CA$2.25M project launched to close gaps, promote sexual and reproductive rights among females

Human Services Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud and Canadian High Commissioner Mark Berman joined by other stakeholders at the signing ceremony on Monday

The CA$2.25 million “Equal Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)” Project was launched on Monday and is expected to protect women and girls in Guyana including Indigenous and Venezuelan migrants, by enhancing their ability to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives.

Launched by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with Canada and Guyana, the project also aims to strengthen systems to prevent and respond to instances of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

It is recognised that SRHR is fundamental to people’s health, well-being, and economic development and that the improvement of the well-being of women and adolescent girls in particular depends on their ability to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive lives.

Linked to this, is the protection of women and girls from GBV and the strengthening of systems to respond to instances of GBV.

The project will primarily target the population of administrative Regions One, Seven, Eight, and Nine, inclusive of Indigenous women and girls, Venezuelan migrants, persons of diverse gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation, persons living with disabilities, and sex workers.

The project will utilise internationally recognised principles (HRBAP and RBM) and will mainly implement evidence-based and sustainable interventions. It was related that UNFPA will work with Government and civil society stakeholders and UN agencies to ensure complementarity and coherence among other programme interventions and to aid the implementation of this initiative.

The main implementing partners of the UNFPA in Guyana will be the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, and Help & Shelter.

Officer in Charge at the UNFPA Subregional Office for the Caribbean, Jewelry Quallo-Rosberg expressed that this mechanism will add to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Three and Five.

“Simply, we aim to improve access to the services for women girls and vulnerable populations, essentially those who are most at risk, the vulnerable persons of diverse gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, persons living with disabilities, and sex workers. UNFPA believes that initiatives such as Equal SRHR are imperative to assist Guyana to attain its development goals,” Quallo-Rosberg expressed.

Meanwhile, Canadian High Commissioner Mark Berman announced that the project comes at a strategic time, since accessibility, affordability, and sustainability quality, accountability, and availability of sexual and reproductive health services without discrimination continues to be a major issue.

“Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health continues to contribute to gender inequalities…There are still pockets of the population that are unable to access sexual reproductive health services and support for victims of gender-based violence. And that’s why this project was conceptualised. The focus as has been said will be on increasing the access and quality of these critical health and support services to women and girls.”

He commended the Government for making significant strides to help women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence over the years.

Human Services Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud zeroed in on the fact that Guyana has moved up on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report from 53 to 35 within a short period of time.

“It really tells you the significant work that has been done in the shortest period of time across sectors, all contributing to reducing gender inequality. So, we want to ensure that as a Government, we continue to pay the kind of importance as attention to the triggers, the factors and the causes, which will inevitably lead to the widening or the continuation of gender inequality.”

Dr Persaud added, “I can say that the work of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security has not been without its challenges, but we are very happy to have partners like Canada and also our sister Ministries, as well. As many NGOs and implementing partners like UN, UNFPA, and also the overarching spotlight initiative that would help us to assure that we eradicate some of the major things that contribute towards still having the presence of gender-based violence in our country.”

This project aligns with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy that focuses on closing gaps in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for women and girls globally, UNFPA’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, as well as Guyana’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy.