Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.
Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.
He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.
“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.
“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.
“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.
Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”
She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.
Safe communities for our women and girls – Moalosi
Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been identified as one of the critical issues that impede women, girls and men from fully enjoying their human rights and unleashing their potential. Delivering his State of the National Address (SONA) on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the rising statistics of those affected.
The National Relationship Study of 2018 revealed that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime, which occurred within Intimate Partner Relationships.
To address this problem, President Masisi says government will intensify the implementation of the National Strategy Towards Ending GBV. The Strategy focuses on the comprehensive care and support of GBV survivors; the Prevention of new GBV incidences; Strengthening national capacity to address GBV; Improving efficiency and effectiveness of the coordination and management of the national GBV response; and Strategic information and knowledge management on GBV.
Just last week, Botswana Non-Governmental Organisations represented at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, committed to ensuring that all is done to end GBV.CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, Lorato Moalosi who was presenting on behalf of Botswana NGOs said having reflected on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda since 1994 and on what has changed on Sexual GBV, they are equally disturbed by increasing levels of SGBV in Botswana communities.
Her desire is to empower communities to come up with their own solutions to end SGBV. Moalosi told participants at the Summit that NGOs in Botswana commit to contracting and ensuring robust community engagement, including starting indigenous and disability movements on SGBV to galvanise and mobilise communities to prevent and respond to SGBV. Their plan is to also develop sustained gender transformative programmes that mainstream HIV and GBV, as well as to expand reach and coverage of services and create community safe spaces for the hard to reach, as well as improve services in urban areas.
“We commit to utilising social contracting and ensure NGOs lead in the prevention of SGBV and in the response to ending SGBV at community level,” Moalosi said, adding that they also commit to mainstreaming gender equality conversations and break the silence on SGBV.
“We can no longer hold back. Our communities have to be safe for our women and girls,” she said. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 that concluded hursday last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi represents a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver.
“Together, we will make the next ten years a decade of action and results for women and girls, keeping their rights and choices at the centre of everything we do,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.
Denmark’s Special Envoy for the ICPD25, Ambassador Ib Petersen said there will be no ICPD50 because women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices.
Botswana has identified four commitments – to strengthen access to family planning; the reduction of maternal deaths; reduction of Gender Based Violence as well as provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data – as game changers in the implementation of the commitments made towards achieving the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda.
The country delegation joined others comprised of world leaders, representatives of non-governmental organizations, young people, business leaders and community groups on Tuesday to unveil their commitments to end preventable maternal death, meet all women’s demands for family planning, and stop violence against women and girls by 2030.
The commitments are being made during the three-day Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, taking place 25 years after the landmark ICPD, in Cairo, where 179 governments adopted an action plan for women’s empowerment and sexual and reproductive health for all.
Dr Richard Matlhare, Head of the Botswana Delegation in Nairobi, Kenya and Coordinator of the National Aids and Health Promotion Agency (NAHPA) said on Tuesday that Botswana’s intention is to reduce maternal deaths from 143.2 in 100 000 births to less than 70 in 100 000 births through capacity building and allocation of financial and human resources towards maternal health by 2030.
He added that the country will ensure that information and services, quality, affordable and safe modern contraceptives at all service points through capacity building of health care workers on integration of family planning services from 350 to 1000 by 2030.
“I can assure you that we will rally behind Duty Bearers of these commitments to ensure that they are realized, through defined and specific actions that will address the unfinished business of the ICPD,” Dr Matlhare said, adding that government will strengthen partnerships with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other development partners as well as non-state actors to implement the ICPD plan of action.
Youth Advocate, also a University of Botswana student, Michelle Simon 18, told delegates at the Summit that in contributing to the realization of the ICPD, the young people of Botswana commit to accessing information to help them make informed decisions, this through accessing youth-friendly health services for young people across the country. The youth of Botswana also commit to engaging in policy and programmatic dialogues to ensure that their voices are included.
Commitments by non-governmental organisations of Botswana will be presented by CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and support Centre, Lorato Moalusi later this week.
UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem said at the Summit that since the Cairo ICPD, “we have put women and girls at the center of global development,” adding that this has paid off time and again.
She admitted though that ICPD vision is still far from reality and that the journey that began 25 years ago in Cairo is far from over. “It’s now time to finish that unfinished business,” she said.
Since the ICPD, gains have been made in strengthening maternal health care and expanding access to quality contraceptive information and services. But there are still many who have not benefited from these gains, with more than 800 women dying during pregnancy and childbirth every day and 232 million women wanting to prevent pregnancy but not using a modern contraceptive.
The summit aims to tackle these problems as well as put a stop to gender-based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation.
“The bold, rights-based vision of the ICPD – that development must put people first, that attention must be paid to strengthening equal access to health, education, and human dignity for all persons – anticipated the bold, ambitious vision of the 2030 Agenda,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “As critical accelerators for the Sustainable Development Goals, the outcomes of ICPD must be carried forward. The success of the global agenda for sustainable development, our common framework for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, depends on it.”
Denmark Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn confirmed that Denmark will continue to work with partners to ensure the fulfillment of the agenda. “If we want to reach the 2030 agenda, we must fulfill the promise of Cairo.”
The Summit is hosted by the governments of Denmark and Kenya and UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency. Its intention is mobilizing the political will and securing the financial commitments urgently needed to make sexual and reproductive health a reality for everyone, everywhere.