According to Lesotho Demographic Health Survey (DHS) 2014, Lesotho faces one of the highest maternal mortality rates of about 1024 deaths, and the second highest HIV prevalence in the world, with women continuing to carry the brunt of the epidemic.
This, the Chairperson of the National Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Mrs. ‘Matšepo Ramakoae said with regards to the Commemoration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, during which she asserted that the day reminds Women Parliamentarians of their greatest role of speaking out for the protection of Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRH) of the women of Lesotho.
“It is an opportunity to once again draw attention to what matters most. Today, like many parts of the world, we demonstrate our political will and commitment to ensuring that human rights violations against women are put to an end,” Mrs. Makoae said.
She commented that Women Parliamentarians’ conviction is that women have a right to decide for themselves on what to do with their bodies including the decision on whether or not to have a baby, deciding who they want or do not want to have sexual interaction with as well as to be allowed to enjoy their sexual and reproductive health rights freely without any coercion, violence and discrimination.
With teenage pregnancy also reported to be at 24 percent, the DHS 2014 reports that 42 percent of women have reported at least one challenge in accessing health care while Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) particularly directed at women is also reportedly among the highest forms of abuse.
The DHS additionally alleges that adolescent women who would rather delay a pregnancy often cannot access modern contraceptives while other women lose their lives due to the little care given during pregnancy and child birth.
On the basis of the given background, Mrs. Ramakoae therefore said the International Day of Action for Women’s Health also sensitises women of their vulnerability in making decision on sexual matters therefore are not able to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
She therefore stressed that it remains their responsibility as Women Parliamentarians to empower all women since they deserve not only access to contraceptives including emergency contraception but also need to give birth in a safe environment where they are assisted by skilled birth attendants, saying failure to make sexual and reproductive health services available and accessible to women is a violation of their constitutional right.
Again, she noted that Women Parliamentarians remain dedicated to advancing the SRH of the women of Lesotho through their mandated roles of representation, law making, oversight and budget allocation, pledging their commitment to among other things; ensure SRH programs are appropriately funded and effectively implemented, advocate for appropriate laws to be presented to Parliament and holding the government accountable for domestication of international protocols and other frameworks which facilitate greater access to sexual and reproductive health services by women.
The 2018 commemoration marks 30 years of struggle and activism when women’s rights defenders and activists worldwide are re-launching the International Day of Action for Women’s Health which was on May 28 1987, during the Fourth International Women’s Health Meeting in Costa Rica, proposed to be celebrated as a means to speak out on SRHR issues faced by women and girls worldwide.