East African activists assemble to underpin sexual rights and reproductive health

Regional leaders have convened in Rwanda to find support on sexual health and reproduction [Imagea: courtesy]
Rwanda—East African Civil Society groups have assembled in Rwanda, Kigali for a two-day conference to discuss, share, and foster partnerships on access to safe abortion and sexual reproductive health lessons to teenage and grown females.

It is assembled, hatched, and sponsored by a coalition of Health Development Initiative (HDI), Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD), Ihorere Munyarwanda (IMRO), and Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS.

This happens at a moment when the long-awaited sexual and reproductive health bill, which has been with the regional parliament for years now, has been brought to life.

While initiating the conference, the Executive Director of HDI, Aflodis Kagaba noted that participants from different countries were converging to learn from each other and to share best practices, challenges and how best the countries in the region can form partnerships to advance reproductive health.

“If we talk about safe abortion, it is obvious that all our countries are not at the same level. We have some countries where GBV is still high, where safe abortion is still treated as a taboo subject. We have to work together and ensure no one dies in our region due to lack of access to safe abortion,” he spoke.

According to a report A (2015), released by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute in partnership with the University of Rwanda’s School of Public Health and the Ministry of Health indicates that about 18,000 women and girls in Rwanda require treatment annually from the effects of unsafe abortion.

The report indicated that about 60,000 abortions are carried out in Rwanda annually and the government spends $1.7 million (Rwf1.1 billion) annually on treatment for complications resulting from unsafe abortion.

However, it does not indicate the financial toll unsafe abortions and their consequences have on the women who seek them.

“We have different sets of skills and ideas, and we want to exchange our experiences and scale up our partnership through common strategies, research, and advocacy methodologies. Let us use this conference to learn what each one of us is doing in the areas of SRHR and access to safe abortion and how we can foster partnerships that can help us to do even better,” Kagaba said.

Fortunate Kagumaho, the Communication Coordinator of Reproductive Health Uganda, while reasoning on the matter, demonstrated some of the SRHR inequalities still present in his country more specifically in cases of access to safe abortion.

Recalling that in Uganda, 16 women die every day because of pregnancy-related complications, and of those deaths, eight percent are a result of unsafe abortion.

“If you put 16 women in a car every day and it crashes, that would be a national issue. So why is it happening in Uganda, and no one is saying anything?” he wondered.

Underlining that the high number of unsafe abortions should be a matter of concern as this contradicts the commitments made when countries signed to deliver Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals that states that countries will ensure good health and wellbeing.

 

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