Today May 28th on the international day of action for women’s health, people all over the globe are advocating for the recognition of women’s and girls’ right to health in particular their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). SRHR is an essential part of universal health coverage, which is more than the absence of disease or dysfunction and ensures overall physical, emotional, mental, and social health and well-being. It encompasses human rights related to sexuality and reproduction, such as sexual health, sexual rights, reproductive health, and reproductive rights. Everyone, including women, girls, adolescents, and gender-expansive persons are entitled to enjoy their SRHR freely and without judgment.
Today as we celebrate the International day of action for women’s health in Africa our theme is centered around a call to action to #ResistAndPersist in guaranteeing that all not just some women’s health matters and that SRHR is essential. In Africa, two-thirds of illnesses that women and girls in their diversities experience are caused by sexual and reproductive health problems. There is a huge unmet need for contraceptives, lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education, health budget cuts, lack to access to safe abortion services, high maternal mortality, and the response to the pandemic adversely affected access to SRHR services and information for all women, girls and gender-expansive persons.
As we still continue to deal with the impact of the pandemic, and as countries roll out pandemic recovery plans, we must hold our governments accountable for the right to health for all African women, girls, and gender-expansive persons. The gendered impacts of the pandemic are still unaddressed to date, including loss of livelihood, increased unpaid care burdens on women and girls, heightened risks to gender-based violence, and barriers to accessing essential sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion and post-abortion care. We need to speak with one voice today and every day that women’s health matters and SRHR is essential even during a pandemic.
So in response to the call to resist and persist, we asked our alumni to tell us why SRHR is essential and this is what they said.
We no longer want promises from our governments and as the alumni have said, African governments must act to prioritize women’s health especially SRHR. So today we ask our governments to:
- Prioritize health financing in line with the Abuja Declaration and SDG goal 3 target to enable access to affordable and quality Sexual and Reproductive Health information and services for African women, girls, and gender-expansive persons in their diversities.
- We demand the passage and implementation of progressive and inclusive policy and legal frameworks such as the East Africa Community – Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill.