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Roundtable meeting on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Namibia

Namibia holds roundtable on sexual and reproductive health and rights

28 March 2019

The Ombudsman of Namibia has convened a roundtable on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with support from the Commonwealth.

The First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, opened the event. Speaking in her keynote address she said: “We normally look at these issues from a health perspective, but you've extended that angle to a rights perspective.  We must not only plan for now with regards to SRHR but also plan for future generations.”

Namibia’s ombudsman, John Walters, discussed how best to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals - specifically good health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5) and overcoming inequality (SDG 10).  The event was attended by government and parliamentary representatives, faith leaders, women’s rights organisations, young women and delegates from marginalised communities.   

Discussion focused on target 5.6 of the SDGs, which calls on states to ‘ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,’ so that women have control over matters related to their sexuality, free from coercion, discrimination and violence.  Indicators of success relate to the prevalence of contraception, meeting family planning demands and ending harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting.  Namibia’s national gender policy acknowledges that gender equality cannot be achieved without improving the health of women throughout their life-cycle.

Margaret Mensah-Williams, chairperson of the National Council, highlighted the critical role of parliament in the promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights: “As a lawmaker, I want us to start talking about decriminalizing abortion.” 

She continued: “This conference actually brings stakeholders together from all walks of life, who can come and start to speak about the uncomfortable issues in order for us to have better provision of services as well as policies and laws.  It is an opportunity for us to move from talking to action.”

At the end of the two-day meeting, constitutional and human rights legal expert Nico Horn said: “One of the most important aspects of this dialogue was the very strong unity on controversial issues. This is the beginning of a road and the foundation has been laid.”