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Sexual, reproductive health bedrock for growth and prosperity

-Naomi Solanke

By Lewis S Teh 

The Executive Director of Community Health Initiative and Chair of the Amplifying Rights Network (ARN) Ms Naomi Solanke says Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights are the bedrock for growth and prosperity for all individuals and societies.

She said countries that invest in citizens’ rights and choices promote their well-being, wealth, and sustainable development.

Madam Solanke made the observation on Friday, May 26, at the ministerial complex in Congo Town at the official start of a three-day Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) conference on the theme: Strengthening holistic SRHR in Liberia. 

She acknowledged progress made by the current administration, saying that though Liberia has made some progress around maternal mortality, girls’ education, and improved access to contraception, the pace is slow.

She notes that while the government’s current efforts include a reduction in maternal and infant mortality, prevention of sexual gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy, with actions taken towards reviewing the public health law to address gaps, improve gender responsive budgeting to support improved public financing for healthcare, target groups for such intervention still lack sufficient access to information, comprehensive sexuality education, and gender responsive SRH services.

According to her, after almost two decades of post-war development, inequality and poverty remain prevalent in Liberia, adding that a young population like Liberia with over (60% below age 35) is experiencing widespread barriers to accessing gender-responsive sexual and reproductive health care against structural development gaps from education, healthcare, public housing, transportation system, water and sanitation, including limited economic opportunities.

This has manifested in the high prevalence of early pregnancies, low contraception usage, the ongoing crisis of sexual and gender based violence and high maternal mortality rate.

Madam Solanke says it was against this backdrop that the Amplifying Rights Network was established in 2022 in partnership with RFSU with support from the Swedish Embassy, adding that ARN comprises ten diverse community-based and national SRHR actors in Liberia.

She reveals that ARN aims to contribute to advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and promoting social justice through evidence based advocacy and accountability by a diverse group of experts of rights holders with the vision of achieving SRHR for all Liberians.

“We focus on supporting communities, key populations, and other marginalized groups in advocating for a friendly SRHR space and the advancement of SRHR for all”, she adds.

She narrates that the SRHR conference was first of its kind and it seeks to serve as a space for jointly promoting and popularizing SRHR and reflecting on solutions and best practices to SRHR challenges.

She adds that the conference also seeks to support practitioners, development partners, service providers, civil society and other state and no state actors to engage in robust discussion and strategies to advance knowledge of SRHR.

For her part, a representative of RFSU Ms. Aminata Kamara Sneh extols organizers of the conference which she notes came at a very strategic moment, stressing a need to come together as a community of advocates to ensure that sexual and representative health and rights are central to their advocacy for human rights and gender equality.

Ms. Sneh explains that the RFSU has worked at the human rights council for a long time, actively engaged in the promotion of SRHR under two main premises.

She notes that the RFSU has recently adopted a new strategy, where they embrace obvious realities told by partners, that sexual and representative health and rights cannot be achieved in a vacuum, but as a result of the interaction among several factors.

“We must recognize that the lack of control over one’s own body and sexuality is a violation of their rights.”

The three-day conference ended with a parade from the Ministry of Health to the ministerial complex characterized by cultural performances, drama, and presentations, among others. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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