The WITS AFSA Young researchers symposium on LGBTIQ+ communities at the center of SRHR advocacy in Africa began with a flash mob.

 

The Sex Rights Africa Network has 24 delegates from the Eastern and Southern Africa Region attending the 2018 Africa Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health (ACSRH), including 12 representatives from Youth-led and youth-focused organisations. During the conference, delegates were asked to report back on sessions with brief takeaway messages, statistics and quotes from the sessions. You can find the first day’s reports posted here.

 

Read more about the conference below.

WOMAN UP – Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Africa – is the theme of the 8th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights, which includes a two-day event focused on youth and the ‘demographic dividend’.

The conference, hosted by Youth Lab, takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 12-16 February 2018.  The Sex Rights Africa Network is a partner, supporting 50 youth organisations from across Eastern and Southern Africa to participate. Network members are also running a series of  exciting skills-sharing and advocacy activities to build the movement for sexual and reproductive health rights.

Africa has made progress in improving the health and well-being of communities over  the past decade. Access to sexual and reproductive health services has increased, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced, overall HIV incidence has declined and a steady rise in use of contraceptives has cut unwanted and early pregnancies.

Yet these gains are not evenly spread. Gender-based violence and poor implementation of policies leave girls and women, young people in general and minorities such as LGBTIQ+ people and migrants vulnerable. Social, cultural, political and economic determinants of poor SRH outcomes are entrenched and show no signs of abating.

The continent faces tremendous challenges related to poverty and inequality,  unemployment, conflict, humanitarian disasters and environmental degradation.

Expansion  of education opportunities and rising literacy rates have not been matched with adequate or effective investment in developing  the skills needed to create jobs. More needs to be done to bring young people, women and girls particularly, into the paid workforce.

The African Union (AU) has driven many policies and commitments aimed at improving the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls. Some of these efforts include:

  • The Maputo Plan of Action for the Operationalization of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Continental Policy Framework 2016-2030
  • Campaign for Accelerating Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) 2009
  • Africa Union Gender Policy 2009
  • Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights on the right of women in Africa 2003
  • AU Campaign to End Child Marriage 2014
  • African Youth Charter 2006
  • Africa Health Strategy 2016-2030
  • Catalytic Framework to End AIDs, TB, and eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030
  • Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want
  • AU Campaign for the Decriminalisation of Abortion 2016
  • African Leaders’ Declaration on Safe, Legal Abortion 2017
  • Declaration of AU 2017 theme of the year as “The Year of Harnessing Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”

There is an urgent need for greater regional and south-south collaboration to put these commitments into practice. Sustainable, low-tech, cost-effective methods and approaches are needed to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of  people in Africa, especially women and girls and youth.

The 8th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR) brings together young women and youth serving and leading organizations, sexual health and rights experts, population and development experts, researchers and civil society organizations with representatives of the African Union Commission,  the United Nations, government officials and parliamentarians, business people and other stakeholders. It aims to  contribute Innovative ideas and effective actions to ensure a sexually healthy Africa.

Conference objectives are:

  • To pubicise and sensitise participants on the AU Conventions, Instruments, Protocols and Policies to advance adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • To facilitate knowledge sharing on best practices in policy, programming and new innovations contributing to improved sexual and reproductive health;
  • To create platforms for inter/multi-country/sectorial networking among stakeholders;
  • To propose actions to promote women’s and adolescent’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in the implementation of ICPD Beyond 2014, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, the 2017 AU Roadmap for the Demographic Dividend and Agenda 2063, through investment in empowerment, education and employment.

Programme

The programme will be built on the proceedings of the previous conference and will be structured around three thematic plenary sessions:

a) Harnessing the demographic dividend toward improved sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa for women and young people;

b) The Sustainable Development Goals – understanding the new global agenda and its linkages with sexual and reproductive health and rights – leaving no one behind;

c) “Rights-based Approaches to women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health”.

Youth Pre-conference – 12 to 13 February 2018

Youth from across the continent will gather ahead of ACSHR to  reflect on efforts to realise young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights, and propose ways to fix what is not working. Their messages and ideas will be shared at the opening of the main conference.

Youth Programme

The programme will centre on the African Union Road Map on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Young People. Youth delegates will exchange knowledge, gain skills and collaborate on strategies for SRHR advocacy. Workshops, debates, technology  sessions and cultural activities will address topics as diverse as economic empowerment, comprehensive sexuality education, gender equality – including the role of men and boys in transforming social norms – youth-friendly health services and inclusion of marginalised groups such as LGBTIQ+ people, people with disabilities and sex workers.

You can find the programme here. Join in the discussions and get regular updates on Facebook and Twitter.