CLERK of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda has challenged Members of Parliament to be articulate on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including HIV and Aids issues in order for Sadc countries to realise universal access of SRHR for their citizens, especially women and young girls.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Officially opening the Sadc Parliamentary Forum SRHR project in Harare yesterday, Chokuda called on regional parliaments to engage in robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks for SRHR initiatives in order to ensure they are implemented.
“Our region has suffered from the burden and ravages of HIV/Aids for close to three decades, and young people are faced with the dilemma of expressing and experimenting on their sexuality, leaving a trail of the HIV and Aids dilemma,” Chokuda said.
“These are dynamic issues that call for concerted multi-sectoral efforts where nobody – even people living with disabilities is excluded and it behoves all of us to treat these issues with the seriousness they deserve,” Chokuda said.
The Clerk of Parliament said the second SRHR project will now be implemented by Parliament of Zimbabwe after successful completion of the first phase of the project which started in 2014.
Some of the MPs from the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s Eighth session that were very vocal on SRHR issues include chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health Ruth Labode, chairperson of the Women and Youth Committee Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, outgoing Mabvuku Tafara MP James Maridadi, MDC legislator and chief whip Jasmine Toffa, and MDC-T chief whip in the National Assembly Innocent Gonese.
Sadc Parliamentary Forum (PF) HIV and Aids governance project researcher and coordinator Yeukai Chuma said MPs in the SRHR programme in Zimbabwe were articulate during debates in the House and committee work on different issues, such as provision of free sanitary wear, lowering of cost of blood products, adoption of Sadc model law on eradicating early child marriages, and several SRHR issues.
“During the implementation phase of the project, MPs would meet and interview different people, including children that were abused and when they told their stories of rape and early child marriages, MPs would even break down and cry. However, MPs were instrumental in, for example, signing a pledge against early child marriages and abuse of children,” Chuma said.
He said during implementation of SRHR projects and debate in Parliament, 59,9% of female MPs actively contributed to debate despite female legislators only constituting 35% of the Eighth Parliament.
Sadc PF director of programmes Boemo Sekgoma commended the Zimbabwe Parliament for successfully implementing the SRHR project through motions, committee work, public hearings and crafting of Bills.
Sekgoma encouraged ministries responsible for SRHR and civic society to engage with Parliament and provide technical support to ensure success of the project.