What you need to know:
- Despite the considerable benefits, SRH is a politicised topic in many communities and its progress is stalled, in part, by lack of resources.
- As the public participation process commences, there is a need for sensitisation to the benefits of the bill.
A common document for the East African Community (EAC) will give the region an opportunity to engage, accelerate, align and enhance accountability in the provision of related service.
The EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Bill is anchored on Article 118 of its Treaty, with partner states committed to cooperate generally on healthcare and specifically on (SRH and harmonise national policies and regulations in a bid to achieve quality healthcare in the region.
But despite the considerable benefits, SRH is a politicised topic in many communities and its progress is stalled, in part, by lack of resources.
As the public participation process commences, there is a need for sensitisation to the benefits of the bill. The bill recognises, among others: Age- and culturally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; duty of parents and guardians to provide age-appropriate SRH information; sexual reproductive healthcare for men; menstrual health; health and life-saving post-abortion care and treatment and; public awareness of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHRs).
Universal access to SRH services
The bill further seeks to strengthen the mechanisms to facilitate EAC’s attainment of universal access to SRH services and their integration into national strategies and programmes by 2030 as reverence in the “EAC Integrated Reproductive Maternal, Newborn Child and Adolescent Health Policy Guidelines (2016-2030)” and “EAC Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Strategic Plan”.
The EAC has many national, regional and international frameworks to respect, protect and fulfill the right to health by facilitating, providing and promoting the highest attainable standard of health and putting in place measures towards that.
But we still see a high prevalence of harmful cultural practices; poor maternal child and adolescent health indicators; poor implementation and enforcement of the national instruments; and challenges in availability and access to good quality affordable services to all. There is also violence against boys, women, girls and other vulnerable groups; poor investment in health intervention and the sector; huge gender inequalities and inequities; and big barriers to access to information.
Passing the bill will cure that. Besides ensuring availability of SHR services for men and women over 55, it is crucial for women in menopause, prostate issues for men, sexual dysfunctions and reproductive organ cancer. It would provide a framework for advancement and protection of SRH needs; promote safe motherhood; and prevent unwanted outcomes of pregnancy and risky unsafe abortions.
It will catalyse processes like putting in place the right structures, facilities and resources in the region that will help to achieve SDG 3 targets; ensure access to quality SRH care, education and services; allow for access to assisted reproductive health technologies; better accountability systems; more engagement of sectors and partners; and alignment with global and international instruments.
Ms Kathia, a sexual and reproductive health specialist, is a communications strategist. [email protected].