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The Minister of Health Edwin Dikoloti has said there is need for capacity building for traditional leaders in order to promote and deal with issues of Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) across communities.
The ministry of Health in partnership with UNFPA this week convened members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi on advancing SRHR. The engagement intended to recognise cultural context in which individuals live and seek to address SRHR issues in a way that respects local traditions while upholding human rights principles and gender equality.
Speaking during the high level meeting Dikoloti noted that traditional leaders as respected figures in many communities are a critical entry point for advancing SRHR. He indicated that Dikgosi hold significant influence and play a critical role in influencing community values, norms and behaviors.
“Traditional leaders are often responsible for decision making processes and are at the center of the preservation of cultural heritage. Their authority and status must be harnessed to drive positive change to promote SRHR,” Dikoloti said.
Empowering traditional leaders with relevant skills, accurate information and resources Dikoloti has said can enable them to be agents of change within their communities adding that their involvement in promoting SRHR can assist in breaking down barriers, challenge harmful cultural norms and create a supportive environment that protects and promotes rights of women, girls and the left behind populations.
Dikoloti indicated that Ntlo ya Dikgosi as community gate keepers and an advisory body to the national assembly, on issues of national interest, as set out in the constitution of Botswana, have a role in SRHR that cannot be over emphasized. He added that traditional leaders remain pivotal in engagement of communities, hence the need to build your capacities.
Meanwhile Women Against Rape (WAR) Director Peggy Ramaphane has implored members of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi to fully engage with communities on issues of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as well as avoiding to paraphrase issues related to SRHR as it has been the norm.
She noted that by doing so communities will do away with avoiding talking about SRHR issues with their children. Ramaphane further noted that from their assessments across Ngamiland they have learned that there is a parent child communication gap on issues of sexual reproduction due to the cultural believes and norms.
Ramaphane highlighted that often children learn about issues of sexual reproductive health only at school or from their peers, this she said is due to the fact that traditionally a parent cannot openly communicated with their children on such issues.
“This is despite having other cultural practices such as Bojale and Bogwera which are a perfect platform to address issues of sexual reproductive health with children, during such ceremonies parents often disconnect issues of sexual intercourse, child birth and other related issues,” Ramaphane said.
Ramaphane indicated that the customary law and magistrate law are conflicting in various issues giving an instance that traditionally there is something known as peeletso where one can eye a child and later marry them when they are old enough while the magistrate law also states that a 19-year-old can get married only if the child’s parents have given consent.