Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Justice Dr Patrick Matibini, SC, MCIArb, MP has urged female Members of Parliament to up their game in scrutinizing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) issues which include, among others, the levels of HIV and AIDS funding and determine whether these are adequate to finance the national HIV response.

Speaking at the National Multi-Stakeholder Training Workshop for Zambian women Parliamentarians on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, HIV/AIDS Governance held in Kafue on Saturday, 6th June, 2017, Speaker Matibini said workshops of this nature build the capacity of parliamentarians in taking up their leadership and advocacy roles on specific SRHR issues. He added that, with a built capacity, female parliamentarians can question policies on SRHR and areas in the country’s legislation which impede access to SRHR services for all.  The female parliamentarians were challenged to ensure that they play a leading role in advocating for quality SRHR service provision, given the fact that poor quality or inaccessibility of these services impacts on women and girls more than any segment of the population.

And speaking at the same function, Chairperson of the National Working group on the SRHR Project, Dr Christopher Kalila, MP said women suffer poor maternal and child health services more than their male counterparts.  He added that for this reason, parliamentarians, especially women parliamentarians are central to the full realization of equitable universal access to SRHR and HIV and AIDS service, including improved health and respect for human rights.  Dr Kalila stressed the need for parliamentarians to be knowledgeable with SRHR issues in order to be bold enough to confront gender inequalities and harmful cultural practices that weaken the promotion of women and girls’ rights.

Meanwhile, Acting Clerk of the National Assembly, Mrs Cecilia N Mbewe underscored the fact that the workshop had come at the right time when there are a number of emerging SRHR issues that require knowledgeable parliamentarians in order to effectively advocate for the full implementation by the government and other stakeholders of commitments on SRHR through various actions.  Mrs Mbewe urged the female parliamentarians to make the most of the workshop in coming up with best ways of effectively utilizing their legislative and oversight roles in order to ensure that emerging issues in SRHR, HIV/AIDS and Governance are fully addressed.

Speaking on behalf of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Secretary General, Director of Administration and Human Resource at the SADC Parliamentary Forum Mrs Yapoka Mungandi said implementation of progressive SRHR and HIV/AIDS and governance policies has been sluggish due to inadequate budgetary allocation towards programmes that target women and girls in particular.  She emphasized that this is a common challenge in the SADC region which is highly dependent on donor funding when it comes to SRHR and HIV/AIDS programmes.