MenEngage Africa and Sonke Gender Justice host SRHR Symposium in Boksburg, South Africa


The MenEngage Africa Sexual Rights Health and Rights(SRHR) Learning and Exchange Symposium which took place from the 21st to the 23rd of October in Johannesburg South Africa, was an important event that focused on the theme of “SRHR for All: Building a Better Future for Africa’s Youth.” The symposium brought together a diverse range of stakeholders committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa. The three-day event was hosted by Sonke Gender Justice and MenEngage Africa in collaboration with partners such as the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Save the Children International (SCI), Frontline AIDS, The Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global), UNESCO, Community Centre for Impact, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and technical partners. The symposium was attended by over one hundred delegates representing most regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. These delegates included young people of all their diversities, religious and traditional leaders, LGBTQI+ persons, and allies. 

Throughout the three-day event, attendees engaged in meaningful discussions and workshops, sharing their experiences and expertise on the various topics related to SRHR. Participants explored different approaches to addressing the challenges facing young people in Africa, such as the lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education, safe abortion services, and youth-friendly health services. They also discussed the importance of engaging with traditional and religious leaders to promote gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The symposium also emphasized the importance of involving young people in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. Young people were recognized as key stakeholders in the promotion of SRHR, and their voices were heard throughout the symposium. The symposium also acknowledged the crucial role that religious and traditional leaders play in shaping attitudes towards SRHR in their communities. Participants discussed the need to engage with these leaders in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner to promote positive change. The symposium was a reminder that progress can only be achieved through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and inclusive and innovative strategies

This symposium was a crucial platform for engaging men and boys in the promotion of SRHR, which is often a neglected area in discussions on gender equality. The symposium created a safe space for men and women to share their experiences, challenges, and successes in promoting SRHR.”Your story matters, you matter, said Jude Thaddeus Njikem, SRHR Specialist at Sonke Gender Justice. These words resonated with the audience throughout the duration for the symposium serving as a persistent reminder to young people concerning their participation in the forthcoming dialogues.

“Our presence here, representing diverse backgrounds, organizations, and perspectives, is a testament to our shared commitment to advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). We come together with the firm belief that SRHR is not just a matter of healthcare, it is a matter of human rights, justice, and equality”. Said Co-Executive Director at Sonke Gender Justice and a board member of MenEngage Global,

The Symposium was honored to have a representative from the Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in South Africa, Charity Kiwumulo who gave a keynote address and appreciated the conveners of the Symposium. She acknowledged the organizers of the symposium and the importance of the gathering. In her address she noted that Africa remains the epicenter of HIV, with over half of the number of people living with HIV in the world living in this region and SRHR is essential in helping young people make informed choices about their health and lives.

“We believe that access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is extremely crucial for young people. It provides medical care and comprehensive sexuality education, which gives them vital information about their sexualities, sensuality and gender identities and expression. It also allows them bodily autonomy and power over their lives”, Charity concluded. The MenEngage Africa Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Learning and Exchange Symposium was an overall success as it brought together a wide spectrum of stakeholders working to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights in Africa. Delegates were able to propose real answers to the difficulties affecting young people in Africa via cooperation, information exchange, and inclusive and creative tactics, ensuring that they have access to the tools and services they need to lead healthy and productive lives. The Symposium closed with young people feeling energized to continue advocating for SRHR access in their local communities. The symposium concluded with the presentation of an outcome document and a commitment.