|image from www.quackdown.info|
A few weeks ago I attended the annual Helen Kanzira memorial lecture. The key note address was given by the very capable Judge Navi Pillay, co-author of the constitution and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She reminded us of a few depressing realities, that Sub-Saharan Africa still has the world's highest maternal mortality rates and women still have little power over their own sexual welfare. This is not the fate of some stereotypical story told by an international news network where we are introduced to a woman, possibly a child bride who walks kilometers to fetch water even in pregnancy. Reproductive health is not just a 'Millennium Development Goal,' the preserve of 'backward' third world nations. Helen Kanzira, a graduate of UP's Center for Human Rights "died in 2007 at the very early age of 39 as a result of complications arising from [childbirth.] During her short life, she had gained the admiration of many. In the legal profession she was a force to reckon with and a person known for her honesty and compassion." Judge Pillay described Helen as "a shining light extinguished too soon."
|image from www.chr.up.ac.za|
Dozens if not hundreds of women are faced with reproductive dilemmas on a daily basis.Not to mention the tragic outcomes of inadequate facilities for prevention of pregnancy and child-birth. This got me thinking, there is a need to open up discussion about reproductive health. As usual I have a plethora of questions. To what extent are young women empowered to make informed choices about their sexuality? Does the structure of our society permit women sexual and socio-political autonomy? Does the constitution truly recognize the collective and individual value of women's well-being? Does the state's health care provision facilities meet public demand? Is the state and civil society intellectually equipped to grapple these matters? There are many questions and not enough answers. What I do know is that recently a 20 year old varsity student died in her room after an illegal abortion, this is only one reported incident out of hundreds of young vulnerable women's misfortunes. http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2012/03/19/uj-student-dies-after-alleged-abortion Women whose exposure to frightening rape rates, transactional sex, poor health-care facilities and social stigma in matters of fertility is allocated 16 Days on the Gregorian calendar.
There is a need for decisive and open discourse about the "value of women as autonomous beings." This is not the role of government or the UN or someone else, it's our job to campaign relentless for freedom to come to fruition, in parliament or our pants.