For immediate release: 2021 #VoiceandChoice Barometer reflects slow progress
Harare, 1 October 2021: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe and Gender Links, members of The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance launched the 13th 2021 #VoiceandChoice Barometer, in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a major impact on women’s sexual and reproductive health rights.
The Barometer measures 100 indicators in seven thematic areas on sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) including Gender Based Violence (GBV); teenage pregnancies; child marriages; harmful practices and unsafe abortions, HIV and AIDS and family planning, menstrual and maternal health.
Under the banner #VoiceandChoice, the 2021 Barometer adds chapters on women’s political participation, the media, as well as a chapter on climate justice, often referred to as the “twin pandemic”, and one with similarly devastating consequences of women’s SRHR.
“The barometer highlights key areas that affect women, areas including child marriages, teen pregnancies and unsafe abortions, which are likely to increase due to Covid-19. At the same time the barometer provides an opportunity for all of us to position ourselves in areas to work in’” – Virginia Muwanigwa (CEO – Zimbabwe Gender Commission)
Now in its 13th edition, the Barometer tracks progress on women’s rights in SADC against the provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol that brings together African and global commitments to gender equality, as well as the SADC Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Strategy. Data on 12 key indicators tracked in this strategy show that countries only tick 26% of the green ”success” boxes, down from 27% last year.
The 2021 Barometer reflects slow progress in advancing women’s rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). In Zimbabwe significant progress has been made around adolescents’ access to SRHR services. 82% of adolescents in Zimbabwe indicated that they felt respected at health facilities. However, maternal mortality rate is still high at 458 per 100 000 live births. There is a need for continued awareness and policy strengthening on SRHR.
The unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on women’s voice and choice. The vaccine roll-out programme currently underway across the region is the best hope for consolidating the fragile gains made for women’s rights in the last decade. Sex disaggregated data remains patchy but this and anecdotal evidence show that if not the most infected, women are the most affected by the pandemic. The real impact of COVID-19 will take some time to reflect in official data that is often a year or two behind.
The Barometer draws attention to the inequality in vaccine roll out across the globe, also known as “vaccine apartheid”, which has seen rich countries in the global north hoarding vaccines for their populations at the expense of poorer countries in the global south. Only 4% of the 360 million people in SADC have been fully vaccinated. This is lower than the global average of 27% and much lower than the average in most developed countries, where over half the population has been vaccinated. These countries have also started administering booster shots to their populations, when the most vulnerable in the global south have not yet received their first vaccination.
In Zimbabwe JUST 34.71% OF THE POPULATION HAS BEEN FULLY VACCINATED. The SADC HOS, the Alliance launched the #VaccineGenderJustice Campaign.
The Barometer underscores the need for sex disaggregated data on COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccine roll out to understand the differential impact the pandemic has had on women and men and to ensure fair and equal access to vaccinations for all, especially that they are reaching marginalised communities, such as women living in rural areas, women living with disability, women living with HIV and AIDS, migrant women, and the LGBTIQ community.
The Barometer makes the recommendations for States, to:
The time for action is now. Immediately following the Barometer launch Alliance partners are meeting to develop advocacy strategies to address these recommendations, including on ASRHR policy, safe abortion and child marriage, targeted at key policy makers and influencers, with a strong focus on youth involvement.
The Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance is a network of national women’s rights networks in 15 SADC countries that campaigned for the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008, and now its implementation. In ZIMBABWE, the Alliance is represented by Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe.
For more information, please contact: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Evernice Munando (Chairperson), Sally Ncube (National Coordinator) 31 Harvey Brown Ave., Milton Park, Harare, Tel: +263 0242 701955/6 Cell: 0775 708657 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org