UNFPA, Zambian Parliament Collaborate Towards Attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3.7 in Zambia

1 February 2017
Hon. Chinga Miyutu, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Sport (B); Dr. Mary Otieno, UNFPA Representative (L); and Mr. Alexio Musindo, ILO Director (B) with other members of the Committee as well as UNFPA and ILO staff after a UNFPA-led technical presentation

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund in Zambia is scaling up systematic engagement with the Zambian Parliament, as part of the organizations’ focus on ensuring resources are equitably distributed in a rights based approach to secure measurable development results.

UNFPA’s engagement with the Zambian Parliament builds on the acknowledgement of the role of Parliamentarians as powerful change agents for development – including debating critical development issues across organs of parliament; reviewing and passing inclusive laws; approving, appropriating and monitoring implementation of national budgets; oversight and accountability in implementation of policies and programmes; and holding Government and stakeholders accountable for delivery of development programs.

First, and Foremost - Enhancing Knowledge and Skills

Since December 2016, UNFPA has served as Vice Chair of the “National Working Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” (SRH&R); established in Zambia as part of the SADC Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF) support to 7 Member States under a 4 year project aimed at providing technical support and coordination of development issues relating to SRH&R, HIV and AIDS and Governance, with funding from the Government of Sweden.

In its capacity as Vice Chair of the National Working Group, and recognizing that enhanced knowledge and skills on SHR&R among Parliamentarians is a cornerstone for effective oversight and accountability, UNFPA engaged within two technical sessions of the “National Working Group on SRH&R” as well as the “Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services”.

Speaking during the knowledge sharing meeting with the latter, Deputy Clerk [Procedures] of the National Assembly Hon. Royd Ngulube reaffirmed the Zambian Parliaments’ commitment to work with national and international stakeholders, including the UN system in Zambia, to support Zambia’s attainment of the SDG targets in general, including health and health related SDGs.

"In 2017, the Committee will focus on Zambia’s implementation of the SDG target 3.7 aimed at ensurin universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs. In this regards, the Committee would like to acknowledge its collaboration with key development partners in Zambia - including UNDP, UNFPA and Irish Aid – aimed at building capacity of Members of Parliament to effectively design policies, support local level budget allocation and implementation of programmes to advance SRH&R among marginalized populations in Zambia, among others. I wish to re-affirm the commitment of this Committee in this regard," Hon. Ngulube said.

The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia provided orientation and information on the SDGs - with its linkages to Africa’s Agenda 2063 and Zambia’s Vision 2030. UNFPA led dedicated sessions on SRH&R as a human rights, health and development issue; as well as provided orientation on existing human rights assessment frameworks to guide parliamentary engagements with Government and stakeholders.

Parliamentarians as Transformers and Change Agents

UNFPA with Health Coorperating Partners Group in Zambia and Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services

The knowledge exchange meetings were important towards ensuring Parliamentarians are able to link SRH&R to global, regional and national development contexts through the SDGs, Africa’s Agenda 2063 and Zambia’s Vision 2030 respectively. Equipped with the right information, Parliamentarians have been proven to be key advocates and change agents in advancing SRH&R. As part of its statutory duties, the National Assembly also invited submissions and open dialogues with national and international stakeholders working in the area of sexual reproductive health and rights in order to:

  • Better understand the key development issues affecting women, men and young people in Zambia; as well as key strategies by stakeholders to address these issues.
  • Discuss the specific role of Parliamentarians to support ongoing efforts towards social and economic development at national and sub-national levels; including reviewing inclusive laws; appropriating and monitoring implementation of national budgets; oversight and accountability in implementation of policies and programmes; and holding Government and stakeholders accountable for delivery of development programs.

As part of this process, UNFPA brokered a critical and strategic joint partnership within the Cooperating Partners Group on Health in Zambia, comprising of UN Agencies; Bilateral and Multilateral Organizations; as well as with The International Labour Organization to engage Parliamentarians in dedicated dialogue sessions with the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services” and the “Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Sport” respectively.

Key issues highlighted during the dialogue sessions included:

  • Assertions that women and young peoples’ sexual and reproductive health is not only a health issue, but also a development and human rights issue.
  • Acknowledgment that Zambia continues to demonstrate commitments to women and young peoples’ SRH&R, including the signing and ratification of several international human rights law, instruments and development agenda; as well as the domestication of the SDGs including SDG 3 and 5 through the Seventh National Development Plan.
  • Recognition that women and young people comprise the largest population in Zambia, with 82 % being youth aged below 35 and 51% being females. However this population group continues to face significant development challenges, including high school drop-out rates among youth [68%]; high child marriage and teenage pregnancy rates [31 % and 29% respectively]; high HIV prevalence rates among women aged 15-49 [15% among women compared to 11% among men]; high maternal mortality rates [398 per 100,000 live births]; and high gender-based violence among women aged 15-49 [43%] among others.
  • Affirmation that collective actions are required to change the SRH&R landscape in Zambia, including amplifying the legislative, budgeting, oversight and accountability, and representation role of parliamentarians in this regard.

Parliamentarians Reaffirm Commitment to Advancing Women and Young People’s Health and

Key concluding perspectives from Members of Parliament during the dialogue sessions included the following:

SRH&R has far reaching benefits. It is clear that it saves lives; it contributes to poverty reduction and
socio-economic development; and secures dignity and rights of individuals. As members of this committee,
we commit to support catalytic multi-sectoral actions to enhance SRH&R in Zambia, which we know will in
turn support the achievement of SDGs, Agenda 2063 and Zambia Vision 2030: Hon . Jonas Chanda, Chair
of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services.

The unprecedented large number of young people aged 35 and below - which data indicates is as high as
82% - means that this current generation of youth will largely drive the outcomes of all the SDGs in
Zambia…and will also be the ones who have to live with the results. As Parliamentarian’s, we will use our
oversight role at constituency levels to ensure that resources are adequately allocated and utilized for the
education, health and empowerment of our youth: Hon. Chinga Miyutu, Chair of the Parliamentary
Committee on Youth and Sport.