By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor
The elimination of child sexual exploitation, gender-based violence and the advancement of sexual reproductive health rights took centre stage this Monday during the official opening of the International Conference on Family Planning in Thailand.
The official opening of the 6th International Conference on Family Planning saw leaders from several governments across the globe and civil society speaking with one voice on family planning issues and women’s sexual reproductive health rights.
Vice President General Retired Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Zimbabwe’s Minister of Health and Child Care said, “After this meeting, we must all carry home a message that no more should there be child marriages. No more should there be gender-based violence. No more should there be any deaths recorded whilst one is giving birth. To do this, we all have to carry a message of educating our people throughout the world. The communities where we are going to be working, on how we should protect our girls and women. But we need also to bring the boys and men so that this sinks home. I think everyone after this conference will take the correct message home… and for the next four days you are going to be here, make great use of them.”
Other invited speakers also stressed the need to integrate family planning into health systems as well as give women autonomy over their bodies.
Dr Natalia Kanem, the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund said, “We come together for a shared vision everyone should have a right to decide what to do with their bodies. We want more women and babies to survive childbirth. In the face of all these challenges. The right to make an informed choice. Is critical.”
World Health Organisation director general, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, noted, “This should be an opportunity to commit to family planning 2030. The WHO commits to working with you to expand family planning services and access to reproductive health, we will be with you all the way.”
With laws that prohibit the marriage of minors under the age of 18 combined with the budgetary allocation towards the procurement of contraceptives, Zimbabwe according to some experts attending the conference, could be a model for other nations in so far as protecting women and the girl child is concerned.