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UNFPA in partnership with the Honourable MEC for Social Development, MEC N. Khoza, the executive management team from the Department of Social Development, the local leadership, including the Mayor of Jozini, local councillors, iiNkosi from the area and officials from the legislature, together with the community of Jozini in ward 3 commemorated World Population Day in Jozini, KwaZulu Natal on 12 July 2019. The marquee, filled initially with only the presence of the warm rays of the sun filtering through the beautifully exposed winter trees, was soon buzzing and alive with people, young and old, eagerly waiting to join the commemoration.

Jozini is one of five local municipalities in uMkhanyakude District. A deep rural area in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal bordering Swaziland and Mozambique. Whilst the town is surrounded by the most scenic beauty, communities are grossly challenged by poverty, malnutrition, harmful traditional practises, TB, HIV and AIDs, malaria and teenage pregnancy. Despite the antiretroviral and TB programmes, HIV and AIDS and TB remains the major causes of morbidity and mortality in younger persons.

Ms Naidoo, a Programme Analyst at UNFPA delivered a message of support on behalf of Ms. Beatrice Mutali, UNFPA Representative.

 “Today we celebrate the gains made in many areas of gender equality and reproductive health and rights for women and young people, however, with a caution that we still have a long way to go as we look back, we have a good story to tell, but as we go forward we would like to have the best story to share: zero gender-based violence, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero preventable maternal deaths.”  she noted.

“UNFPA calls on all of us, government, civil society, local leadership, communities to be bold and courageous in joining hands in completing the unfinished business on gender equality and reproductive health and rights for women and young people,” she said.

The message of the day was dramatized with a performance from a group of young women, called the DIVAs. The DIVA’s used drama to convey the challenges faced by girls and young women in their community, teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, school drop-outs, gender-based violence and hopelessness seems to be the business of the day. DIVAs called out to local leadership and the community at large, to “bring these evils to and end so that we can live our dreams.”

In a very passionate address, MEC Khoza emphasized the fact that there was no need for unwanted or unintended pregnancy anymore and encouraged the community to condomise and use the contraceptives provided at the local the clinics. MEC Khoza committed funding from the Department of Social Development to improve support on HIV and AIDS Programmes, Victim Empowerment, Early Childhood Programme and Youth Development. Her final words to the local leadership, partners and community, “Let us continue to work together in addressing the social ills facing us, together we can complete the unfinished business!”

 The day ended with the awarding of stationery to young people who are conducting intergenerational dialogues on Sexual and Reproductive Health issues in the community and supporting the distribution food parcels to the women and child headed households, and blankets and walking aid to the elderly. Whilst this was a day to remember, it will remain a reminder for auctioning what still needs to be done!