“Created in Gods Image”
Southern Africa Faith Leaders Support Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights for All
We, as members of the faith community, believe that we cannot stand by and watch when our people are without information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) within a region which accounts for 10% to 13% of maternal mortality, 95% of teenage pregnancies worldwide and an HIV burden that estimates one in five adults aged between 15 and 49 to be HIV positive. Girls Not Brides estimates that “15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriages in the world are in Africa”.In sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that 39% of girls are married before their 18th birthday, while 13% are married by their 15th birthday. Child brides are most likely to be found in rural areas, among the poorest and most illiterate segments of the population. Faith communities are present in all these societies.
We have a collective duty as the faith community to use our leadership influence to educate and advocate for greater access to age- and context-appropriate SRHR information and services. We acknowledge the existence of SRHR policies in 13 out of 15 countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), some of which are outdated and need to be updated to align with the Southern African Development Community SRHR Strategy 2019-2030.
As faith communities in Southern Africa, we have been responding to, and will continue to respond to, issues relating to SRHR. We have been actively involved in preventing and responding to early and unplanned pregnancies, child marriage, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS.
This policy brief represents reflections by theologians from diverse communities of faith, on the engagement of such communities with issues relating to SRHR in Southern Africa. It serves to communicate the value that the faith communities bring to the discourse and practice of SRHR in the region. Further, it expresses the centrality of faith to the debates and activities relating to SRHR at different levels.