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Statement on the occasion of International Women's Day 2011
Chingandu, Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination
March 08, 2011
Today, Southern Africa
HIV and AIDS Information Service (SAfAIDS) joins the world in commemorating
International Women's Day. We take this opportunity as an
organisation to call upon stakeholders to continue investing in
the empowerment of girls and women throughout southern Africa and
While progress has been made, as evidenced by the growing number
of African girls accessing education and pursuing careers of their
choice, there are still concerning reports about the ability of
women and girls to access their sexual and reproductive rights,
in a context free from fear, stigma and violence. Gender based violence
continues to be a major threat to women across the region which,
sadly, is often perpetuated under the guise of culture and tradition.
Multiple concurrent partnerships persist and women continue to bear
the burden of this, as evidenced by the higher numbers of women
living with HIV compared to their male counterparts in Sub-Saharan
Africa, at 57%.It is our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, colleagues
who are still fighting for their rights to be acknowledged and protected.
In southern Africa, International Women's Day provides an opportunity
for renewed efforts towards achieving universal human rights for
all women and girls. The day places a spotlight on the inter-linkages
between gender, culture which directly influence women's and
girls' vulnerability to HIV and their sexual and reproductive
Death and disability due to poor SRH accounted for 32% of the disease
burden among women of reproductive age 15-44 in 2001. One in 16
women in sub-Saharan Africa dies from complications of pregnancy
and childbirth. This compares with 1 in every 2,800 in highly-developed
countries. Women now represent two-thirds of those infected with
HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 201 million women in the world
have unmet need for contraception. This includes younger women that
want to delay having their first child or increase spacing between
children. Unsafe abortions contribute to 13% of maternal deaths,
with the highest case rates being in sub Saharan Africa.
The Maputo Plan of Action (MPoA), which was adopted by the African
Union Ministers of Health in 2006 and endorsed by Heads of States
and Governments in 2007 seeks to take the continent forward to operationalise
the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Continental Policy
Framework towards the achievement of the millennium development
goals. The goal is to provide universal access to comprehensive
SRH and service in Africa by 2015.
In the same vein, the 12th AU summit held in Addis Abba in 2009
launched the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality
in Africa (CARMMA). This seeks to push the agenda of the MPoA forward
and increase its implementation by all countries as member states
of the AU. However, whilst political commitment is apparent, the
global financial crisis and global warming have worsened poverty
in Africa, making it difficult for countries to meet their commitments.
Today, 500,000 women continue to die each year in child birth or
complication of pregnancy.
While we celebrate womanhood, and commemorate men who support women
and women's rights, we need to challenge the existing circumstances
which result in the majority of young women in Africa having no
access to basic sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) including
information, safe labour and delivery services, emergency obstetric
care, essential drugs and contraceptive supplies.
As SAfAIDS, we are committed to:
- Delivering interventions that reduce the disproportionate burden
of HIV on women and girls
- Promoting programmes that demonstrate real impact in terms of
preventing new HIV infections
- Advocating for universal access to prevention and treatment services
- Supporting a policy of zero tolerance of violence of any kind
against women and girls.
- Strengthening initiatives for improved maternal and child health
- Supporting adolescents and young women to achieve their sexual
and reproductive health and rights.
As we celebrate The 100th International Women's Day, we are
proud to announce a new programme within SAfAIDS, the Young Women
First Movement. This is a project that seeks to contribute to the
reduction of vulnerability of women and girls in southern Africa
and to enhance the centrality of sexual and reproductive health
to human development and reduction in poverty. The project seeks
to mobilise young women, empower them and provide support that leads
to young women reclaiming their sexual and reproductive health and
rights. It will also provide a platform to raise awareness of SRHR
issues and to speak on behalf of young women and girls at continental
level, linking with regional and international platforms such the
African Union, UN Women, UNIFEM and UNGASS.
The voices of young women as both beneficiaries and owners of the
project will be amplified by providing them with safe spaces and
capacities to participate fully in the current intensive debates
on a range of issues: access to services, young women's SRHR,
abortion, family planning, clinic placement, hours of service and
user fees. The project will result in visible and felt changes in
the lives of young women and girls taking charge of their sexual
and reproductive health.
As SAfAIDS we truly believe that by supporting women and girls to
take charge of their sexual and reproductive health and rights,
we can make the world a better, healthier and safer place for all.
To achieve this we will continue to work with governments and partner
organisations to achieve universal access to education and reproductive
health by 2015.
In solidarity with women, girls, men and boys throughout the world,
we wish you an inspiring 100th International Women's Day!
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