Women parliamentarians deliberated on advancing the African Union through empowering Women and Youth, in Midrand during the March 2017 Committee Sittings.
Beatrice Hamusonde, Director Gender and Social Affairs at the COMESA Secretariat, presenting on the African Union theme of the year, “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth: Empowering young people,” said it was of importance that nations prioritize universal access to family planning services and sexual reproduction education.
“When women and girl children are educated about the sexual reproductive health and family planning services they are more likely to make informed decisions and wait a while longer to have children,” said Beatrice Hamusonde.
Hamusande highlighted the need for Africa to ensure that the girl child stays in school as it would give her more opportunities than if she was not educated. “If a girl child drops out of school and marries early, she may experience many difficulties such as early pregnancy, gender-based violence and has no opportunities for a career,” she reiterated.
She said that families must ensure that both the male and female children are kept in school and afforded the same opportunities. “When a girl child begins primary school, the number of girls in school is the same as boys, but as the years go by, the number of girls in class decreases, hence improving inclusive access to education at all levels is important,” said Beatrice Hamusonde.
Hamasunde said investing in young people and empowering them for leadership and effective civic engagement could contribute positively to developing and economically empowering young people.
The African Union’s goal is to develop and implement strategies aimed at reducing the proportion of the 2013 youth unemployment rate by at 25% by 2024.
The Caucus also had a presentation on “medical ethics and patient rights in Africa” presented by Dr Debora Lolonga Hosea, Founder of PEMA; a foundation that promotes medical ethics in Africa.
Dr. Hosea spoke on the different stigmas attached to illness in Africa; regretting that patients are at times not afforded treatment because the families believe sickness is a curse. “Beliefs of witchcraft and tradition sometimes prevent parents from taking sick children to hospitals, but rather resort to hiding them away,” lamented Dr Debora Lolonga Hosea, adding that some families abandon treatment due to belief that the patient is cursed and wouldn’t be healed. “There have been instances where relatives kidnap patients from hospital for this reason,” she sealed her argument.
The delegation then concluded that Africa should make sustainable investments in health systems with the goal of enhancing access to quality health services for all.
The PAP Women’s Caucus seeks to promote equality between men and women and has taken action to promote empowerment of women through various programmes.