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Civil society, parly urged to join forces

by Sunday Express
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SADC PF Secretary-General Dr Esau Chiviya

SADC PF Secretary-General Dr Esau Chiviya

Pascalinah Kabi

CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) and parliamentarians have been urged to collaborate and handle with due care sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) and HIV/AIDS issues.

Addressing a two-day workshop dealing with CSOs, SRHR and HIV/AIDS, Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) Secretary-General, Dr Esau Chiviya, said the topics required a multidimensional approach and due diligence.

The workshop, which was held in Maseru and ended on Friday, was attended by experts and practitioners in the SRHR and HIV/AIDS sectors.

It was part of SADC PF’s efforts to implement the SRHR, HIV/AIDS Governance Project which seeks to build the capacity of female parliamentarians in particular and parliaments in general to advocate for universal access to SRHR. The workshop also sought to review and prioritise the activities CSOs and parliament could collaborate on.

Lesotho is one of seven countries in the region participating in the four-year project funded by the Swedish government.

“Oftentimes accountability is weakened by lack of clarity on who should do what, on what, among others. In this case, whether parliamentary committees, hearings, service delivery grievances procedures, citizen consultation or community-based accountability systems can work will depend on how best CSOs and parliaments reinforce one another,” Dr Chiviya said.

“We know in dealing with SRHR, HIV/AIDS inherently touches on sensitive and difficult issues that do not easily lend themselves into certain corridors of power – like the status of women, traditional customs, and different forms of sexuality, sex work, harmful traditional practices and drug use.”

He said any response to SRHR and HIV should address the issues with “evidence, courage, openness and frank pragmatism”.

“Addressing these issues is something which cannot be done by one person or one organisation alone. Each partner involved – the United Nations family, governments, tradition, religious and human rights organisations among others – must endeavour to work with others in a spirit of understanding and cooperation,” Dr Chiviya said.

“HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and rights require a multidimensional approach which must be executed with necessary diligence and sensitivity.”

Turning to the parliamentarians, he said they played an integral role in country-level actions necessary to addressing SRHR and HIV/AIDS issues.

“In the discharge of their role of representing their constituents, parliamentarians need to participate in awareness creation and in the development of political support for SRHR, HIV/AIDS,” added Dr Chiviya.

Addressing the same workshop, National Aids Commission (NAC) Director of Programmes Ratlala Palo Montši said parliamentarians needed to be empowered by various stakeholders to tackle SRHR and HIV/AIDS issues.

“For our members of parliament to effectively respond to SRHR, HIV/AIDS governance-related challenges, they need to be empowered and supported by various stakeholders including parliament staff, experts within the CSO sector among others,” Mr Montši said.

“NAC regards MPS and CSOs as powerful bodies that have a platform to influence society and enable people to demand for and receive the fair share of the cake, so to speak, in sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS governance.”

For his part, National Assembly Assistant Deputy Clerk Mosito Lelimo said the august house was willing to work with CSOs, adding the latter should also reciprocate.

“The need for CSOs to effectively engage the legislature as partners on SRHR programme execution cannot be overemphasized. As a custom, we all know the National Assembly of Lesotho is open to work with CSOs through the SRHR, HIV/AIDS Governance Project. Civil society should reciprocate by adding value to the parliamentary processes,” Mr Lelimo said.


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