The Public hearing of the Oyo State Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Maternal Services Bill, 2017

According to World Health Organization(WHO) Sexual and reproductive health and rights encompass efforts to eliminate preventable, maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, to ensure quality sexual and reproductive health services including contraceptive services, and to address sexually transmitted Infections (STI) and cervical cancer, violence against women and girls and sexuality and reproductive health needs of adolescents.

The Public hearing of the Oyo State Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Maternal Services Bill, 2017 held on Wednesday, 17th October 2018 at the Western Hall, Oyo State House of Assembly Secretariat, Ibadan.

 The basic reason for a public hearing is to elevate a democratic procedure for adopting laws involving the people in lawmaking and achieving a more complete implementation of the oversight functions, increase transparency of the work of the legislators – Rt. Hon. Joshua Olagunju Ojo Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly.

Rt. Hon. Joshua Olagunju Ojo, Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly and other legislators at the public hearing.

The Bill had gone through the 1st and 2nd reading and is on its way to been passed into law. The Speaker of the Oyo state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Joshua Olagunju alongside other lawmakers, top government officials, the Attorney General –Barr. Seun Abimbola, and commissioner for Justice and other stakeholders from, Ministry of health, The Nigerian Bar Association, Medical practitioners, NGOs, religious organizations, Association of traditional birth attendants, Civil societies, and others attended the public hearing in order to make their contributions towards improving the Bill.

Hon. S.O Okunlola, the Chairman, Committee on Health in his welcome address said that the aim of the Bill is to promote and protect the right of people of Oyo state especially women to enable them to have access to reproductive health and adequate maternity services. He stated further that, “for any reasonable government, the health of citizens should be a priority as such the health policy of government at federal and state and local government levels should be in tandem with international best practices”.

Deliberations at the public hearing were aimed at having a sustainable framework for reproductive health and maternal care services in Oyo state through a legislation.

The Bill is a private members bill which was sponsored and brought to the attention of the legislators who received it with open arms. It is intended to complement the efforts of the executive arm of government in the state in the area of providing quality healthcare to the people in the state. Hon. Okunlola assured all stakeholders present at the public hearing that the memoranda compiled and submitted will be painstakingly looked into in order to come out with an implementable document.

A cross section of stakeholders at the public hearing.

The Import of the Bill was presented by Hon. Mrs. B.O Oladeji, Chairperson, Committee on Women Affairs, Community Development, Social Welfare, and Poverty Alleviation.

“It has been observed that most women do not have access to adequate reproductive health and maternal care services in the state, as a result, many women suffer complications during childbirth which in turn contributes to increased maternal mortality. This bill intends to promote and protect the rights of women in having access to adequate reproductive health and maternal care services in the state. It also intends to put in place a structure for upholding standards and monitoring maternal care services provided in the state and Local government levels. It intends to promote women’s health, safe motherhood and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rate amongst our women. Sections in the bill provide for the establishment of committees to monitor the level of antenatal and postnatal care as well as activities of health care providers in the state and local governments. Clause 8 of the bill provides major standards and regulations of which health care providers need to comply with and there are equally penalties for contraventions. It is believed that this bill will go a long way in improving the health of women in terms of putting in place regulations and standard for monitoring, provision of family planning and provision of safe healthcare services in Oyo state”.

One of the stakeholders the State Team Lead (NURHI) Oyo state, Mrs. Stella Akinso in her contribution to the memoranda had this to  say:

“Women of reproductive of age by definition starts from 15 -49 which means young people who are sexually active have been factored in. Young people need access to quality family planning and maternity services. This Bill will become ineffective without budgetary allocation and release for the implementation. There is also the need for the provision of adequate human capital (skilled and trained healthcare providers/birth attendants) to be able to implement all the things stated in the bill”.

Mrs. Akinso advised that after the Bill gets passed it should be translated into the local language so that everyone can have access to the information therein. More than anything she said, there is the need for a total overhaul of health facility and system in Oyo state.

The maternal mortality rate in Nigeria stands at 645 per 100,000 births and in Oyo state 262 women out of 100, 000 that deliver will die. That translates to mean that about 3 women will die out of 1000 births.

This is unacceptable as No Woman Should Die Giving Birth to Another Life and this is the essence of this bill. Mrs. Akinso ended her contribution to the memoranda with these words, “I do hope that this bill will be adequately funded, monitored and implemented”.

Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – bisimodupe1975@gmail.com

There are No Real Winners in War – Dr. Denis Mukwege #2018NobelPeacePrize

Photo Credit: From the Film – The Man who Mends Women

This piece is written in honour of a man who has done so much to bring healing and hope to women who suffered sexual violence in war. Dr Denis Mukwege was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Nadia Murad. As I said in a previous post, The Possibility of ending Sexual Violence – Nadia Murad 

I could never hope to capture their pain, agony, struggles and tireless efforts at mending others and speaking up to get the international community and everyone in the world to end this war crime – Sexual violence/rape as a tool for war.

But I’d like to simply share their work and story briefly in the bid to say, “I salute your courage; thank you for giving yourself so others can live in a safer world”.

Why do humans engage in war? The very ancient reason centres around conquest of territories; power tussle; supremacy and control. At the heart of it all is man’s insatiable thirst for power and control of resources. A Yoruba saying states, “Ibere Ogun laa ri, ko seni mo ipari e”, meaning that one can only know how a war begins but no one knows how it will all end. This saying is usually quoted as a warning to control a conflict before it gets out of hand.
No one really wins a war because both sides suffer loss ranging from losing men, women and children; structural and economic destruction of their cities. Everyone will need to rebuild again often for many years and they may never fully recover from the effects and impact of the war. More worrisome are the emotional and psychological scars left on both the fighting men and civilian victims.

The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced great conflicts between soldiers and rebels which left the country terribly ravaged. The war lasted for decades and is referred to as the “The great African World War with the highest number of casualties since World War II. Sexual Violence was a weapon of War in eastern Congo for more than 20 years.

Those who suffered more are women and children who are beaten, raped and brutally treated by angry soldiers who use this physical assault as a weapon of war. Records show that in many war situations of various countries or communities sexual violence is increasingly been used as a weapon to inflict pain in war. After the war is over these women and girls are left battered emotionally and physically and even stigmatized by society. According to the findings of UN representative for Sexual Violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom(2010) –  as a result of the war DRC was labelled the “Rape Capital” 

One man saw this need and decided to commit to providing support for these battered women. He is Dr Denis Mukwege who recently was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner alongside Nadia Murad.

A Glimpse of Dr Denis Mukwege’s life and work 

Denis Mukwege is a medical doctor, who has made it his life’s mission to mend women who are victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo war. Dr Denis was inspired to become a doctor when he accompanied his father who was a pastor to visit various sick people in communities. He then went on to study medicine and specialized in gynaecology and obstetrics with the desire to provide services for women who experience birth complications. Another serious need arose as war ravaged his dear country; many women, girls and children faced a wave of brutality as they were raped by soldiers and rebel warlords. It was during this high conflict period that he founded the Panzi hospital. It is located in Bukavu the eastern part of Congo and was officially opened in 1999 by Dr Denis Mukwege. Panzi hospital is known for support for sexual violence survivors. He and his staff have carried out a gynaecological repair for over 40, 000 thousand women who were sexual violence victims in the Congolese conflicts and war.

His life was once threatened as he faced assassination attempt because of his advocacy work in creating awareness about stopping this war crime – sexual violence and bringing to book perpetrators. Dr Denis had to flee his country for a while before returning but while he was away staff continued treating survivors. At the Panzi hospital, each rape survivor is accompanied by a social assistant who works to create a tailor-made healing pathway which includes repair, psychological, legal and economic intervention programs.

I  once again salute Dr Denis Mukwege for his courageous and sacrificial efforts in bringing healing to these women and for his continued effort in the fight for women’s rights. He sure deserves this award. I end with his response to the award on Twitter:

This Nobel Prize is a recognition of the suffering of women victims of rape and sexual violence; the need for a just reparation in their favour and the hope to draw a red line against the use of rape in armed conflict.

Adebisi Adetunji (C) Founder Beehyve Empowerment and Development Initiative. Media content provider, Trainer & consultant-@debisibusybeemedia, Behavioral Change Radio Drama, Communication4Development, Social Media Influencer, Controller Programs (FRCN) Catch me on Twitter – @DebisiBusybee, Facebook & email – bisimodupe1975@gmail.com