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District stakeholders roll up their sleeves to address young women and girls’ SRH, HIV and GBV issues in KwaZulu-Natal

After a year of holding virtual meetings, due to the Covid- 19 pandemic, district stakeholders came together around the same table in a memorable face-to- face District Coordination Meeting on 28 September 2021. The range of partners present included Provincial-level authorities (Office of the Premier, ,Department of Social Development, Department of Health, as well as members of the , uThukela District Municipality, Civil Society Organizations, Youth representatives, key implementing partners and service providers supported by UNFPA. The meeting took place within the scope of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme titled “Empowering Women and Girls to Realize their SRHR in South Africa”. The Programme supports the district in ensuring that services are strengthened for increased access to integrated SRH, HIV and GBV by young women and girls, while communities are mobilised to support uptake.

The purpose of the meeting was threefold: to share the status of the implementation of the activities implemented by the Joint Programme partners, promote networking amongst
implementing partners and service providers and, to strengthen coordination and referral mechanism amongst sectors. Under the co-chairmanship of Dr. Nolwazi Dlamini (KZN DSD) and Mr. Blose (District DoH), the meeting also counted on remarks by Ms. Linda Naidoo (UNFPA) who reminded the participants of the commitments already outlined in District IDP, Health and Safety plans, and how the task ahead is to trickle down such services to reach all vulnerable groups, especially young women and girls. Dr. Dlamini also reminded stakeholders of the commitment to ensure that even the most remote and rural communities can enjoy safety and access to health and psychosocial services. Reports from service providers and implementing partners on their activities included community engagements, SBCC, mainstreaming of gender and demographic dividends into district planning tools, strengthening the delivery of quality adolescent and youth friendly services , and integrated SRHR/HIV/GBV services. Whilst the above programmatic interventions demonstrated a common objective of strengthening access to integrated SRH/HIV/GBV, each report was unique based on its target audience and method of intervention. The deliberations that ensued were lively, robust and engaging. Overall partners appreciated and acknowledged the progress and supported the documentation of a multi- sectoral strategy outlining roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in enhancing SRH/HIV/GBV coordination, improve referral mechanisms, and social behavior change initiatives, in support of empowering the adolescent girls and young women in the Uthukela District. A set of monthly follow-up meetings is agreed upon, for review of progress and district leadership and coordination.