Hivos Southern Africa today joins the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, whose 2016 theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”, by drawing attention to our Sexual Reproductive Health Rights programme in Southern Africa that aims to raise the profile of SRHR, particularly among women and young people.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights issues, especially gender-based violence and adolescent girls’ vulnerability to child, early and forced marriage, unintended pregnancy, and HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, drastically impede girls’ and women’s development.
Hivos’ women’s rights work has a long history. For decades, we have been supporting women worldwide to organise themselves and become a countervailing power in their societies. The right to exercise control over one’s own sexuality and reproduction is fundamental for all people. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are no more than the equal opportunities, rights and conditions all people should enjoy to have a safe and satisfying sexual life and be able to decide over their own bodies without coercion, violence or discrimination.
Established in 2010, the SRHR Fund fosters improved regional partnerships and collaboration to address critical barriers to SRHR rights and the provision of SRHR services. These include the lack of policy, programming or government will, inflexible social norms and beliefs about sexuality and women’s position in society, as well as a reluctance to take the lead in embracing systemic change.
The SRHR Fund was also established because of the urgent need to address SRHR in Southern Africa, where HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, opposition to safe abortion, repression of LGBT groups, and unfair treatment and rejection of sex workers at health clinics represent some of the ongoing obstacles to achieving sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
To address some of these issues, the Fund provides support to rally key regional stakeholders together, including civil society organisations (CSOs), donors and other relevant regional institutions such as SADC, to discuss SRHR tactics and concerns and share best practices. The Fund provides technical support and capacity building to enable organisations to achieve their SRHR objectives and to identify priority needs for policies, programming, advocacy or other concrete actions.
The Fund also seeks to develop, test and document approaches that can be adapted to other countries in the region, coordinate efforts on regional policy development and programming and improve efforts to integrate SRHR considerations into key regional institutions such as SADC that play a critical role in influencing Member States to collectively tackle the challenges associated with SRHR.
In October 2015, the Fund convened a regional meeting on SRHR and commissioned a survey to better understand the regional SRHR programming context. This will sharpen strategic collaboration and information sharing between different role players.
The Fund’s website on regional SRHR gathers and makes knowledge accessible to stakeholders and offers a space for civil society to share knowledge, collaborate on joint SRHR efforts or organise advocacy campaigns.