BY THE HONOURABLE JEFF RADEBE, MP, MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY FOR PLANNING,
MONITORING AND EVALUATION AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION;
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE PRE-CONFERENCE OF THE 8TH AFRICA
CONFERENCE ON SEXUAL HEALTH AND RIGHTS (ACSHR); CEDARWOODS CONFERENCE CENTRE,
you, Director of the Programme:
Esiet, Convenor of the Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights
Honourable Prof Gyan Baffour, the Minister of Planning in Ghana
Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women
Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary General Youth Envoy
Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA
from the various Youth Forums
would like to begin by extending a warm South African welcome and fraternal
greetings to each and every one of our distinguished guests; to the youth
assembled here from across this incredibly vast and wonderful African continent;
and to every individual present in this room today.
gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to South Africa at this critical
juncture in our unfolding democracy. The launch of the Youth Pre-conference, ahead
of the 8th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights (ACSHR),
takes place at the dawn of a new era in South Africa.
this day, 28 years ago, President Nelson Mandela woke up as a free man for the
first time in 27 years. This followed his release from Victor Verster Prison on
11 February 1990, hence yesterday was the 28th anniversary of this
momentous occasion. President Jacob Zuma has declared this year as The Year of
Nelson Mandela, in honour of what would have been Madiba’s 100th
birthday. As a nation, we have the responsibility to uphold Madiba’s values and
country is undergoing a period of fundamental change, and young people should
be at the epicentre of this renewal. We have recently returned from the World
Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, where our mission was to attract
investors and restore hope in our economy.
I can boldly say that after our participation at
WEF, the world is more confident about the socio-economic stability of South
Africa. Our currency is strengthening steadily and confidence has been restored
in our future growth.
Africa’s development strategies are underpinned by the National Development
Plan (NDP), as the overarching long-term plan of the country. The NDP, our Vision
2030, singles out the youth as the major catalysts in boosting economic growth.
The NDP stipulates clearly that, “By 2030, people living in South Africa should
have no fear of crime, Women, children and those who are vulnerable should feel
government, our mission is to transform the economic landscape and make it more
inclusive and address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The
youth and women, in particular, are at the core of South Africa’s development
is against this backdrop that the theme of this year’s gathering, “Advancing
the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls in Africa,”
resonates with South Africa’s vision. This is a formidable theme, I believe, given
the context we currently exist in, as a global community.
the dawn of democracy, the government of the Republic of South Africa embarked
on a transformation agenda, which includes the empowerment of women as well as
the promotion of gender equality. The late President Nelson Mandela, in his
inaugural speech, committed to ending all forms of discrimination, especially
“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the
women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”
these early commitments, women and youth continue to be disadvantaged. Even though
the majority of Africa’s population is constituted by young people, with those
under 15 at 41%, according to the World Bank, the youth population group accounts for 60% of all the unemployed in Africa.
Statistics indicate an even direr situation
in Botswana, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, South Africa and several other
countries. In South Africa, unemployment rate amongst youth is
currently at 26% (Statistics South Africa).
Of relevance to this conference is the fact
that young women feel the sting of unemployment even more sharply. Additionally,
in some parts of the world, girls and young women do not have the same
access to education and training as their male peers. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa one in
eight girls is married by the age of 15 and one in seven has given birth by the
age of 17 (World Inequality Database
in Education (WIDE), 2013). These girls are as a result, deprived of their rights
and ability to make decisions about their lives, including sexual health and
we ignore the issue of promoting sexual health and rights, young women will
continue to be denied access to education and employment – the key indicators
that ensure successful transition into adulthood.
the gravity of issues mentioned above, and in an attempt to address current and
future manifestations, the African Union declared 2017 as the year of
“Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth”.
60% of the African population currently under 24, it is clear that realising
sustainable development on the continent, and universal health and wellbeing,
are contingent on the extent to which African governments are willing to invest
in their youth. According to Stats SA, 30,1%
of the South African population is aged younger than 15 years.
there remains a painstaking question on how the African technocrats and
planners would respond to and confront the challenge of harnessing this
dividend. President Nelson Mandela
reminds us that “significant progress is always possible if we ourselves plan
every detail and allow intervention of fate only on our own terms.” On this
basis, member countries of the African Union adopted the African Youth Charter
in 2006, followed by development of National Youth Policies.
a number of regional and global instruments were also devised, such as the
Maputo Plan of Action for the Operationalization of the Sexual and Reproductive
Health and Rights Continental Policy Framework (2016–2030); the African Union
Gender Policy (2009); the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage (2004); Africa
Health Strategy (2016–2030); Agenda 2063; goal 5 of the sustainable development
goals (SDG’s), etc.
South African government therefore, informed by the African Youth Charter
(AYC), the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth, developed the
National Youth Policy (NYP). The NYP is based on vision 2030 - the National Development Plan (NDP), which
provides for the health system that works for everyone, comprising an
appropriate balance between preventative, health promotion and curative
services that are affordable and accessible to all.
It is therefore without doubt that, actions
by the youth sector to address the social determinants of health, such as:
poverty, inequality, unemployment and malnutrition, would contribute
significantly towards improved health outcomes including promoting sexual
reproductive health and rights.
and Gentlemen, all these efforts are intended to accelerate development of
young people and to specifically advance the sexual and reproductive health and
rights of women in Africa and around the world.
advancing the sexual health and rights of women, the main issues which this
conference must to look at include: “Whether
there are detailed plans through which these instruments ought to be
implemented”; Whether there are adequate resources allocated for implementation
purposes”; Whether there are clear monitoring, evaluation and reporting
mechanisms in place with clear consequences for lack of implementation; and
Whether the youth are acknowledged as an important resource for advancement of
their own development.
Guests, in answering the issues I just raised and in view of growing national
and international discourse around women’s rights and emancipation, it remains true
that no real conversation about women’s empowerment can be complete without genuine,
multi-stakeholder agreement and deliberation on the fundamental sexual and
reproductive health and rights of women. We have an obligation to continue ensuring
that these essential rights are constantly respected and protected, across all areas
is for this reason among various others, that an Africa-wide Conference on
Sexual Health and Rights is held to contribute to the aspiration of “the Africa
we want” as espoused in the Agenda 2063. The united voices of African youth,
will certainly contribute solutions that would help in painting a picture of
what they want for themselves, the future generations and the continent. This
would be in line with Article 26 of the African Youth Charter, which states
that youth have a duty, amongst others, to become custodians of their own development.”
it matter? These are simple ways, I believe, of asking a very important
question: “Why are we here”?
is my view that we are here today because we all are believers in the indubitable
notion of human rights. Beyond commitment to the idea, we are resolute in our
conviction that every individual must do what they must to ensure that each person:
young or old; male or female; rich or poor; black or white; and regardless of
sexual orientation, must have their intrinsic human rights defended at all
costs. Empowering women and girls and ensuring equitable investments in their
human capital are essential for sustainable development.
great African American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., eloquently affirmed,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an
inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever
affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” I believe we are here today,
because we all subscribe to the idea of justice: for all men, women and
children, in Africa and around the world.
is imperative to note that significant progress has been made on the continent,
in the past decade, in advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights
of girls and women. The continent has witnessed considerable reduction in
maternal mortality ratios, a decrease in HIV infections and adolescent birth
rates, a stable rise in the use of contraceptives, and various other positive
developments. For example, the rate at which the population in South Africa are
being infected by HIV and Aids has been declining year on year from 1,77% in
2002 to 1,27% in 2016 (Statistics SA, 2017).
there are perennial challenges that still endure. Issues such as the lack of
implementation of policies and restricted access to sexual and reproductive
health and rights information and services have stifled progress. Despite the expansion of educational services
in the region, youth empowerment and investment in women and girls has remained
limited, thus contributing to an entrenchment of the economic factors that fuel
adolescent sexuality on the continent.
unfortunate that institutions of higher learning remained unaffordable for many
students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. It is against this
backdrop that government committed to providing free higher education for
students from poor and working class backgrounds, whose household income is
less than R350, 000.
our indisputable commitment to building capacity among African youth and women,
we still have a long way to go. This calls for African governments to reinforce
their efforts and collectively invest towards the empowerment of youth and
trust that the 8th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights will
come up with viable ways of reinforcing our commitment to these noble
objectives. I wish you the best of success in your deliberations over the next