The 9th ACSHR comes to a close with targeted action calls
NAIROBI, February 14, 2020 – The 9th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) has come to an end with a pack of recommendations seeking to comprehensively address the host of challenges that affect women and girls living in urban informal settlements.
The February 12-14 conference, which was held under the theme: “Advancing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Urban Informal Settlements”, attracted about 1,000 participants, comprising policy makers, members of parliament, youth representatives, development organisations, and civil society organisations from across Africa.
They have made the following specific calls:
Calls to governments
• Accelerate efforts towards implementation of key national, continental and global development frameworks that address the needs of people living in informal settlements in urban areas as part of the Decade of Action of the Sustainable Development Goals, bearing in mind that the appropriate policies and commitments already made must now be translated into tangible action with a sense of urgency;
• Address the peculiar needs of persons with disabilities, including enacting favourable policies and availing funds for domestic implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;
• Work with key civil society, private sector and other notable stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of commitments towards expanding access to sexual and reproductive health and rights of all, including people living in urban informal settlements, and other vulnerable and excluded groups;
• Harmonise laws and policies to address loopholes that facilitate discrimination and create barriers that disproportionately disadvantage women, girls and LGBTQI, and which limit their access to SRH services, including safe abortion.
• Redouble efforts to eliminate harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation;
• Take urgent steps to address poverty and its multidimensional effects on people living in urban informal settlements, women, girls, sexual minorities and other vulnerable and excluded groups, and ensure their equitable access to resources and services;
• Ensure that development planning addresses the need to rethink and review infrastructure development to facilitate access to quality housing, education, healthcare facilities, electricity, water and sanitation for people living in urban informal settlements.
Calls to parliamentarians
• Ensure allocation of adequate resources in national development plans and budgets to address the needs of people living in urban informal settlements, especially as relates to their social development, including access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and age-appropriate education on sexuality, and elimination of harmful practices such as gender-based violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation.
• Ensure that sector ministries dealing with these issues are well funded;
• Hold governments accountable to commitments they make to protect the rights and dignity of people, especially women and girls.
Calls to civil society organisations and individuals
• Ensure increased visibility and prioritisation of issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights at the national level through continued advocacy, mobilisation and accountability mechanisms, and expand access to sexual and reproductive health services and information delivery.
• Pursue implementation of comprehensive sexuality education, and further increase efforts on budget advocacy to ensure governments continuously fund SRHR services.
Call to faith-based organisations
• Work with key stakeholders to push for the abandonment of cultural and religious practices that infringe on the rights and wellbeing of women and girls, such as child marriage, gender-based violence and female genital mutilation.
Call to the donor community
• Increase the availability of funds and other resources to expand access to sexual and reproductive health and rights of people living in urban informal settlements;
Calls to the media:
• Highlight and give coverage to issues affecting people living in slums and hold governments, international organisations, civil society and other stakeholders accountable to their commitments to improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services;
• Educate the general public on key issues relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and dispel misconceptions.
The recommendations will be presented for consideration by the Policy
organs of the African Union Commission as well as those of the relevant Regional Economic
Communities (RECs). They feed into the ICPD25 and Beijing Platform for Action and provide a pathway for addressing the inequalities of women and girls in informal settlements across Africa. This is necessary for the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063.
The ACSHR 2020, hosted by the Africa Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) in Nairobi, is part of a long-term process of building and fostering regional dialogue and alliances that lead to concrete actions towards influencing policy and programming in favour of a sexually healthy continent.
The ACSHR is a biennial event. It has previously been 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).
High Level panel calls for implementation of policies that improve wellbeing of Africa’s youth
NAIROBI, February 13, 2020 – A High Level Panel at the 9th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR 2020) has urged African governments to implement existing policies on sexual health and rights (SHR), saying this will ensure improved access to contraceptives, address violence against women and girls, tame the spread of HIV/AIDs and prevent various other afflictions that tend to arise from poor SHR.
The conference, which seeks to find practical solutions to addressing the inequalities of women and girls in informal settlements across Africa, is being hosted in Nairobi by the African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust – a not for profit organisation that advances gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.
The panel discussion on February 13 was on “Accelerating Actions for Sexual Health and Rights (SRHR) of Women and Girls Living in Urban Informal Settlements”. The speakers were in consensus that it was time for policy implementation and not formulation, as the continent already had enough policies and legislation.
“Africa is not devoid of SHR policies. There are enough to address these issues. What is lacking is implementation, and we have to find innovative ways of putting them into action,” noted Prof Khama Rogo, Lead Health Sector Specialist at the World Bank. Similarly, Hon. Susan Lyimo, a Member of Parliament in Tanzania, asked: “Why do we need to come up with new programmes, yet the old ones have not been implemented?”
Hon. Lyimo, who sits on the Health Education and Sports Committee at the Parliament of Tanzania, stressed the importance of these policies taking into account needs of youth, whom she described as “Africa’s greatest treasure”.
UN statistics indicate that a majority of the World’s adolescent motherhood occur in Africa, where about 19 percent of young women become pregnant before the age of 18.
Further, studies by UNFPA and WHO demonstrate the high risk associated with adolescent pregnancies, including low infant birth weight, obstetric fistula and high maternal mortality ratios – problems that are most prominent in low income settlements and urban slums.
Prof. Rogo pointed out that SRH, if not accorded deserving attention, were “a time bomb at the centre of human development.”
He said: “Our inability to tap into the energy and potential of young people has got them wasting away in slums; girls dying from preventable causes.” The youth, he added, needed to be engaged in a way that would empower them wherever they were in both rural and urban areas. “To what extent are governments opening rural areas to allow investors there, as this is what will develop these regions and create employment, keeping people and youth out of the already congested cities?” Prof. Rogo asked.
The high level panel observed the importance of working with young people to create programmes for their development, engaging them to chart their own solutions. “What can we do to ensure we are creating platforms for young people to develop in a way that resonates with the realities on the ground, at the same time not discriminating against them?” posed Dr Meshack Ndirangu, the AMREF Health Africa Kenya Country Director.
Other panellists were Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, the AU Goodwill Ambassador on ending child marriage; Hon. Marie Rose Nguni-Effa, a Member of Parliament in Cameroon; and Ida Joseph, a social entrepreneur from Tanzania.
The conference, which concludes on 14th February 2020, seeks to find practical solutions to addressing the inequalities of women and girls in informal settlements across Africa.
Ida Joseph, social entrepreneur (left), Prof. Khama Rogo (centre), Hon. Susan Lyimo (right) at the High Level Panel on Accelerating Actions for SRHR of Women and Girls Living in Urban Informal Settlements
ACSHR 2020 Youth Pre-conference communiqué spells out an 8-point agenda
NAIROBI, February 11, 2020
The youth conference happening at the 9th Africa Conference on Sexual and Rights (ACSHR 2020) concluded today February 11, 2020, with calls on governments and Heads of State, and those in positions of authority, to adopt an all-inclusive approach to addressing the challenges facing youths in informal settlements in Africa.
In a communiqué presented at the end of the two-day youth event (February 10th-11th, 2020) held at Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, the 500-plus youths from across the continent asserted that leaders needed to urgently address the myriad challenges facing the youth in slums. These include HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, Gender Based Violence, unmet needs for family planning and lack of access to comprehensive education on SRHR, among others.
They want African leaders and people in positions of influence to undertake the following:
- To ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and those who have entered a reservation, particularly on Article14(2)(c) to lift it.
- To adopt and implement Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) policies and strategies that are inclusive of all and including LGBTIQA+ and other vulnerable populations.
- To increase financing, especially for youth-friendly service to ensure that young people access information and services conveniently.
- To meaningfully and inclusively engage them in policy making processes to articulate their SRHR needs.
- To build the capacity of youth to effectively participate and engage in policy making processes.
- To adopt and incorporate gender transformative approaches at all levels and ensure a supportive culture for women and girls.
- To increase awareness on mental health and identify and integrate mental health services and information.
- To ensure that SRHR is part of the minimum Universal Health Care package.
The youth recommendations will be presented at the main ACSHR 2020 conference for consideration by the policy organs of the African Union Commission and relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The main conference runs from February 12-14th 2020 at the same venue. The event is hosted by the African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust – a not-for-profit organisation that advances gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.
ACSHR 2020 to host Pre-conference on youth
NAIROBI, February 8, 2020
The 9th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR 2020) kicks off on Monday, February 10, with a two-day pre-conference focus on youth. The event will be held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, with the main conference following immediately after from February 12-14.
The Pre-conference is a space for young people from across Africa to gather and discuss specific issues of concern to their sexual health and rights. It aims to harvest the experiences and knowledge of participants towards building a collective continental position on how to address the special circumstances affecting Africa’s youths.
This event is founded on data that highlight the need for solutions tailored to address the current challenges affecting the African youth with regard to sexual health and rights.
“Africa Youth Trends”, a study by the Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA), shows that the biggest health concerns for young people are consequences of early and unprotected sex (49 percent) including unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and STIs. Other concerns are alcohol, drug abuse and mental health. Young people also identified the internet and peers as influencers of their sexual behaviours.
While 72 percent of the youth in Africa prefer living in urban areas according the study, many of them end up being victims of uncontrolled urbanisation. They dominate urban slum dwellings after taking up low paying jobs that expose them to sexual exploitation and emotional harm.
The study also shows extensive evidence of risky sexual behaviour among the youth. About 27 percent of male and 26 percent of females aged between 15 and 19 reported having had sex before 15 years.
Most of the World’s adolescent motherhood occurs in Africa, where about 19 percent of young women become pregnant before the age of 18.
Studies by UNFPA and WHO show the high risk associated with adolescent pregnancies, including low infant birth weight, obstetric fistula and high maternal mortality ratios. These are most prominent in low income settlements and urban slums. Yet sexual health and rights are basic needs that everyone should have access to.
“We are not equal until all of us are equal,” says Dr Esiet Uwemedimo, Convenor of the 9th ACSHR. He adds: “The circumstance of your birth or location must not determine your future. It is the failure of State and all of us that young people, especially from informal settlements, have continued to lack access to sexual health care services and critical information.”
Discussions at the pre-conference will be guided by the various sub-themes of the main event, these being: Accountability; voices; breaking the cycle; leave no one behind; innovation; and technology.
The youth recommendations will thereafter be presented at the main conference for consideration by the policy organs of the African Union Commission and relevant Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
The 9th ACSHR is hosted by the African Gender and Media Initiative (GEM) Trust – a not-for-profit organisation that advances gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.
GEM’s strength lies in working with marginalised women and adolescent girls in and out of school, and who are living in low resourced areas. It champions their sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organisation also works with sex workers and women living with HIV.
Latest Conference News
NAIROBI, February 6, 2020 – The 9 th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) will be held on 10-14 February 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme: “Advancing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Urban Informal Settlements”.
The Conference is part of a long-term process of building and fostering regional dialogue and alliances that lead to concrete actions towards influencing policy and programming in favour of a sexually healthy continent.
The focus on urban informal settlements is based on the fact that residents of such areas represent a population that is often left behind on policy decisions, yet in this case, they suffer elevated risks of poor sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes, including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and sexual and gender-based violence. In Africa, this is complicated by a high population growth rate, which is grossly unmatched with existing social facilities. UN statistics indicate that Africa’s 1.1 billion citizens will likely double in number by 2050, and more than 80% of that increase will occur in cities, contributing to an even higher slum population, and increasing their predisposition to greater vulnerability.
Coming hot on the heels of the ICPD 25 summit, the ACSHR seeks to find practical solutions to addressing the inequalities of women and girls in informal settlements across Africa. This is key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the AU Agenda 2063.
The event will also include a Youth Pre-Conference, in which 500 young people from across Africa will gather to articulate specific matters affecting them, with the aim of influencing policies around those issues. ACSHR has collaborated with several partners and other key stakeholders in SRHR over the years to organise this regional conference. The conference has previously been 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).
This year’s ACSHR is being hosted by the African Gender and Media Initiative Trust (GEM), an organization that works to advance gender equality through research and action on women’s human rights.
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