Speaker of the National Assembly, Rt Honorable Ms Nelly B K Mutti, MP has urged the new crop of MPs to acquaint themselves with the Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) HIV/AIDS and Governance project. The project which is an initiative of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) and fully supported technically and financially by the Swedish Government was launched in 2019, and will end in 2022.

Speaking during the official opening of the two days orientation and training workshop for Members of Parliament on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights HIV/AIDS Governance Project at Ciela Resort, Dr Christopher Kalila MP, who delivered the Speech on behalf of the Speaker informed the meeting that, the main focus of the Project is to empower MPs with the knowledge and information that will enable them to interrogate policy and legal frameworks governing SRHR, with a view to identifying, if any, gaps that may need to be filled. 

Speaker Mutti added that, the project focuses on the unique roles of MPs namely; oversight, legislative, budget and representative functions and how these can be leveraged to respond to those policy and legal gaps that will be identified in the course of the activity as well as in future engagements.

It was stressed that, the project is not only Parliament-centric but draws interest and expertise from other stakeholders such as some UN Agencies and Civil Society Organisations. This was due to the fact that SRHR issues cut across different divides and require a holistic approach in addressing the challenges thereof. It was noted that, in this regard, the UN Agencies and some CSOs have undertaken tremendous work in this field and are a depository of critical information at the disposal of the parliamentarians for them to influence legislative and policy changes.

Speaking at the same event, Swedish Ambassador to Zambia, Ambassador Anna Maj Hultgard said, Sweden attaches great importance to SRHR across the world and this is evidenced through political dialogue, public diplomacy and development cooperation and engagement with relevant stakeholders. She narrated that, Swedish development cooperation is guided by Sweden’s overarching feminist foreign and development cooperation policy, whose overall objective is to create preconditions for better living conditions for people living in poverty and under oppression. She stated that Sweden has noted, with concern, trends in the principles of democracy being under threat globally including Europe.  She reaffirmed that Sweden will continue to stand up for democratic principles in all contexts, including citizen participation in human rights, representative government, separation of powers, the functioning of the rule of law, free media, independent institutions, and equality and social integration.  Ambassador Hultgard noted that SRHR, particularly Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), plays a very important role in this context. 

She applauded the efforts of the National Assembly of Zambia for upholding the implementation of the CSE in Zambia and emphasized the need for Parliament to engage with technical partners and CSOs to ensure that the SRHR of the citizens of Zambia are recognized and upheld.

 Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Zambia Resident Coordinator, Dr Tharcisse Barihuta USAIDs Country Director commended the National Assembly for convening the meeting aimed at strengthening the capacity of Members of Parliament in contributing to improving health outcomes for adolescents and young people in Zambia. He thanked the government of Sweden for providing resources to implement the SADC SRHR project and commended the government of the Republic of Zambia, for its continued efforts to secure the future potentials of adolescents and young people through coordinated efforts that ensure access to quality education and skills as well as youth friendly sexual reproductive health services without leaving anyone behind.

Meanwhile, Ms Clare Musonda, Director of Corporate Governance at the SADC Parliamentary Forum, said the protection of human rights of SADC citizens’ lies at the heart of the SADC Parliamentary Forum activities and forms part of the Forum’s guiding principles.  Ms Musonda who delivered the remarks on  behalf of the Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Ms Boem Sekgoma stated that the forum strives to promote a culture of human rights, including civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights which emanate from generally accepted international human rights law. She added that the human rights theme cuts across all thematic areas of the Forum, including democracy and elections, peace and security, trade, extraction of mineral resources, natural resource governance, child marriage, gender equality and more importantly for our purposes today, SRHR and HIV/AIDS. 

The two days orientation workshop has been convened for parliamentarians from committees on Health; Community Development and Social Services; Education, Science and Technology; and Youth, Sport and Child Affairs.