Blantyre — As one way of showing commitment towards the protection of a girl child in the country President Dr Joyce Banda has established a Special Committee on the Acceleration of Girls Education in Malawi.
The President disclosed this on Thursday at Sanjika Palace during an audience with High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern Africa saying this committee will look at how to overcome traditional barriers to girls’ education, such as early marriages and pregnancies.
The Head of State then called upon relevant authorities to hold the necessary consultations and lobbying to ensure that the country attain the right to support for the age of marriage in Malawi to be raised to at least 18 years for both boys and girls to give them time to acquire enough education before marriage.
“There is no question about my personal commitment to the raising of the marriage age. I am however aware that this is a delicate issue among some traditional leaders, conservative communities, faith leaders and some legislators.
“That is why, in my opinion, it is best that we do our homework by engaging all stakeholders and bring the bill to parliament at the right time for us to succeed,” said the President Banda.
The president highlighted that there is so much that the country can achieve through working with traditional leaders who are guardians of traditional culture. She said the T/A’s ability to mobilise support within their communities will be crucial in promoting and protecting girl child at a local level.
The president said she was very pleased to learn that some chiefs have already started taking big strides in promoting the girl child through the creation of a Declaration of Commitment to be signed by Paramount and Senior Chiefs.
“This declaration focuses on issues of the girl child in a holistic way, looking at education, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, early marriages, and HIV, while also taking advantage of the positive aspects of our culture and cultural ceremonies to support these efforts,” delighted the head of state.
In her remarks leader of the High Level Task Force for Women, Girls, Gender Equality and HIV for Eastern and Southern delegation, Professor Sheila Tlou who is UNAIDS Regional Director commended President Dr Joyce Banda for her efforts in improving the welfare of the girl child education and her continued support to girls’ education.
She however requested for the formation of a high level committee which will oversee the enactment of the marriage bill so that more girls should be able to complete their education before marriage.
BY YAMIKANI YAPUWA
1 NOVEMBER 2013
GENEVA — A new report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)finds millions of adolescent girls suffer serious long-term health and social consequences from pregnancy. Globally, the U.N. agency estimates 7.3 million girls under 18-years-old give birth, including two million girls younger than 14.
Giving birth to a baby should be a happy moment in the life of a woman. But, for millions of adolescents around the world, early pregnancy and childbirth results in serious health problems, social exclusion and even death.
In developing countries, 20,000 girls under 18 give birth every day, the report says. It estimates some 70,000 adolescents in developing countries die each year from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Among those who survive, many will develop an obstetric fistula. This is a hole in the birth canal, which leaves the girl leaking urine constantly.
The director of the UNFPA office in Geneva, Alanna Armitage, says adolescent girls are at increased risk of child marriage and sexual coercion. Maternal death among girls under the age of 15 from low- and middle-income countries is twice that of older females,” says Armitage.
“Our report shows that nine out of 10 pregnancies to girls under 18 take place within a marriage. And, as you may know, every day, 39,000 girls are married in violation of their basic human rights. One in nine is married before the age of 15 and this, of course, will continue as long as families, communities and governments tolerate child marriage,” she said.
The report highlights the economic impact of adolescent pregnancy. It notes the lifetime opportunity costs related to adolescent pregnancy range from one percent of annual GDP in China to 30 percent of annual GDP in Uganda.
To drive this point home, the report notes $3.4 billion could have been added to the Kenyan economy had the more than 200,000 adolescent mothers in the country been employed rather than pregnant.
The report finds in every region of the world, impoverished, poorly educated rural girls are more likely to become pregnant than those who live in richer, more urban areas. UNFPA Senior Maternal Health Advisor Luc de Bernis says the highest rates of adolescent maternal mortality are found in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
He says the problem is marginally greater in the Francophone than the English-speaking African countries.
“Africa is not homogeneous and we have many differences, but the fact is young girls are not protected in the majority of these countries — not in the Francophone for sure…and not in the English speaking world,” said Bernis. “In Kenya, Uganda, you have a rate of abortion which is absolutely enormous and it explains a big part of the maternal mortality. A big number of these abortions occur among very young girls.”
The report says adolescent pregnancy is a much bigger challenge in the developing world than in developed countries. But it finds that adolescent pregnancy is still a significant issue in the richer nations.
It says blaming a young girl for getting pregnant is counter-productive. Instead of changing the girl’s behavior, the report says, society should change its attitudes and actions.
Among the recommendations for reducing adolescent pregnancy with its related risks, the report suggests keeping girls in school, stopping child marriage, and providing adolescents with access to sexual and reproductive health, including contraception.
By Lisa Schlein
30 October 2013
Obstetricians and gynecologists, ministers, public health specialists and civil society organizations convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 2-5 October at the First International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Africa Regional Conference to discuss ways of improving maternal and child health in Africa.
Speaking at the opening, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Luiz Loures highlighted the link between HIV and maternal and child health. He called for women’s health and HIV communities to closely work together to increase access to life-saving health services to reach the most marginalized in society. He also stressed the need to uphold the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be living with HIV than men, accounting for 58% of the 22.1 million adults who were living with HIV in the region in 2012. Young women are particularly at risk of HIV infection–– around 28% of all new adult HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among young women between the ages of 15-24. HIV is also a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and has a major impact on child health and mortality, mainly through the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
Dr Loures congratulated FIGO on its visionary and bold work on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. He also underscored UNAIDS commitment to strengthening its collaboration with FIGO to raise political visibility and engage women’s networks on HIV and sexual and reproductive rights issues to reduce AIDS related maternal and child mortality.
Human rights must be at the centre of our practice as everyone has a right to live. Our primary commitment as physicians is to save lives.
Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme
FIGO looks forward to active collaboration with UNAIDS to ensure the protection of the rights of women living with HIV regarding access to their services in the health sector.
Professor Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, FIGO President
Ethiopia has made excellent progress towards achieving the millennium development goals on maternal and child health and we are grateful for the assistance from our partners, such as FIGO and UNAIDS.
Dr Amir Amare, State Minister at the Federal Ministry of Health – Ethiopia
African Women MPs Discuss Family Planning
Kampala — African women MPs and leaders want parents to allow their teenage daughters to access family planning and reproductive health services with a view of bringing down the increasing cases of early and unwanted pregnancies, risky abortions and maternal deaths.
The women leaders on a two-day capacity building meeting that opened on Sunday at Speke Resort Munyonyo discussed ways on how they can reposition family planning and reproductive health on the development agenda of their respective government budgets.
The meeting was organized by Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPDARO) in collaboration with the Health Policy Project and drew participants from Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana and Uganda the host.
Former Kalangala district Woman MP, Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma, who is a member of the African Women Leaders’ Network said that one of the major objectives of the meeting is to ensure leaders push issues of family planning and reproductive health in their countries to get increased funding.
Increased funding, she pointed out, would be key in lowering the infant and maternal mortality rates and make family planning services accessible to all women.
Amid such efforts, most parents, especially mothers still carry a negative attitude of family planning and reproductive health to their teenage daughters, said Kavuma.
And the mindset is that some mothers think that by letting their teenage daughters to access family planning services, it would lead them into promiscuity.
“But parents ought to explain all issues around family planning and reproductive health to their teenage girls so that they are aware of the outcomes of any activity they might desire to involve themselves in, including early sex,” she said.
The former lawmaker underscored the need for parents to let their teenage daughters access family planning contraceptives because of the potential of early exposure to sexual activity.
“We want parents to allow the teenage girls to attend family planning meetings at various health facilities so that they can access information and services that can help them to avoid early sex and pregnancies and how to deal with all issues around reproductive health.”
Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, the PPDARO director said there is need for African governments to increase funding towards family planning services.
He said, in Uganda for example, at least 34% of couples desire to have family planning services to space their births but cannot access them.
He went on to stress that efforts should be made to ensure this portion can have voluntary family planning services.
“If women can access voluntary family planning services, they will avoid risky and unwanted pregnancies and deaths, leading to spaced births that will be reflected in other sectors like gainful employment,” he said.
He explained that although Uganda has seen increased funding towards family planning in the last four years, there is still need to improve on policies that can benefit the grassroots women to access better health services.
Ellen Thokon Solomon from the Malawian parliament said many teenage girls in her country who became mothers disclosed that they had never received any information regarding family planning and therefore lacked knowledge on how to avoid early pregnancies.
Other young mothers in Malawi say, according to Solomon, that they would want to use family planning methods but cannot access the services or are not aware of facilities where they are available.
She therefore appealed for increased funding so that these services could be available to all women at the various lower health faculties.
By Eddie Ssejjoba
17 September 2013
Failure to include reproductive health for women as a priority affects sub-Saharan African economies, expert says
Failure for Sub-Saharan African countries to work towards achieving Millennium Development Goals on health will impact all other aspects of development including economic growth, Akatsa Bukachi, Director, Eastern Africa Sub-region Support Initiative for the Advancement of women (EASSI) has said.
Speaking to Africa Science News in Busia town, Bukachi said the Sub-Saharan Africa region is deficient in areas of reproductive health that is crucial for addressing the MDG on Children and maternal in health. Bukachi observed that reproductive health is fundamental in the advancement of women and girl child in Africa.
She noted that the African continent will only achieve its MDG on health if proper incentives to improve family planning, reduce maternal mortality and prevent HIV/Aids infections are prioritized. Family planning as a strong component of better reproductive health has steadily declined in the recent years in sub-Saharan Africa but it needs to be prioritised.
In the last 10 years, Sub-Saharan Africa region still grapples with the highest number of maternal mortality ratio of 500 maternal deaths in 100,000 lives.
Bukachi said that despite most countries in the region boasting that the number of women dying as a result of pregnancy and child birth-related complications has declined to 47 percent from more than 543,000 to 287,000 cases globally has been registered, nonetheless, the war against maternal mortality especially is far from over. She called for synergy to advocate for a strong pillar in reproductive health agenda.
The Director disclosed that reproductive health challenges are huge and women should take their positions in addressing the problems.
The Eastern Africa Sub-region Support Initiative for the Advancement of women is on the front to advocate for a complete diet and women girl child health situation in Eastern Africa Region.
In most cases in Africa continent, nutrition has always played out in the rising statistics of maternal mortality ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The organisation operates in eight Eastern Africa Countries namely Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia. Other countries in clued; Ethiopia, Rwanda, Eritrea and Burundi.
By Cheki Abuje
In Sierra Leone, “HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria Pose Serious Threats to Development in Africa”…President Koroma tells Counterparts
President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has said that HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pose serious threats to the socio-economic development of Africa.He made this statement on the occasion of the Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Monday 15th July, 2013.
The theme of the two-day summit is ‘Ownership, Accountability and Sustainability of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Response in Africa: Past, Present and the Future’.
President Koroma informed his colleague Heads of State and Government that Sierra Leone has drastically reduced HIV infections and was now aiming towards a zero tolerance plan against the malaise. Whilst acknowledging the challenges facing the fight, he however maintained, “We have shown leadership as a nation”.
The president also informed the Summit that in the fight against malaria & TB, the Government of Sierra Leone has made tremendous progress and was still making the necessary efforts to minimize the presence of these syndromes in the country.
President Koroma further used the platform to continue to appeal to donors to increase funding to enable performing governments accomplish their struggle against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis in Africa.He also called on all to renew their vow and fight against these diseases so that the continent will realize sustainable socio-economic development.
He commended his Nigerian counterpart His Excellency Goodluck Jonathan and the African Union for the initiative to organize a Special Summit to implement the Abuja Call for Accelerated Action towards Universal Access to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria treatment services in Africa.
In his opening remarks, the Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan said the presence of his colleagues at the Summit signifies the importance they attach to the development of Africa. He pointed out that these diseases were crucial to the socio-economic development of the continent and still remain major causes of morbidity and mortality. President Jonathan therefore urged his colleagues to give the relevant attention needed to address these syndromes.
Commending Global Fund for being the major funding agency that continues to sustain the fight against malaria, TB and AIDS, which he dubbed a “noble mission”, President Goodluck Jonathan called on his colleagues Heads of States and Government to take ownership of the process. He also implored them to sustain their commitment, noting that the Summit was also to review their total achievements so far and make a renewed commitment towards the challenge.
The President also acknowledged other development partners for their immense support and efforts towards the fight against malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the World’s thirty four million people living with HIV, 23.5 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 21 of the Global Plan’s 22 focus countries are in Africa. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there were about 219 million cases in 2010 and about 90% of the estimated 660,000 deaths from malaria in that year occurred in Africa. Africa also carries a large burden of the TB disease with 30% percent of the approximately 9 million new TB cases each year and 9 of the 22 most affected countries coming from Africa.
Recognizing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria and other related infectious diseases on the socio-economic development of Africa, the Heads of State and Government of Africa adopted the 2000 and 2001 Abuja Declarations and Action Frameworks committing Africa Union Member States to take measures to halt the progression of these diseases in Africa. This high level commitment, reinforced on multiple occasions at the continental level over the past five years, marked a turning point in the continental response to the three diseases stimulating a sharp increase in resources and the scaling-up of programs to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.
Although countries have strengthened their interventions in many of the priority targets set by the Abuja Call, they still continue to face constraints due to the lack of financial, material, technical and human resources for addressing health needs. Increase access to Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) is imperative. It is against this background that the Heads of State and Government during their Twentieth Ordinary Session of the January 2013 Summit held in Addis Ababa, endorsed the offer made by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to host the Special Follow-up Summit on the Abuja 2001 Africa Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other related communicable diseases in the third quarter of 2013 to address the numerous challenges that will enable Africa realize the Abuja Call objectives and the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on health.
On arrival in Abuja, Nigeria, President Koroma was received by the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Professor Sylvester Monye, where he was taken to CGOCC Company Limited for a brief presentation on projects undertaken by the company on hydro electricity and water supply.
By State House Communications
17 July 2013
Mlambo-Ngcuka was the first woman to hold the position of deputy president of South Africa, where she played a significant role in the country’s HIV program. Mlambo-Ngcuka was a chair of the South African National AIDS Council and took a lead in developing broader and more cohesive collaboration with civil society and international partners.
“Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka is a respected leader and brings with her a wealth of experience in promoting the human rights of women and girls,” Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, said. “She will be an important partner in the AIDS response as women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. We look forward to working closely with her to improve the lives of women and girls everywhere.”
UNAIDS said that respect for women’s reproductive and sexual health and gender equality are a necessity for effectively responding to HIV. Gender inequalities make girls and women more vulnerable to HIV and keep them from accessing HIV services.
U.N. Women was created in 2011 to provide a voice at national, regional and global levels for women’s equality and rights. The entity highlights the contributions and priorities of women living with or affected by HIV, contributing to the integration of gender aspects into policies developed by AIDS councils in more than 35 countries and regional programs.
Starting in June 2012, U.N. Women became the newest of UNAIDS’ 11 co-sponsoring organizations.
By Bryan Cohen
15 July 2013
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Coalition of the campaign, Africa for Womens’ Rights : Ratify and Respect reiterates its call for the continental ratification of this progressive instrument within the African human rights system and for its effective implementation.
Adopted on July 11, 2013, to complement and strengthen the articles of the African Charter related to the protection and promotion of women’s rights, the Maputo Protocol is an important instrument of reference. Its provisions, with regard to civil and political rights, physical and psychological integrity, sexual and reproductive health, non-discrimination, economic emancipation, among others, symbolise African States’ commitments to put an end to discrimination, violence and gender stereotypes against women.
« The adoption of the Maputo Protocol was an exceptional moment, historical for the realisation of the rights of women in Africa. Today, this instrument constitutes a model, a endless source of inspiration. Provided its ratification and full implementation, it can represent a real tool of action for the lasting transformation of our societies » declared Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the rights of women in Africa.
36 out of 54 member States of the African Union (AU) have so far ratified the Protocol, a clear victory for those who over the years have tirelessly mobilised and worked to achieve this goal. Moreover, in many countries, legal and institutional measures, such as laws prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence (Kenya, Liberia), criminalising domestic violence (Ghana, Mozambique), prohibiting female genital mutilation (Uganda, Zimbabwe) or establishing mechanisms mandated to promote women’s rights (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal), have accompanied these ratifications.
See the interview of Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on the rights of women in Africa, on the progress made and challenges remaining since the adoption of the Protocol (interview conducted on 10 July 2013)
Despite these notable achievements, there are still some obstacles to the full realisation of women’s rights on the continent. Eighteen (18) states , have still not ratified the Protocol, and in several of these countries – including Sudan, Central African Republic or Egypt, which still facing serious political crisis or situations of armed conflicts – women continue to be the main targets of violence, discrimination and stigmatisation.
For Sheila Nabachwa, FIDH Vice President and Ag. Deputy Executive Director (Programs) at the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI – Uganda), «Non-State Parties should understand that, today, the trend goes on the other side. 10 years after its adoption, it is time for these States to ratify the Protocol and accept that the guarantee and protection of women’s fundamental rights can no longer suffer from political, cultural or religious considerations or pretexts ».
In State Parties, several of the rights enshrined in the Protocol, or provided within national laws, are yet to be fully implemented. In DRC, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, thousands of women victims of sexual violence continue to demand justice and compensation; in Uganda, they are still waiting for equality within the family to be recognised ; in Nigeria, they continue to fight for their right to property to become a reality. Unfortunately, most of the State Parties do not respect their obligation, under article 26 of the Protocol, to indicate, in their periodic reports submitted to the ACHPR, the measures undertaken for the full realisation of women’s rights as provided within the Maputo Protocol.
«The adoption of the Maputo Protocol by African States represented a formidable progress from a legal point of view ; its effective implementation should now symbolise the respect of the obligations they have freely consented to abide by » declared Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.
On this tenth anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, the Coalition of the Campaign Africa for Women’s Rights: Ratify and Respect pays tribute to the determination and courage of the women and men who advocate tirelessly to ensure that the rights guaranteed in the Maputo Protocol are not lost. In this regard, our Coalition notes with concerns the repeated attacks in several countries against women activists, a phenomenon that must be taken seriously and to which States must respond without delay. The Coalition of the Campaign calls on all national, regional and international actors to join the considerable efforts that are made on a daily basis for the ratification and enforcement of the Maputo Protocol.
SOURCE : International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)10 July 2013
The United Nations designates every July 11 to highlight issues related to population growth, including environmental sustainability, global development, health care and youth empowerment.
With 16 million girls under 18 giving birth and 3.2 million of these teens experiencing unsafe abortions each year, the U.N. has focused the theme of 2013′s World Population Day on teenage pregnancy, highlighting the important role that teen girls play in positively impacting future generations and underscoring the importance of providing them with adequate health care and educational resources.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a statement today raising awareness about the dangers and complications of unplanned teenage pregnancies.
“Complications from pregnancy and childbirth can cause grave disabilities, such as obstetric fistula, and are the leading cause of death for these vulnerable young women,” he wrote. “Adolescent girls also face high levels of illness, injury and death due to unsafe abortion.”
The Secretary-General also proposed various solutions to address core issues of the teen pregnancy epidemic.
“To address these problems, we must get girls into primary school and enable them to receive a good education through their adolescence. When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income,” he stated.
Several nonprofits worldwide have taken to Twitter to highlight the issue of population growth and this year’s theme of teen pregnancy.
By Nader Salass
11 July 2013
The Health Department wants to use antiretrovirals to treat patients with a CD4 count of 500 or more next year, as recommended by the World Health Organisation’s new guidelines.
Currently pregnant women and patients with a CD4 count (a measure of immunity) of 350 or less qualify for treatment.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told The Times: “The guidelines we are currently following are from WHO, so I see no reason why we should not adopt the new guidelines. If they come with new guidelines, ours is to follow.”
But activists and doctors say the department needs to sort out its drugs stocks first.
On Sunday, the UN organisation announced the new guidelines. It said because treatment makes HIV-positive people less infectious, giving it to more people would save millions of lives by 2020.
South Africa has 2million people on ARVs, a regime that resulted in life expectancy jumping by six years last year.
Professor Francois Venter, of the HIV Clinicians’ Society, said doctors debated giving ARVs to healthier people extensively last year.
He said that giving ARVs to a million more people would create jobs and keep people in the health system.
“Patients hate being told to come back later [to get treatment].”
But, he said, “It would have been good to sort out supply issues first.”
However, with more people on treatment for longer, there is a greater chance of people developing resistance to the drugs, as happened with TB medications.
This can result in premature deaths.
Venter said the research on starting treatment earlier has not factored in “drug interruptions that we are seeing throughout our region”.
Mluleki Zazini, general secretary of the National Association for People Living with HIV and Aids, said his organisation had raised concerns about ARV stocks.
Zazini said Motsoaledi had promised to implement a centralised hi-tech stock-monitoring system for drugs.
By SIPHO MASOMBUKA and KATHARINE CHILD
5 July 2013