PARHA Appeals to Govt. to Enact Safe Motherhood Bill

Chairman of People’s Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA), Fodie Paul O. Kamara

By Foday Moriba Conteh

As part of their stride in ensuring competent and adequate human resources, appropriate physical infrastructure and internal systems capable of delivering and promoting adequate and equitable sexual and reproductive health services in the country, the Chairman of People’s Alliance for Reproductive Health Advocacy (PARHA), Fodie Paul O. Kamara, has appealed to the Government of Sierra Leone to, ‘Enact the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Bill.’ He made this humble appeal to the Government during a virtual meeting on global dialogue on abortion.

Underscoring PARHA’s approach to addressing the Enactment of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Bill, Fodie Paul O. Kamara noted that partnership building and collaboration  are very key and that is why the membership of PARHA is of the view that Policy Advocacy cannot be undertaken and accomplished by a single individual or entity, the sole reason for coalescing and therefore constituting a nationwide membership, comprising among NGOs, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Community Based groups (CBGs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) and individuals working around SRHRs.

Fodie added that as a unified body the issues are discussed, possible solutions proffered and activities jointly undertaken.

He furthered that community engagement is key in the advocacy drive of the PARHA Coalition, where burning issues are extensively discussed, recommendations proffered and decisions taken on the next steps to address  issues, adding that stakeholders’ engagement is another means through which SRHR issues are addressed by the PARHA Coalition ,of which he said that prior to the engagements the Coalition undertook a stakeholders’ mapping exercise to identify and classify the potential allies and opposition.

The Chairman noted that in December 2015, the Parliament of Sierra Leone unanimously passed a Safe Abortion Bill 2015 and sent it to the Office of then HE President Ernest Bai Koroma for his assent, and that immediately the Bill reached State House, the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone (which is composed of Christian and Muslim leaders, being the most prominent religious civil society organization) raised an objection to the signing of the Bill by the President, adding that in response to IRCSL’s opposition, the President refused to sign the Bill and then sent it back to Parliament with a Memo, dated February 19, 2016, containing the following points to note: the context of the Right to Life, the absence of the functional definition of the term “abortion”, Convoluted definition of “medical practitioner”, Inadequate availability of specialized service, laboratories and inadequate stakeholder consultations.

He continued that between March to December 2016, MSSL, IPAS and PPASL engaged the 149 Paramount Chiefs in three Regional Level consultations in Makeni, Kenema and Bo to garner their buy-in on the SA Bill, stating that in April 2018, at a general meeting, PARHA conducted an environmental scanning around the journey of the SA Bill through Parliament till it was rejected by HE the President.

“In consideration of the findings from the scanning process, the membership thought it fit to engage and collaborate with relevant State Institutions and Professional Bodies, to take forward the campaign on their respective thematic issues. The coalition then, on January 30, 2019, engaged the National Executive of the IRCSL and both parties reached an agreement developing a Terms of Reference (TOR) to establish a Joint Advocacy Working Group (JAWG),” Fodie Paul O. Kamara maintained.

He revealed that the coalition is trying to have a Bill that will be titled ‘Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Law’, which is comprehensive around sexual reproductive health and rights including; family planning, sexually transmitted infection, community parenting, comprehensive sexuality education and a host of issues surrounding sexual reproductive cases.

The Chairman further added that they have done stakeholders consultation and that they have been working with the Reproductive and Child Health Directorate at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, established a Technical Working Group Committee working around the proposed Bill, done a Cabinet Paper which is presently at the table of the current Minister of Health for tabling of that cabinet paper for approval of the said Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Law.


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