The Ministry of Health in partnership with UNFPA organized a two (2) day National e-conference on strengthening systems for the Integration of Sexual Reproductive Health, HIV and Gender-Based Violence services was officially opened by the Minister of State for Primary Health Care Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku. She was joined by the UN resident coordinator Rosa Malango and Daniel Johansson Arnhem, a counselor for the Swedish Embassy in Uganda ran from 4th -6th February 2021. The conference was held under the theme of “Integrating SRH, HIV and GBV services for Universal Health Coverage. My Role.” It was partly physical and virtual and was attended by SRHR practitioners from the government, development partners, academia, and Civil Society fraternity in Uganda.
While giving her opening remarks, the UN Resident Coordinator addressed the issue of COVID-19 having devastated communities and economies however it also provided an opportunity to address the urgent need for universal health coverage in Uganda. “If achieved, there will be affordable, high-quality services leading to better health for everyone including children and women. Ugandans will be more educated and productive to the economy and families will be protected from poverty-causing health costs.”
Young people presented a paper that was developed from the pre-conference which recommended a meaningful engagement of young people at all levels in decision making so that they are empowered to make informed choices regarding their SRHR and play a vital role in determining their destiny and making a meaningful contribution within their expertise.
The relation between sexual reproductive health and GBV is mainly through intimate relations that are influenced by socio-cultural factors including gender power imbalances. Socio-cultural factors such as the unfavorable economic position of women, child marriages, FGM and the inability to insist on condom use make most Ugandan women unable to negotiate the timing of sex and the conditions under which it occurs. Thus, they are rendered powerless to protect themselves against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies.
As part of experience sharing during the conference, several SRH practitioners presented abstracts and poster presentations of the unique interventions, especially during the COVID19 period. This was aimed to present evidence of solutions or attempted solutions that could cause a shift from what is being done to what needs to be done.
Her Excellency, Karin Boven, the Ambassador Kingdom of Netherlands to Uganda gave closing remarks in which she commended the Government of Uganda for the progress and achievements made to address SRHR/HIV and SGBV. She also acknowledged the need to do much so as to secure sexual and reproductive health for all, and to ensure women and girls are able to live a life free of violence. “This means we need to step up our efforts, be critical about our strategies, and collaborate to have the highest impact on the lives of girls and boys, women and men.”
The UNFPA Representative, Mr. Alain Sibenaler also gave his remarks on the closing day and they were centered around showing accountability to the communities served, the Government, and development partners, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “The issue of safeguarding the reproductive rights of our young people who have experienced sexual violence during the period when we have schools closed as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID. Ladies and gentlemen, teenage pregnancies are a gross violation of human rights and a form of gender-based violence.”
The young people, civil society organizations, development partners, and the Ministry of Health all committed to working together in each of their capacities to reckon a force that will foster the integration of SRHR, GBV, and HIV in fulfillment of the SRH rights of young people which is central in the development and will enable Uganda to achieve ICPD+25 commitments and SDGs especially 3 and 5
Summing it all up was the Minister of Health for Primary Health Care Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu stated that going forward, the Ministry of Health will focus on improving access to high-quality Sexual and Reproductive Health services for all ages. This will therefore strengthen coordination mechanisms for quality delivery of integrated Health Services at all levels. She concluded by urging everyone to ensure that there is a collective responsibility to bring a difference that can bring a positive difference if we are to succeed in the integration of SRH services.