29TH – 31ST MARCH 2023



Director of Ceremonies- Hon Anele Ndebele

Dr Ntombi Muchuchuti- ARASA Executive Director

Mr Bramwell kamudyariwa- ARASA Board Chair

Mr Cecil Jaurakouje Nguvauve- SG South Africa broadcasting Association

Hon Members of Parliament

Ms Helena Vikstrom- representing Sida

Executive directors of SAT, AYAREP

The youth of this region

Government representatives




Allow me to stand on the already established protocol comrades. Let me just say, Hon Members, Dear Colleagues, youth, Sida and distinguished participants,

In my capacity as Secretary General to the SADC Parliamentary Forum, it is with immense pleasure that I appear to deliver this keynote address to this august audience gathered under the auspices of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa.

As you are aware, the Forum has always been consistently in favour of collaborative initiatives forged by stakeholders with Parliament to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa and we believe that the need to re-flect and re-engage constitutes a continuous duty if we are to make sustained progress in implementing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).

You will concur with me that the SRHR landscape across SADC is ever evolving. Organisations such as ARASA and SAT and other likeminded Civil Society Organisations consistently chase for reforms, and once a reform is conducted, there is a need to quickly shift to other advocacy priorities, to keep the overall SRHR momentum alive.

Moreover, it is often the case that synchronised reforms are required to be conducted in different fields for SRHR progress to be made. If we for instance take the example of the protection of bodily autonomy of women, we know this reform will not be properly conducted unless there are continuous sexual education campaigns in parallel which support women’s understanding of issues such as informed consent during medical treatment, or freedom of choice with regards to partners.

Furthermore, Government agendas are also changing with time and we have seen it with the COVID-19 period in the last 2 years which suddenly caused an urgent need for countries to consolidate their framework for Gender-Based Violence. More recently, the passage of cyclone Freddy in a number of countries including Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, has put to the forefront how women and young girls are disproportionately affected by climate disasters.

We cannot stay inert to these glaring needs for changes on the SRHR landscape.

It is also true that the very essence of a democracy is to go through successive electoral cycles which may cause a turnover of Parliamentarians, thus leading to evolving parliamentary policies to address SRHR.

More often than not, advocacy priorities thus shift over time, and we as stakeholders involved in reform need to constantly re-actualise our situational analysis of the SRHR landscape and be surgical in our approach to SRHR advocacy.

If SRHR is not a stagnant topic, then our methods to address it must also evolve.

As advocates, we are vested with the delicate task of finding a constant thread to enable progress in SRHR, despite changing circumstances, shifting priorities of Governments, and already burdened state budgets. Consistent consultation and introspection are thus a prerequisite to remain relevant and incisive in SRHR interventions.

As stakeholders involved in SRHR reform, we need to enhance our analytic lens and up our game. There is a need to innovate in our approach to disseminate and react to SRHR information, disinformation and misinformation.

Today, we live in a mediatic world which is interspersed by diverse social media experiences. Increasingly around the world, it has been noted that viewers are more inclined to watch news snippets (TikTok) on social media than through television broadcasts. These changing viewer attitudes call for a rethinking in the way SRHR dissemination is conducted, with social media handles now complementing mainstream media.

Not long ago, there was an incident in a hospital in the region where a stillbirth has happened after a full pregnancy due partly to lack of trained SRHR personnel, and most people learned about it first through social media, then switched to their TVs to watch the longhand media broadcast.  This is quite telling of the way people react nowadays to SRHR infringements and how they interface with media platforms.  

On this score, it is also interesting to note that for good or bad, Ministries and departments are less reactive to social media than other private stakeholders. One would often find that SRHR infringements reported in social media find their way to Parliament as oversight questions, but yet this would be the first time when the Executive formally takes cognisance of the issue.

This in turn has its implications on the way SRHR is being implemented. In other words, the media can be a powerful tool, and stakeholders involved in SRHR reform need to reflect on how best to use mediatic tools to engage citizens and MPs on the one hand, and on the other hand policymakers within Ministries and departments.

There is also a need to realise that while some topics such as comprehensive sexuality education can be conveniently communicated through the media, there are issues such as  safe abortion, Early and Unintended Pregnancies and the elimination of child marriage which are not easy to get across and need a holistic advocacy approach. Each stakeholder would thus need to devise their own media solutions to disseminate SRHR in their respective fields and there is no one-size-fits-all formula, hence the importance to rethink processes through this Symposium.

Hon members, Dear Colleagues and distinguished participants,It is now a well-known fact that Africa is the continent with the most significant youth population.

According to statistics, the percentage of youth in Africa in 2030 would be over 40% making Africa the country with the most promising work force to act as the driving engine for major labour-intensive industries worldwide. This also means that SRHR in Africa will undeniably remain a vivid subject over the next 15 years.

Hence, there is a constant need to involve the youth in brainstorming exercises for SRHR reforms, and I am elated to note that this Symposium has envisaged for the representation of youth organisations. We keenly look forward to hear their voices in the sessions to come in the next few days.

At this juncture, I wish to encourage all stakeholders to contribute abundantly to this engagement process as I firmly believe that these few days will be an eye-opening experience not only for the convening organisation, but also for partners attending who wish to recraft or refine their SRHR advocacy strategies.

I am pleased to note that during the next few days, there will be a diversified assortment of stakeholders and panellists intervening, including media representatives, prominent CSOs as well as parliamentary representatives. These reflections aim to foster participatory democracy which implies that continuous consultation is required with all stakeholders to reach consensus on prioritised actions to be taken for the benefit of the citizenry.

While participatory democracy also means directly giving the voice to citizens through SRHR public awareness campaigns or public hearings, it also entails that stakeholder consultations of this nature should thrive in order to delineate the SRHR issues which are most relevant to citizens.

Hon members, Dear Colleagues and distinguished participants,

I wish to equally encourage stakeholders to consider and apply their minds to the new SRHR topics which are being dealt with through the agenda of this Symposium.

Indeed, the themes of climate change, migration and the technological aspects of SRHR, are important for consideration and require lateral thinking to find innovative solutions which can interest policy makers and be reflected into law. Whilst reflecting on these new areas, you may wish to also consult the SADC Model Law on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and the SADC Model Law on Public Financial Management (PFM), recently adopted by the Forum, which provide for frameworks to address SRHR gaps within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, there is also a need to reflect on how to achieve SRHR certainty once a positive reform has been achieved. Recently, we have seen how a repressive law against the LGBTIQ have been passed in Uganda, a country which literally borders the SADC region. As SRHR stakeholders, there is a need to think how to engage the executive, law societies and the judiciary to adopt a system of judicial precedents which protect human rights including SRHR such that a reversal of acquired rights does not take place.

For this to happen, there is a need for Constitutions to be robust and for SRHR laws which are enacted to contain protective clauses, for instance, to guard that amendments cannot happen except by a qualified majority. Such solutions to make strong laws which are backed by a robust Bill of Rights are not straightforward and need to be arrived at through consultation and rethinking processes. The bottom line here is that much more work needs to be done to ensure SRHR certainty in the coming years in order to ensure that the gains made are not lost and remain sustainable.

I am sure that in the coming days, you will turn to discuss some of these new issues which indeed give credence to the dynamism associated with SRHR and the need to continually re-engage and re-integrate.

Dear Colleagues and distinguished participants,

As I end this keynote address, I wish to further encourage stakeholders to work with the Forum and with its Member Parliaments across the SADC region. Ultimately, reforms must lead to Parliament for them to have any legal effect since Parliament is the only sovereign entity empowered to adopt national legislation of general application to all citizens. Parliament is also the only entity able to exercise consistent oversight over SRHR initiatives and programmes run by the Executive.

Parliaments as agents of socio-economic change are thus uniquely situated to deliver the SRHR reforms that you wish to see implemented.

There is thus impactful value in working with Parliaments on SRHR proposals for reform, and to re-engage and re-integrate taking into consideration the valuable views of Parliamentarians.

This Symposium thus augurs well for a change in strategy where a rethinking and remoulding of ideas can be conducted on how best to engage with Parliaments to bring about SRHR improvements for the region.

With these words, I thank you for your kind attention.

Thank you.

Ms Boemo M.Sekgoma,

Secretary General


29th March 2023




About Us

The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) was established in 1997 in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty as an autonomous institution of SADC It is a regional inter-parliamentary body composed of Thirteen (14) parliaments representing over 3500 parliamentarians in the SADC region. Read More

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