Seychelles organises first SADC women parliamentary conference |06 July 2017
The first SADC Women Parliamentary Conference to be held in Seychelles was officially opened yesterday at the Eden Bleu Hotel.
The two-day conference is the first event on the programme of the 41st Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) which the Seychelles National Assembly is hosting from July 5 to 15.
It is taking place under the theme ‘Women, the girl child and HIV/Aids, UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)’s Resolution 60/2’.
During the two days the conference delegates will discuss how to better engage parliaments to implement Resolution 60/2 of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Through the resolution the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) is calling on governments, international partners and civil society to give full attention to the high levels of new HIV infections among young women, adolescent girls and their root causes.
The objective of the conference is therefore mainly to rally parliamentary support to help close the gaps which leave women and young girls vulnerable to HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases.
President Danny Faure attended the opening session of the forum alongside two former African presidents and a former vice-president who are now also championing for an HIV-free generation. They are the former President of Namibia Hifikepunye Pohamba and former acting President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe as well as Dr Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, the first woman to hold the position of Deputy President of Uganda for almost 10 years.
Also gracing the event were several ministers, parliamentarians and speakers from the SADC region including Seychelles, reprentatives of civil society, UN organisations/agencies involved in the fight against HIV/Aids and other partners working with the SADC Parliamentary Forum(SADC PF).
The vice-president of SADC PF, Monica Mutsvangwa, declared open the conference on behalf of the forum’s president Fernando de Pledade Dias dos Santos, also the speaker of the National Assembly of Angola.
Several speakers delivered lengthy presentations during the opening ceremony of the conference and among them were Dr Jessie Kabwila, the Regional Women Parliamentary Caucus chairperson, Dr Wandira-Kazibwe and former presidents Pohamba and Motlanthe as well as the UNDP representative Charles Chauvel.
Speaker of the Seychelles National Assembly Patrick Pillay welcomed the delegates.
Buumba Malambo, a young councilor/politician from Zambia, made an impassioned appeal to the leaders and parliamentarians present to support laws that will change and improve the lives of the girl child in various parts of the African continent, including her country where some ancient cultural practices are still boosting the spread of HIV.
She gave moving examples of how young girls aged just 10 are forced into marriage with middle aged men and the resulting consequences that ensue, their impact on the young girls underdeveloped bodies, they suffer not only physical bodily harm but from the fact of having lost their childhood.
All the presentations focused on the important role of parliaments and the commitments of parliamentarians to push for laws that will urge societies to educate their women and girl child so they are empowered and can stand up for themselves, for laws that do not discriminate against women but provide for equal opportunities for all as well as educate society to protect their women.
As the Report of the UN’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law noted almost five years ago, root causes include a country’s laws on HIV and Aids.
There are evidence that an enabling legal environment, including one that ensures both the legal and practical equality of women and girls, is much more likely to result in lower rates of HIV infections than a punitive one that enshrines historical inequalities.
Parliaments have the power to repeal harmful laws and enact appropriate ones and through their oversight roles they can monitor and push for the effective implementation by the executive branch of government of good policies.
Through their representative roles parliamentarians can push to ensure the voices of the most vulnerable are brought to the table so that no-one is left behind.
Yesterday afternoon Dr Wandira-Kazibwe, Mr Pohamba and Mr Motlanthe were received by President Faure at State House for related discussions at higher level.
At the end of the conference this evening, a declaration on the CSW to be called the ‘Mahé Declaration on the CSW Resolution 60/2, will be adopted by the delegates.
Following the two-day women’s conference, the 41st Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF will continue with its programme. There will be a series of important meetings at the Savoy Resort starting tomorrow and will continue throughout next week where all the 15 national parliaments of SADC member countries will be represented.
The SADC PF is being held under the theme ‘Harnessing Demographic Dividend in SADC through Investment in Youth’.
The Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC PF is the highest policy-making body and it meets twice a year to make policy decisions and recommendations on numerous issues affecting the SADC region.
Among the issues that the forum addresses are human rights promotion, gender equality, good governance, democracy and transparency, peace, security, stability.
It also discusses ways to strengthen and boost economic cooperation, development and integration on the basis of equality and mutual benefits as well as how to ease networking among inter-parliamentary organisations.