By: Thoboloko Nts’onyane
MASERU – The Senators, Members of Parliament (MPs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) actors have praised the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), HIV and AIDS Governance Project for its holistic approach and inclusion.
These developments unfolded last week in Maseru during the reflection exercise that marked an end of this project.
The SRHR Project has been implemented in Lesotho during the past four years. It runs from 2019 to 2023, and is being carried out in 10 national parliaments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, with Lesotho being one of the first countries to implement it since its inception in 2019.
The project is coordinated by the SADC PF (parliamentary forum) and it is implemented by the national parliaments. SADC-PF is a regional inter-parliamentary organization in Southern Africa and has membership of, 15 member countries that are SADC member States through their national parliaments. It, amongst others, charged with the mandate to promote democratic governance, human rights, and regional integration.
The project coordinator ‘Mammehela Matemane said the parliaments promote SRHR by reinforcing the legislative framework of member States through enactment of targeted SRHR legislation.
She noted that this project involved analyzing existing legal and policy gaps in order to determine the necessary interventions for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at the parliamentary level.
As a result of this analysis, six thematic areas were identified: gender-based violence and inequality, early and unintended pregnancies and access to safe abortions, commodity security and access to SRHR and HIV/AIDS-related services to strengthen health systems and support universal health coverage, comprehensive sexuality education, non-discrimination and protection of key populations, and promotion of human rights through democratic accountability
“Parliamentarians as democratically elected representatives, increasingly escalate SRHR concerns of communities and constituencies within Parliament and champion SRHR issues in view of reducing discrimination and stigmatization of the people living with HIV, key populations and marginalized groups,” she said.
They noted that the project has the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of women and girls in the country and can potentially contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Legislators and civil society organizations have commanded a sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) project aimed at improving access to quality health services for women and girls in the country. The project, which is funded by a group of international donors, seeks to promote gender equality, reduce maternal mortality, and empower women and girls in order to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing.
The project has also been commended for making significant progress in improving access to SRHR services in rural areas where such services are often limited or unavailable. Also, the SRHR Project provided training to healthcare workers and community health volunteers, who play a critical role in providing information and services to women and girls.
The legislators and CSOs have appealed to the government to prioritize SRHR in its policies and programs and ensure that women and girls have access to the services they need in order to lead healthy and productive lives. They also urged the government to work with civil society organizations for greater impact in the country.
The SRHR project has the potential to transform the lives of women and girls as it provides them access to quality healthcare services, comprehensive sexuality education, and empowering women and girls to make informed choices. The project is further contributing to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. The legislators and CSOs have applauded the project’s achievements and called on the government to support and scale up the project to improve access to SRHR services for all.
Tampose Mothopseng, from People’s Matrix, which advocates for the rights of the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) community, expressed appreciation for the project.
They noted that it has created opportunities for them to engage in high-level meetings with government officials and parliamentarians, which was previously unlikely.
According to Tampose, the project has also contributed to changing the perceptions of parliamentarians towards LGBTIQ issues. Through capacity building initiatives and engagements, Tampose mentioned that their organization and the government have learned to manage their expectations effectively.
Senator Makholu Moshoeshoe commended the project for enhancing their understanding of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) issues and equipping them with skills to effectively communicate these issues to the public.
She also noted that the project had provided them with well-researched information on SRHR, enabling them to participate effectively in parliamentary debates. Moshoeshoe appealed to her fellow lawmakers to also take the initiative to enhance their knowledge on these issues.
Likueneng Chief also praised the project for providing them with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct public outreaches and engage communities on SRHR issues.
The Chief cited the example of how the knowledge they acquired was instrumental in the formulation of the Counter Domestic Violence law.
For her part, the SADC PF Secretary General Boemo Sekgoma has commended strides made by Lesotho during the implementation of the project.
“It is apposite indeed to congratulate the Parliament of Lesotho as an institution for the formidable work undertaken in advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), HIV/AIDS and Governance issues during the life of the Project through targeted parliamentary interventions which culminated in the completion of planned activities with shine, brilliance and timeliness.
“While the successes, achievements as well as the challenges [have been] presented at …, I wish to confirm that Lesotho has been largely compliant with the SRHR Project and has fully exhausted its work plan.
“This is indeed a matter of pride, the credit for which is to be attributed to MPs of this august Parliament, Senators, the SRHR Researcher, and of course staff of Parliament working under the supervision of the Clerk and the Hon. Speaker.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary General told the participants that they are set to engage the funders, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) a Swedish government agency, in June this year, the meeting whose outcome is expected to determine the way forward concerning the project extension.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Rt. Hon. Tlohang Sekhamane thanked the SADC -PF and partners “for immeasurable contribution towards the strides that have been made in this project”.
The lawmakers and civil society actors requested the project extension beyond its timeline.
This project succeeds the first phase of the SRHR Project which ran from 2014 to 2019.