Address poverty first
So, the 5th African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights opened in Windhoek last week and once again, papers were presented and most probably resolutions passed.
Unfortunately, it ends there just as it has always been with the other four conferences.
Resources were squandered and man-hours spent, yet a few hours after the conference’s concluding remarks, a newborn baby must have been found thrown in a toilet; a small girl must have been sexually violated; a mother raped by her husband and life, just like the world, goes on as usual.
One wonders then, why we have such conferences where people who think they know better gather to discuss and speculate on the fate of the people who are not represented at such events.
Discussing sexual health and rights amidst poverty is like wishing the rains to pour in the Namib Desert.
Poverty-stricken women have no rights and say in their own lives. They usually don’t think using their brains but stomachs. So when a man asks for anything, as long as there is money on the table, the thought of health and rights are non-existent. These are secondary issues.
For most women, illness will come later. For others, they will ‘see what to do’ when they fall pregnant. If they can’t abort (this is the most probable case, because they can’t afford to have the baby), then they wait to give birth and throw the baby away. And simply because the halo of poverty will still be hanging over them, they go back to the same situation hours after disposing of the baby.
The fact is that, they know the dangers of what they do but they have no choice because they want to survive. They know that if they dump their baby and get caught, they will be jailed. They know that if they have sex without a condom, chances are that they will fall pregnant or contract HIV. But still, they do it.
It’s time the root cause of this negligence, poverty, is addressed.
As long as there are no jobs and proper education, women will remain stuck in sexual doldrums. They will still be exploited and fooled into engaging into sexual activities that deprive them of their rights and lives.
It’s unfortunate that the people who would benefit from such conferences are kept away. Nobody bothers to invite them so that they can tell their stories or hear other people’s stories.
More often than not, such conferences are interested in inviting top names that can afford to stand their ground in the event that they are about to be exploited.
The Zambian First Lady, Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata who attended the conference summarised this very well when she told the conference that she would have died of a maternal complication had she not been a doctor herself.
What she meant in short was that if she were poor and uneducated, she would have died of ignorance and poverty because that is what kills most women.
Like we pointed out earlier on and like Dr Kaseba-Sata pointed out, most hospitals and medical personnel react according to a person’s status.
“Surely, that’s the way it ought to be for everyone. We are all special and there should be no discrimination on the basis of colour, sex and social standing in society,” she emphasised, adding that it was unfortunate that not many African women are as fortunate. “We continue to see increasing numbers of women with unwanted and unplanned pregnancies die at the hands of quacks or impostors,” she added.
Yeah, Dr Kaseba-Sata, we agree but add that unless you guys focus more on poverty and education, nothing will ever change. Even the 6th Conference on Health and Rights will come and discuss the same issues.
It’s called ‘going in circles’ while babies are dying, being dumped and more and more women become victims.