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UNFPA working to end unwanted pregnancies, maternal deaths

Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative, Nuzhat Ehsan, says they are working on a five-year plan to ensure that all pregnancies are planned, every childbirth is safe and that every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

Ms Ehsan said this at a recently held workshop to sensitise journalists and enhance reporting of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender-based violence (GBV) issues held by the UNFPA.

The workshop was followed by a field trip to Machache in the Berea district where journalists were exposed to some of the GBV and SRHR cases and challenges.

Ms Ehsan said she believed that through partnership with the media, they can protect and promote the SRHR of women and girls and also fight GBV.

“These issues are pertinent to us as the UNFPA as they are about safeguarding the lives of the Basotho people,” Ms Ehsan said.

“They are also going to be extensively addressed in the five-year programme of assistance between UNFPA and the government beginning 2019. In this programme, which is aligned with the 2030 agenda — the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goals number 3, 4 and 5 on health, education and gender respectively and guided by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), we will strive to achieve three transformative results; ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning and ending GBV and harmful practices such as child marriage.”

She said the media was a crucial partner in efforts to reduce sexual gender-based violence and support promotion of access to SRHR and family planning services.

“As UNFPA, we are a United Nations agency that ensures that every pregnancy is a wanted one, every childbirth is safe and that every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

“We therefore believe that through a partnership with the media, together we can be able to protect and promote the reproductive health and rights of women and girls and also fight gender-based violence,” she said.

Presenting on family planning and contraceptives, UNFPA’s Tohlang Ngakana said women and adolescents’ right to contraceptive information and services is grounded in basic human rights.

“The programme of action of the international conference on population and development (ICPD) recognised “the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.” This agreement lays the foundation for much of UNFPA’s work,” Mr Ngakana said.

He said 67 percent of married women reported that they have never used not having used any family planning methods said that they intend to use a family planning method in the future.

He said 30 percent reported that they have no intention to use contraception while 3 percent are unsure if they will use contraceptives in the future.

In an interview with this publication during the field trip, mother of two, Semakaleng Machalotsa said she decided to use an implant contraceptive after her second child.

She however, said she was unsure about the method as she was aware of women who fell pregnant despite using the method.

“Children are expensive hence I decided to be on contraceptives. Although I have seen a number of incidents where women still fell pregnant despite being on contraceptives. However, I was willing to take my chances because I do not want any more children,” Machalotsa said.

A heavily pregnant mother who requested anonymity said the method had failed to work for her.

“I no longer wanted more children after my first hence I decided to get an implant but to my surprise I still fell pregnant,” she said adding that she would however try another method.

GBV and human rights programme officer at UNFPA, Matšeliso Khesa described GBV as an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on socially ascribed differences between males and females.

She said it includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such actions, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.

“The mandate of UNFPA worldwide is that policy, legal and accountability frameworks are strengthened to advance gender equality and empower women and young people, especially adolescent girls, to exercise their reproductive rights and to be protected from violence and harmful practices.”

Principal of Masapong Primary School in Machache, Phatsoane Phatsoane, said for the last two years, the rate at which children were abused in their homes has declined due to the measures they took as a school to ensure that the law takes its course.

He said they taught students about abuse and what do to when abused in their life skills subject.

“We have not had issues of pregnant students in a while now and for us that is good because I think what we do as a school working together with the police passes a strong message to the perpetrators not to abuse kids,” Mr Phatsoane said.

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