LEADERS and decision makers must create an enabling environment for the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) commitments to improve reproductive health services for women and adolescent girls.
Her Majesty Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso said this during a breakfast meeting in Maseru yesterday. The meeting was meant to renew Lesotho's commitment on the IPCD programme.
The Queen said Lesotho must pay special attention to the provision of reproductive health services to women and adolescent girls including those in rural and remote areas to satisfy the commitments it made during the IPCD.
The ICPD was convened under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) in 1994. It adopted a 25-year programme of action which emphasised on women's interests in population matters and introduced the concepts of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.
And Her Majesty yesterday said Lesotho must accelerate the implementation of the programme to ensure the accessibility of reproductive health services for women and girls.
"We must ensure that none of our women are ever going to die while giving life," Her Majesty said.
"We need to ensure that gender-based violence and harmful practices such as child marriage, which are rampant in our country, cease to exist and we must make efforts to halt the high rate of new HIV infections especially among our youth."
The country must do more to empower women and girls, as they are still faced with several challenges, such as high early and unintended pregnancies, the unmet need for family planning and unsafe abortions.
"On the other hand, ... we should also be concerned about our young boys, the herd boys who are going to be future husbands and fathers."
The risk of contracting HIV is typically higher among young girls while on the other hand, herd boys also have specific vulnerabilities when it comes to access to sexual and reproductive health, Her Majesty said.
"Due to the herd boys' lack of socialisation (while spending long periods in the pastures), they lack gender awareness, knowledge on human rights and think women and girls are of less value. They therefore require guidance and information to make healthy decisions and to understand the consequences of their actions," she said.
"... I therefore, call upon all of us as leaders and decision makers to use our power to provide an enabling environment for implementation of the ICPD agenda to improve the lives of Basotho."
For his part, Minister of Health Motlatsi Maqelepo said the national agenda cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people are able to make their own choice in the reproductive health issues.
Mr Maqelepo said the power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children is a human right that can boost economic and social development.
"Achieving gender and women's empowerment and upholding women's rights is paramount for poverty reduction, inclusive growth, democratic governance, peace and justice.
"With these fundamental rights denied, people's ability to achieve their full potential is constrained and economic and social progress is impeded," Mr Maqelepo said.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Marc Derveeuw said last year during the Nairobi summit, governments, including Lesotho's, made over 1250 commitments to support the goals of the ICPD.
Dr Derveeuw said commitments created a unique opportunity to showcase leadership towards strong and evidence-based investment cases to ensure sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, and to achieve transformative action for girls' and women's empowerment and gender equality.
"The 2019 Nairobi Summit advanced the Cairo agenda. Governments, corporations, organizations, and individuals pledged more than $8 billion and 1 250 commitments towards meeting three zeros by 2030.
"Zero unmet need for family planning; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and harmful practices, including child marriage... ," Dr Derveeuw said.