Windhoek-Bience Gawanas who is the special advisor to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare was on Friday presented as the champion on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Namibia.
She said during her acceptance speech that poverty and inequality create a situation where the majority of women and girls who are the victims of high maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies in Namibia, are in poor households and lack educational opportunities.
“We have girls becoming mothers and wives long before they are ready to do so, through teenage pregnancies and early marriages,” said Gawanas.
At an event held at the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Gawanas also said women and girls risk their lives by engaging in illegal abortions. “It is unacceptable that there are women with unwanted pregnancies who dump their babies,” said Gawanas.
She also remarked that it is unacceptable that women and girls are victims of violence and that harmful practices continue to put women and girls in a situation of having no choice.
Gawanas further said it is unacceptable that “we turn a blind eye and talk in whispered tongues when everyday we read about these uncomfortable truths and real facts without doing anything. Rather we criticise, pass judgement and fail to take full responsibility. We place blame and burden on a woman, we criminalise rather than assist when women and girls cry out for help.”
She said there is progress on sexual reproductive health and rights in Namibia. However, the cost of not doing anything is too high, Gawanas said.
“I therefore applaud Dr Bernard Haufiku (health minister) for being bold enough to embark on this cause … and to face these uncomfortable truths and real facts head on. I want to assure them that they are not alone.”
She expressed hope that the campaign would reach out and get broad support to achieve the objectives, which include accurate information, safe and affordable contraceptives and prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses, including HIV.
The objectives also include access to services that can allow women to have healthy and wanted pregnancies, safe delivery and a healthy baby with a supportive partner.
Gawanas is known for her activism on sexual reproductive health and rights. She started with the founding of the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association, and as the Commissioner for Social Affairs at the African Union where she promoted sexual reproductive health rights with the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality in Africa.
“The role of champion provides me with the opportunity to live my passion by assisting the Ministry of Health and Social Services in saving women and children’s lives and promoting health for women and children,” said Gawanas.