based violence (GBV) and harmful traditional practices (HTP).
Addressing the inequalities of women and girls in these informal settlements across Africa is key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063. Efforts to reach women and girls from these informal settlements with quality SRH information and services must be concerted and targeted.

The 9th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights is part of a long-term process of building and fostering regional dialogue/alliance on SRH that leads to concrete actions and enhances stakeholder-capacity to influence policy and programming in favour of a sexually healthy continent.

kibera slum make-up girl

PARTNERSHIPS AND PREVIOUS CONFERENCES

The Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) has collaborated with several partners and other key stakeholders in SRHR over the years, to organize this regional conference. The conference has previously held in Johannesburg, South Africa (2004); Nairobi, Kenya (2006); Abuja, Nigeria (2008); Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2010); Windhoek, Namibia (2012); Yaoundé, Cameroon (2014); Accra, Ghana (2016); and Johannesburg, South Africa (2018).

METHODOLOGY

Pre-Conference (1st two days) February 10-11, 2020. This will be done within the informal settlements; Will include caravan; voice; wall cloth for advocacy messages; Prose, poems, poetry, dance and music by youth from informal settlements etc; Voices of women and girls living within informal settlements; site visits to SRHR and youth friendly clinics; Sharing of experiences; Networking;

SIDELINES OF CONFERENCE

We encourage organisations and networks to have their Trainings/Capacity Building; Constituency Meetings; Study/Site Visits; Voices of dwellers in the urban informal settlements across Africa; Sharing of experiences; Forging of regional alliance/network; Developing of a a framework of engagement with AU and RECs, UNFPA, UNECA, other UN Agencies and national governments.
MAIN CONFERENCE: February 12-14, 2020. This will be following thematic areas-ACCOUNTABILITY; VOICES; BREAKING THE CYCLE; LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND; INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY. There will be thematic plenary and breakout sessions, discussion panels, didactic sessions, poster presentations, skills building workshops, satellite events, exhibition etc. Conference participants will deliberate on the SRHR of key sub-populations of urban slum dwellers with particular emphasis on women, girls and other marginalized groups.
Session presentations using creative arts, dance, drama, music, spoken word, poetry, storytelling and other less conventional means of presentation are encourages. Sign language interpretation will be provided
Online live streaming will be deployed to expand the reach to several participants globally who cannot join us physically during the conference.

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