Leaving no One Behind in SRHR: Tag along all; feminists, chauvinists, moderates, culturists and religious

The National CSOs training on SRHR and SDGs was a highly packed interactive event with a dynamic mix of stakeholders. The goal of the training, organized by FEMNET in partnership with International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, was to ‘enhance the capacity of women’s rights advocates to be able to engage policymakers on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and SDGs in Kenya’.
Achieving the Africa We Want requires widespread stakeholder engagement and aligning the various protocols, principles and laws with real actions.
While the discussions focused on array of issues around the SRHR and the relevant laws/policies/declarations like the Maputo Protocol, Maputo Plan of Action and Abuja Declaration as well as the Kenyan Constitution, the coffee table like debates and TV format presentations brought to the fore some salient issues that need to be addressed by the stakeholders.
For instance, picture these:-

  1. A young lady, sexually active, not married, stays with ‘overbearing and possessive parents who dare not talk about sex with her’, gets pregnant, is abandoned by the boyfriend and infected with STIs, stigmatized by peers and left at the mercy of fate.
  2. A young boy who is sexually active, but feels embarrassed to buy condoms from a community chemist and forces the girlfriend to use emergency pills as much as twice a week. Scientifically, the e-pills are stronger than the normal pills, as they are to be used for emergency
  3. A married couple who find it hard to talk about contraceptives yet not ready to have more children.
  4. Unmarried and married women who procure abortion with or without the knowledge of partner and suffers post abortion disorders yet not willing to seek help for fear of being stigmatized.

These are some of the issues that marked the day one of the CSOs training. Of course no one is to blame for the myths surrounding SRHR but there is need to have bold conversations to demystify them and foster learning. The discussants agreed that SRHR is a complex issue that requires unique approach and takes into account socio-economic, cultural and religious connotations.
This brings us to the next issue; is SRHR a woman issue?
Conventionally, the chauvinists perceive the topic as a feminist issue that should be lumped together with maternal issues. However, SRHR is a developmental issue and concerns all human beings. The Programme for Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 placed human rights (including the right to plan one’s family) sexual and reproductive health and gender equality at the very heart of sustainable development. Both men and women have sexual and reproductive rights that must be respected, protected and fulfilled. The newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (also being referred to us the SDGs) promises to leave no one behind and therefore SRHR programmes and initiatives must always tag everyone a long; men, women, boys and girls. True to the concept note, no one was left behind;
So what next?
We all agreed that there are sufficient laws to address SRHR, though specific national legislations are required to monitor implementation. It is expected that the Reproductive Health Care Bill (2014) will enhance an individual’s right to make decisions regarding reproduction free from discrimination, coercion and violence.
Demanding accountability from duty bearers such as county governments, capacity building and alliances formation characterized by intense grassroots reach, citizen journalism and citizen generated data are crucial in achieving the SDGs. Specific focuses must be made on particular vulnerable groups such as the youth, abused/raped women, adolescents, elderly, HIV positive people, and people living with disabilities.
All in all, achieving SRHR requires proactive intergenerational actions and grassroot based approaches to implement the relevant policies and laws.  The cross cutting issues, outlined by the delegates, require involvement of all stakeholders; their affiliations, beliefs, backgrounds and aspirations. In solidarity with the silent suffering majority, the myth, the stigmas, the misconceptions, the innuendos, the abuses, the violations and the reckless behaviors must STOP.
Article by Michael Asudi, Country Coordinator, Organization of Africa Youth.

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