Thank you O Canada!
Empowering women and girls to realise their sexual and reproductive health rights in South Africa
Every girl, every woman should be treated with respect and have the right to decide about her body, her life and her future. As Canada celebrates its national day on 1 July, young women and girls sexual and reproductive health rights will be advanced in South Africa, through the effective implementation of the Government of Canada- funded United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) joint programme.
The “Empowering Women and Girls to realise their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” programme specifically focuses on adolescent girls and young women aged 15 to 24 in marginalised communities to advance their sexual reproductive health and rights, while working to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV). This joint initiative is designed to strengthen district-level institutions and communities in order to enable adolescent girls and young women to realize their sexual and reproductive health rights and build more effective referral, coordination, capacity building and coordination between health and social services.
“As UNFPA and UNICEF we appreciate the support received from the Government of Canada, as it allows us to be ‘counted in’ to accelerate efforts towards this urgent national priority especially as outlined in the Presidential Emergency Plan to end Gender Based Violence and Femicide,” said UNFPA South Africa Representative, Ms. Beatrice Mutali.
The programme is implemented in the Alfred Nzo district and Nelson Mandela Bay municipality of the Eastern Cape and uThukela district of KwaZulu-Natal.
At the programme launch in late 2019 in Mzamba in the Eastern Cape, Ms. Muriel Mafico, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF South Africa, noted that UNICEF and the UNFPA “look forward to working together with the government, communities, as well as religious and traditional structures to improve interventions on the ground and to provide support to communities, to ensure that we leave no one behind.” Ms. Mafico added that “this means listening to their needs, involving them in the design and delivery of services and empowering them to hold us accountable. We must do this urgently, with determination, focus, innovation and partnership.”
These words resonated with many of the young people at the launch who are committed to normalizing open discussions around reproductive health, often within conservative, rural communities. Among these voices is 14-year old Makhathini Ncebakazi who declared that “we need our parents to hold open conversations with us.”
As the programme forges on, UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel Member, Esethu Sotheni, notes “we have our work cut out for us as the programme covers vast areas of these two provinces. Our fellow young people in deep rural areas and townships must be reached and engaged, and we are certain that this funding support from Canada will make a real difference!”