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Zambian Parliament and UNFPA Collaborate Towards Attainment of SDG 3.7 in Zambia

In 2017, UNFPA in Zambia has scaled 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. The Country Offices' 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

In its capacity as Vice Chair of the National Working Group on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH&R) established in Zambia as part of the SADC Parliamentary Forum support to 7 Member States; and recognizing that enhanced knowledge and skills in SRH&R among Parliamentarians is key towards effective oversight and accountability, UNFPA engaged within five technical sessions with various Parliamentary Committees.

Speaking during a knowledge sharing meeting on SRH&R facilitated by UNFPA in collaboration with the UN Resident Coordinators' Office in Zambia, Deputy Clerk [Procedures] of the National Assembly Hon. Royd Ngulube reaffirmed the Zambian Parliaments’ commitment to work with national and international stakeholders, to support Zambia’s attainment of SDG targets, in particular health and health related SDGs.

"As part of its key actions for 2017, the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services will focus on Zambia’s implementation of the SDG target 3.7 aimed at ensuring universal access to sexual reproductive health services, including the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programs. I wish to re-affirm the Committees’ commitment to effectively design policies, support local level budget allocation and implementation of programmes to advance SRH&R among marginalized populations in this regard" Hon. Ngulube said.

Parliamentarians as Transformers and Change Agents

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 proven to be key advocates and change agents in advancing SRH&R.

In early 2017, the National Assembly, as part of its statutory duties, invited submissions and open dialogues with national and international stakeholders working in the area of sexual reproductive health and rights. The dialogues were aimed at discussing the specific role of Parliamentarians in enhancing social and economic development at national and sub-national levels. As part of this process, UNFPA brokered critical and strategic joint partnerships within the Cooperating Partners Group on Health in Zambia, comprising of UN Agencies, Bilateral and Multilateral Organizations to engage Parliamentarians in dedicated dialogue sessions with Parliamentary Committees on Health, Community Development and Social Services, as well as Youth and Sport respectively.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health, Community Development and Social Services Hon. Jonas Chanda (L4) with chairperson of the African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development Hon. Marie-Rose Nguini Effa (R4) and other Members of Parliament; joined by UNFPA Representative Dr. Mary Otieno (R2) and IPPF Zambia Executive Director Ms. Nang'andu Kamwale (L1) at the Demographic Dividend Capacity Building Meeting for Members of Parliament in March 2017.

Key issues highlighted during the dialogue sessions included:

  • Assertions that women and young peoples’ sexual reproductive health is not only a health issue, but also a development and human rights issue. This includes recognition that women and young people comprise the largest population in Zambia, and that this group continues to face significant development challenges including high school drop-out rates [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.
  • Acknowledgment that Zambia continues to demonstrate commitments to women and young peoples’ SRH&R, including through the signing and ratification of several international human rights laws, instruments and development agenda; as well as the domestication of the SDGs including SDG 3 and 5 through the 7th National Development Plan.
  • 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.

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

In December 2017, the National Assembly of Zambia, in collaboration with UNFPA, UKaid and PPAZ held a strategic engagement with Members of Parliament to reflect on prior engagaments and dialogues in 2017; subsequent actions by Members of Parliament through various oversight, law-making, budgetary, representational and outreach actions; as well as underscoring areas for further engagements in 2018 and beyond. The strategic engagement was held with Parliamentary Committees of Health, Gender, Youth, and Financing.

Synthesizing key actions and outcomes resulting from the various strategic engagements with Parliamentarians, First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Catherine Namugala recalled Zambia's commitments towards improving health outcomes and human rights for women and girls, as one of the 7 SADC Parliamentary Forum Member States implementing the 4 year Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, HIV and AIDS and Governance Project.

"It is clear that SRH&R has far reaching benefits. It saves lives; it contributes to poverty reduction and socio-economic development; and secures dignity and rights of individuals. The sustained engagements and capacity building sessions with Parliamentarians are therefore critical towards ensuring well informed and inspired parliamentarians who will actively debate issues aimed at enhancing equitable access to SRH&R in Zambia. I therefore wish to reaffirm the Zambian Parliaments’ commitment to support catalytic multi-sectoral actions to enhance SRH&R in Zambia" Hon. Namugala said. 

Speaking on behalf of UNFPA Zambia, UNFPA Deputy Representative Ms. Chinwe Ogbonna recognized the contributory actions through the 4-prong role of Parliamentarians as powerful change agents in development, and affirmed UNFPA's commitment in this regard.

"As we deliberate, it is critical to constantly have at the back of our minds the 10 year old girl in Nchelenge, Katete, Shangombo, Dundumwezi and Chongwe to mention a few.  Each of these girls will be adults by 2030 and would either have a fulfilled potential or a negative outcome. We therefore need to explore beyond the ordinary; identify and explore new opportunities and foster critical partnerships; ensure strong institutions and systems; secure sustainable financing; as well as define accountability mechanisms among others. UNFPA re-affirms its commitment to partnerships with the Republic of Zambia, including the National Assembly in this regard" Ms. Ogbonna said. 

First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Catherine Namugala (R2); Chairperson of the National Working Group on SRH&R Dr. Christopher Kalila (L2); UNFPA Deputy Representative Ms. Chinwe Ogbonna (R1) and IPPF Zambia Executive Director Ms. Nangandu Kamwale (L1) at a Strategic Engagement Meeting with Parliamentarians in December 2017

Key 2017 concluding perspectives from Members of Parliament included the following:

  • Recognition that sustaining the gains and accelerating efforts to reduce preventable maternal, neo-natal and child mortality remains a key development challenge in Zambia. The role of Members of Parliament in addressing direct and underlying causes is critical in this regard.
  • Affirmation that increased and sustainable domestic financing; strong leadership and enhanced multi-sectoral coordination; enhanced human resource capacities and supply chain management; as well as addressing socio-cultural barriers are critical towards equitable access and utilization of SRHR.
  • Assertions that the effective engagement of Parliamentarians, as well as the active involvement of rights holders in monitoring the fulfillment of SRH&R is essential. This includes monitoring and reporting of SRH&R related Universal Periodic Review (UPR) state recommendations among others.