Thanks to a generous contribution of $19.9 million from the Government of Canada, Oxfam Canada will launch a new program to empower women and girls in four countries of East and Southern Africa to claim their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“Her Future, Her Choice is about guaranteeing that women and girls can claim their human right to bodily autonomy, can make choices about their reproductive health, and are treated with dignity and respect. This program will help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” said Julie Delahanty, Oxfam Canada Executive Director.
Teen birth rates are among the highest in the world in these countries in Africa, as the rights of many young women to access sexual and reproductive health services are blocked. As a result, adolescent girls and young women, who are not physiologically ready, are having children at an early age, or attempting unsafe abortions, which further endangers their health.
Given this reality, the Her Future, Her Choice program takes a comprehensive approach to promoting and defending the sexual and reproductive rights of adolescent girls and young women in the four countries. The program will work in partnership with local youth and women’s rights organizations, Pathfinder International and Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.
“There are still too many gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health services around the world, and at home,” said Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. “This funding is an important step toward building global solidarity and ensuring that all people can access the services they need to live healthy lives, free from violence and discrimination.”
The Her Future, Her Choice program will tackle gender inequality and discrimination, and address the barriers that prevent women and girls from exercising their rights including: harmful social norms; traditional practices and taboos regarding sexuality; lack of access to resources and services; and sexual and gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation and cutting, and child and early forced marriage.
“Too many women and adolescent girls don’t have access to information about sexual and reproductive health and are influenced by harmful social norms and stigma, and lack of decision-making power about their own health and sexuality. In order to address gender inequality we need to ensure that women and girls have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Delahanty said.
In addition, Her Future, Her Choice will strengthen health systems to deliver comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, and provide youth-friendly sexual health outreach services for girls and boys. It will also build the capacity of local and Canadian feminist, women’s rights and youth-led organizations to advocate for changes in sexual and reproductive health and rights policies and promote greater awareness of these issues in the four countries and in Canada.
Notes to Editors:
- According to the World Bank, adolescent birth rates are the highest in the world in sub-Saharan Africa with an average of 118 births per 1000 girls compared to the global average of 51 births per 1000 girls.
- In 2016, the average contraceptive prevalence rate in East and Southern Africa was 38.6% (global rate was 63.6%).
- Malawi experiences a high Maternal Mortality Rate with unsafe abortions accounting for 18% of all maternal deaths; and an adolescent birth rate of 152 per 1000 women aged 15-19.
- Mozambique has a very low contraceptive prevalence rate of 12%, a high Maternal Mortality Rate (489 per 100,000 live births) and a very high adolescent birth rate (167 per 1000 women aged 15-19). Approximately 24% of deaths in adolescent girls are linked to pregnancy related causes and in the Northern provinces such as Zambezia, where the program is focused, rates of child and early forced marriage among adolescent girls are as high as 47% and initiation rites (female genital mutilation and cutting) continue to have perverse effects on the sexual and reproductive health of girls.
- Zambia has a high adolescent birth rate of 146 per 1000 women aged 15-19 with adolescent girls in target communities in Zambia having difficulty accessing SRHR information, services, and commodities. If girls become pregnant, they face stigma and discrimination, drop out of school and are prone to unsafe abortions.
- Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia have high HIV prevalence rates (10-15%), with rates two to four times higher in adolescent girls than boys, which affects overall reproductive health outcomes for girls.
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is Canada’s Planned Parenthood. We are a progressive, pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.