South Sudan: Reproductive Health Rights Essential to Peace, Progress, Gender Equality - South Sudan's First Vice President

Juba, South Sudan — Peace, progress and gender equality will not be possible without women enjoying their rights to sexual and reproductive health, said First Vice President General Taban Deng Gai, as he endorsed the South Sudan commitments on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

"At this point in South Sudan's history, we cannot deny that there can be no peace, no development and no equality without ensuring equal rights and full participation for women," Mr. Gai said. "The South Sudan Commitments on the ICPD Programme of Action will not and should never remain just a document that we are bringing to Nairobi, come November."

The commitments will be mainstreamed and considered in all programmes and undertakings by government ministries at the national, state, and county levels, as well as ensuring that the programmes are appropriately funded from the national budget, he added.

The endorsement came at the conclusion of a high-level meeting convened by the First Vice President on behalf of President Salva Kiir, together with UNFPA and the Embassy of Kenya in Juba on 12 September. The meeting was attended by representatives of government ministries, development partners and UN agencies.

The South Sudan commitments aim to intensify efforts for the full, effective and accelerated implementation of programmes related to the ICPD Programme of Action, including funding, as an integral part of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. It seeks to achieve the three transformative results of zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices.

Part of the commitments addressing the transformative results include:

Increase budget allocation for the health sector to 5 per cent in the 2020-2021 budget, graduating to 15 per cent by 2030, in accordance with the Abuja Declaration;

Increase family planning use from the current 4.5 per cent to 10 per cent in 2020;

Train 3,900 more midwives by 2030 to ensure that there is a midwife at every birth;

Implement age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents and youth by 2025;

Enact the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Law by 2020;

Enact the Youth Development Policy by 2020.

The draft commitments, presented by Dr. Samson Baba of the Ministry of Health, are a result of a series of consultations with stakeholders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth and women's sectors, faith-based organizations, and members of the Parliament.

Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Alain Noudehou spoke on behalf of the UN at the meeting and committed UN's support to the government to help achieve universal coverage of basic health services, especially in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and intensify the implementation of the Joint Programme on Gender-Based Violence, which addresses the drivers and root causes of GBV in the medium to long-term.

At the global level, the Government of Kenya is hosting the ICPD25 Summit in Nairobi from 12-14 November. Kenyan Ambassador Chris Mburu said the Summit offers a great potential for new partnerships and new engagements for all governments, NGOs and civil society organizations, development partners, youth groups, and all other stakeholders to advance the ICPD agenda worldwide.

Christer Hermansson, Head of Cooperation of the European Union, reiterated the support of the European Union to women's reproductive rights. "Women's reproductive rights are central to their empowerment and their ability to contribute to peace and national development and participate fully in global economic progress," he said.

- Arlene Alano

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