Speaker Mancienne emphasises collaboration in addressing SRHR and HIV and Aids challenges |31 May 2023
The Speaker of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Honourable Roger Mancienne, has called for collaboration in addressing Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and HIV and Aids challenges.
He made the call when he delivered an opening speech on Monday May 29, 2023 at a multi-stakeholder meeting focusing on SRHR and the challenges posed by HIV and Aids.
The event, which marked the culmination of the SRHR Governance Project supported by the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), brought together key stakeholders, including SADC PF secretary general Boemo Sekgoma, members of Parliament and representatives from various organisations and ministries.
Hon. Mancienne, who is also the President of the SADC PF, expressed his gratitude to various stakeholders for support throughout the project. As the second phase of the initiative drew to a close, he stressed the significance of evaluating both the successes and challenges encountered during the project's implementation over the past four years.
He highlighted the vital role of parliament in tackling contemporary challenges and advancing the agenda of sexual and reproductive health rights, particularly in the context of HIV and Aids. Acknowledging the leadership position of parliamentarians and their oversight function, he underscored their impact in driving attention, scrutinising policies, and influencing national responses to these pressing issues.
“Parliament as an institution has an important role to play in dealing with the great challenges of our times and advancing the agenda of sexual and reproductive health rights in the face of HIV and Aids is such a challenge,” he said.
Referring to HIV and Aids as a formidable health challenge that has recently come to the forefront in Seychelles, Mancienne emphasised the need for collective efforts to combat it.
He reminded attendees of the vulnerabilities of health systems when faced with new epidemics, underscoring the urgency to identify and understand the disease, while simultaneously seeking effective protection and treatment strategies.
He commended the scientific and social defences mounted against HIV and Aids but acknowledged the persistence of challenges related to stigma, behaviour change, and treatment adherence.
Drawing a parallel between the battle against HIV and Aids and warfare, Mancienne emphasised the gravity of the situation and the need for continued defence and counter-attack strategies.
He emphasised that the closure of the SRHR Governance Project presented an opportune moment to engage with stakeholders and develop a comprehensive plan of action to ensure the sustainability of efforts in this critical area.
“Since we are involved here as the legislature, we can note that there has been a number of pieces of legislation that have been brought for consideration and approval which had direct impact on services linked to SRHR and HIV and Aids. Legislation has to change in response to how the challenge evolves,” he said.
He encouraged participants to work together, leveraging the expertise and perspectives of members of Parliament, line ministries, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders to formulate recommendations and solutions.
“So here we are – members of Parliament, line ministries, CSOs and other stakeholders – in one room, with one agenda to address this most pertinent issue and to come up with recommendations and possible solutions,” he said.
Recognising the role of legislation in responding to evolving challenges, Hon. Mancienne acknowledged the introduction and approval of several legislative measures with a direct impact on SRHR and HIV and Aids services.
He expressed the possibility of further legislative amendments or enactments resulting from the workshop's outcomes, emphasising the importance of collaboration and dedication to the cause.
He commended the SADC PF for conceiving the SRHR Governance Project and expressed his hope for its renewal, as the targets set had not yet been fully achieved.
He assured attendees of his unwavering support in any capacity required for the project's continuation.
The multi-stakeholder meeting presented a unique opportunity for stakeholders to come together, share knowledge, and contribute to lasting solutions for the challenges of SRHR and HIV and Aids in Seychelles.
Speaking at the same occasion, the chairperson of the Standing Committee of Communicable Diseases, HIV/Aids, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of the National Assembly of Seychelles, Honourable Rosie Bistoquet highlighted the significance of parliamentary engagement in addressing issues of SRHR, HIV and Aids, and other related matters.
The theme of the meeting ‘Stronger Parliamentary SRHR Engagement – A Lens on HIV/Aids Response in Seychelles’, underscored the need for collective action and emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable and inclusive national HIV and Aids responses in Seychelles.
Bistoquet called upon everyone, particularly the parliamentarians, to fulfill their constitutional mandate and protect the rights of all citizens, leaving no one behind.
The SADC PF SRHR, HIV and Aids Governance Project, which operates in line with model laws developed for the SADC region, provided guidance for the meeting. The activities implemented by parliamentarians have significantly contributed to advancing SRHR, HIV and Aids governance, democracy, and human rights in Seychelles.
Hon. Bistoquet also highlighted the importance of addressing the root causes of vulnerabilities faced by women and girl children in the context of HIV and Aids, as outlined in the Mahé Declaration following the Women's Parliament in Seychelles in 2017.
Seychelles responded to the HIV and Aids epidemic in 1987, with concerted efforts from the government, the Ministry of Health, and various partners. Significant progress has been made, with access to free antiretroviral therapy (ART) and other sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
However, challenges remain in achieving the 90-90-90 targets set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) in 2014. The need for regular and long-term care for HIV patients, including ART and SRH follow-up, was emphasised to ensure the success of national Aids responses.
Hon. Sekgoma described the meeting as an important “celebration of the work done over the years” in implementing the project.
She thanked the National Assembly of Seychelles through the Speaker and the office of the Clerk, without whose leadership “the project would not have taken off in the manner that it did”.
She said: “It is for this reason that we are able to ensure inter-parliamentary cooperation at the level of SADC PF. It is because of these robust bonds of commitment that whatever is done in collaboration with the SADC PF becomes successful.”
She said MPs in Seychelles had been “humble and diligent” in the implementation of the project.
“Without you, we would not have any motions or laws to talk about, and the budgets would not reflect the justice that you wish to see in the world,” she said.
She said the project was aligned with the African Charter on Human Rights which emphasises everybody’s entitlement to respect and integrity.
“The multi-sector approach of the project looks at all the three arms of the state to ensure that what our member States accede to is implemented collaboratively by the judiciary, parliament and the executive to ensure all people have the right to services, are protected against discrimination, and their rights are not violated.”
She said the SADC PF was committed to implementing similar projects across all the 15 member States of SADC. For now, the project is being implemented in 10 member States.
Sekgoma explained that the success in implementing the project can be measured by the extent to which it had been institutionalised in Parliament, how relevant regional and international instruments had been domesticated and how other committees in parliaments had embraced it.
She said the active involvement of the Speaker, the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and dedicated staff including Genevieve Daniel “who has dedicated all her efforts and commitment to ensuring that the targets set out in the project are (met) successfully”, was proof that the project had been institutionalised in Seychelles.
She said SIDA had granted a no cost extension to the project and talks were ongoing to renew it.
She commended Ms Daniel saying: “She has been dedicated to her job. She has put her best foot forward. She has been writing her reports every month. She has been reporting on what is happening in Seychelles through this project and the results which are visible to all of us.”
By Moses Magadza in Mahe, Seychelles