EU and African partners launch flagship initiative to enhance sexual and reproductive health and rights

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


European and African partners are joining forces to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Africa, particularly among adolescent girls and young women, to empower and enable them to reach their full potential. The initiative, which will enhance coordination and collaboration among partners, launched today in Kigali, Rwanda, is a key action under the EU-Africa Global Gateway package and the EU Global Health Strategy.

While important progress has already been made to advance SRHR in Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong negative impact and significant challenges remain. Further action is needed to make available information on SRHR, goods and services and accelerate progress on key issues such as family planning, the fight against gender-based violence, harmful practices, maternal mortality, as well as on sexual health and well-being.

The initiative builds on a joint analysis of gaps, needs, and lessons learnt, and prioritises  areas where a regional perspective can complement global and country level investments, with a focus on three specific objectives:

  • Increase the implementation of continental and regional commitments on SRHR in the health and education sector
  • Improve the availability, affordability and acceptability of quality-assured SRHR goods for all, especially women and girls
  • Strengthen advocacy and accountability to ensure SRHR needs are met

The intention is to ensure a wide and balanced coverage across Western, Central, Eastern and Southern African countries. The initiative brings together under one logic new and ongoing regional and country SRHR programmes, whose coordination it will enhance, increasing their impact and contributing to development effectiveness. Funding from the EU budget notably includes €60 million in new funds for 2023–2027 and EU Member States are expected to make significant new financial commitments in the coming years in line with the above objectives.

The initiative has been developed by the European Commission, the EU Member States Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Sweden, and three African Regional Economic Communities: the East African Community (EAC), the West African Health Organization (WAHO) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It will be taken forward in partnership with a wide range of additional stakeholders, including governments, civil society organisations, private sector, academic institutions, and the United Nations.

Background

Advancing SRHR is a shared priority for Africa and Europe as SRHR play a key role in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, including the African Union’s recently launched campaign CARMMA Plus “Africa Cares: Better reproductive health for women, children and adolescents by 2030”.

Quotes

“In line with the new EU Global Health Strategy, empowering women, girls and young people by investing in their health and education is key to building prosperous and inclusive societies. I am proud to launch, as a key follow-up of the AU-EU Summit, this Africa–EU partnership initiative and collaborative framework to advance our shared, strong commitment to realise sexual and reproductive health and rights for all and ensure that we deliver with more impact where it is needed.” Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen

 “Together with our European and African partners, we want to make sure that everyone in Sub Saharan Africa, whatever their gender, age or sex, can make their own choices about their body, health and future. With 70% of the region’s population being under the age of 30, it is crucial that younger generations have access to sexual and reproductive health services and information. Our expertise and experience in education and health, particularly with regards to Universal Health Coverage, as well as the long-standing cooperation with our African partners are strong assets that will undoubtedly contribute to the SRHR Agenda in Sub Saharan Africa and to establishing universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and rights, especially for young girls and women.” Frank Vandenbroucke, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health of Belgium, in charge of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy

Health is a human right. Improving access to reproductive health services has an impact particularly on the lives of women and girls that goes far beyond the health sector. Qualitative reproductive health services are thus fundamental to achieving gender equality and to promoting the social, economic, and political participation of women. Through close cooperation with our African partners in this TEI, we will utilize synergies and accelerate progress in achieving shared objectives.” Birgit Pickel, Director General for Africa, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) must be a priority. It is indeed at the cornerstone of gender equality and human rights, which are also the foundations of our feminist diplomacy. France is convinced of the effectiveness of the partnership and multi-stakeholder principles. That is why we are fully committed to the SRHR Team Europe Initiative and believe in its capacity to strengthen European and African synergies. By reinforcing both our partnership with the Regional Economic Communities and a coordinated European action on the African continent, the TEI is the key to strengthen national health systems for sexual and reproductive health.” Anne-Claire Amprou, Ambassador for Global Health, French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

This initiative will help build much needed and resilient health systems that deliver sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls across the continent. It is the first time that the EU and its Member States are engaging in a coordinated way to co-create a shared agenda with the regional economic communities in Africa to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. With this joint effort, I’m convinced we will achieve sustainable results.” Carin Jämtin, Director General, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

With its new Feminist Foreign Policy, the Netherlands fully and actively supports this Team Europe Initiative for better coordination regarding SRHR across Africa. We believe strongly in reinforcing cooperation with both the EU Member States and other countries and communities in Africa. By working more inclusive and demand-driven, together we can protect and strengthen health and rights of women and girls worldwide. Access to good SRHR for every individual, means better health for all!” Pascalle Grotenhuis, Director of Social Development Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

 “The 22nd EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health directed the EAC Secretariat to mobilize resources to implement the EAC Comprehensive Regional Integrated Sexual, Reproductive, Maternal, New Born Health, HIV and TB Programme 2022-2027. (EAC/SCHealth/21/Directive 079). I am glad that the TEI and SIDA will contribute to this directive and improve the wellbeing of the EAC citizens and residents.” Dr. Irene Isaka, Director of Social Sectors, East African Community (EAC)

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are a priority shared by ECOWAS our Member States. Investing in SRHR is fundamental to the realization of West African Health Organisation (WAHO)’s Vision 2030 adopted by the ECOWAS Assembly of Ministers of Health in February 2022 in Accra, Ghana, whose first strategic axis “Health Care and Well-being” provides a solution to the problems related to the provision of essential quality physical, mental and physiological health services in Member States”. That is the reason why, WAHO did not hesitate to seize the opportunity offered to join the Team Europe Initiative (TEI) on sexual and reproductive health and rights in sub-Saharan Africa and its joint intervention logic.” Dr Athanase J.C Melchior Aïssi, Director General of West African Health Organization (WAHO)

The SADC Region through various instruments, including the Maseru Declaration on HIV /AIDS, the ESA Commitment, and the SADC SRHR strategy and Scorecard has committed to promote investments in SRHR and implement programs that will allow youth, men and women to achieve their full potential for the development   of the region. The highest level commitment and leadership remains the key driver in the attainment of the region’s goals including the SDGs, especially SDG 3 and 5.” Duduzile Simelane, Director Social and Human Development, Southern African Development Community (SADC)

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