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51% WOMEN LACK POWER TO MAKE DECISIONS ON SEXUAL ISSUES

By SIFISO NHLABATSI | 2022-05-24

The Eswatini Demographic Health Survey shows that 51 per cent of women lack the power to make decisions on issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).

According to the survey, 26 per cent of women are unable to say no to sex  while 11 per cent are unable to decide on contraception and 28 per cent are unable to decide on healthcare.
This was revealed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Officer Margaret Thwala-Tembe during the launch of the State of the World Population Report, 2022 at Esibayeni Lodge.

Thwala-Tembe said in Eswatini, unintended pregnancies occurred in alarming numbers.
“For the women affected, the most life-altering reproductive choice on whether or not to become pregnant is not a choice at all,” she said.

The UNFPA officer said when society accepted unintended pregnancy as normal, it implied that women and girls were valued only for reproduction rather than for their talents, creativity or intellect.

“The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals call for ending unmet need for contraception, achieving gender equality and advancing bodily autonomy. We must redouble our commitment to achieving these goals, also add to our priorities the prevention of unintended pregnancies,” Thwala-Tembe said.

UNFPA reaffirmed its commitment to continue working with government and other national stakeholders towards the reduction of unintended pregnancy. Minister of Economic Planning and Development Dr Tambo Gina said Eswatini had been adversely affected by the problem of unintended pregnancy.

He said there were many complex reasons and situations which could result in a pregnancy to be unintended.
“The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a lot of the unintended pregnancies, not only in Eswatini but all over the world. This was mainly the outcome of the lockdown measure used in trying to prevent the spread of the disease,” Dr Gina said.

He explained that this situation prevented people, especially women and girls who require continuous use of sexual reproductive health services for their healthy upkeep from accessing the services.

According to the minister, there was a high rate of unintended pregnancies, especially amongst school-going children and that this has had a negative impact, as most of them would be unable to complete their education even after delivery. The existence of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, according to the minister, is a denial of the right to choose when and how many children to have.

“The rights and choices of individuals are important. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) known as Agenda 2030, recognises the rights of women and girls and gender equality, including sexual reproductive health and rights and that they are important for the realisation of social and economic development,” the minister said.  

Dr Gina noted that the common feature of most of the unintended and unwanted pregnancies was that many of the women and girls affected were from poor families, and that the situation pushed them further into the vicious circle of poverty.  

The minister said it was very important for advocate for education of women and girls in order to ensure their preservation, which would ensure a bright future for them.

He said there was a high cost to the economy caused by unintended and unwanted pregnancies, as most of the affected girls dropped out of school and most of the investment on them, not only by their parents but also by government was eroded.

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