Malawi’s first lady joins high level group on ESA commitment

Malawi’s first lady Gertrude Mutharika has joined the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Commitment’s High Level Group which is aimed at scaling up sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people.

The group is composed of prominent leaders from the Eastern and Southern Africa region who oversee the implementation of the ESA commitment.

The ESA Commitment was endorsed on December 7, 2013 by ministers of education and health who have committed to scale-up delivery of comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people across the region.

Malawi First Lady Getrude Mutharika
Malawi First Lady Getrude Mutharika

“This Commitment will help to address the many challenges facing young people in the region. For example, more than 35 per cent of young women have experienced some form of sexual violence at some point in their lives,” said ESA Commitment in a statement issued on Tuesday.

In addition, HIV infections continue to be an urgent issue with an estimated 430,000 new infections every year among young people aged 15 to 24.

Speaking on behalf of the High Level Group, Mama Salma Kikwete, First Lady of Tanzania, congratulated and welcomed the newest member, Mutharika: “I am confident that working together as First Ladies, we will make a meaningful contribution to positive health outcomes for our young people. We congratulate her on the appointment.”

Speaking at an official dinner that took place at the Golden Peacock Hotel in Malawi, Mr. Mahimbo Mdoe, Acting UN Resident Coordinator of Malawi and UNICEF Representative said, “we know that more needs to be done to end child marriage, to ensure girls stay in school, to stop teenage pregnancies, to stop STI and HIV infections and to ensure that boys and girls have the information and services that they require to be healthy, empowered citizens in their communities”.

He also acknowledged the presence of the Ministers of Gender from the SADC region and stressed the need for all sectors to work together to attain the ESA Commitment targets.

Accepting the honour, the first lady said, “the endorsement of the ESA Commitment came at a critical moment in the region and will provide the momentum needed to address the education and health needs of our future generation. I commit myself to work with the High Level Group to ensure that our region’s adolescents and young people are ready for today and tomorrow.”

The ESA Ministerial Commitment is an initiative of national governments, in partnership with the UN, Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC), civil society and development partners, under the leadership of UNAIDS.

Countries endorsing the ESA Commitment: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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