International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global federation whose main mandate is to advocate for and promote quality Sexual Reproductive Health and rights has elected for the second time, a Motswana woman, Professor Naomi Seboni as its Global President.
A Midwife nurse professionally, now a Lecturer at the University Of Botswana – School of Nursing, Prof Seboni was evidently elated during an interview and revealed that her election reflected the respect and trust her global colleagues had on her.
“IPPF is an international Non-Governmental Organisation similar to the Red Cross. We have 152 member countries and provide services in 170 countries in the world. Our membership is in six regions; the Sub Saharan, Arab world, European network, Southern Africa, Western Hemisphere, Asia and the Oceanic regions. Each region sends four members to London-headquarters,” she revealed.
She said as a president she represents the Sub-Saharan Africa in Audit as a Regional Treasurer. As President her responsibilities include ensuring that democracy prevails, that the movement is financially viable, and recognised by governments and the United Nations Agencies as well as to employ-hire and fire- the movement’s Chief Executive Officer.
“I appraise the CEO who works at headquarters in London. I regularly discuss with donors. Our movement is mostly funded by the western governments, including the United States of America, charities and philanthropists,” she said.
She recalled with reminiscence, the route that led to her position, “My passion for these sexuality rights issues emanates from my profession – Nurse and Midwife. For my PHD, which I completed in 1993, I did research on sexuality of young girls and disseminated information on it. By then the young girls’ sexuality was treated with such rigid attitude that whenever a girl fell pregnant and dropped off from school that would be the end of her career and bright future. Irrespective of how brilliant a girl was or would be, pregnancy doomed her life. It was not considered that if given a chance she could pass, carry on with her career and contribute to the economy of the country. My research findings connected me to personalities like Dr. Pearl Mashalaba who then; together with Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) members provided care for young mothers, counselling them and aiding them to retake classes to reshape their future.”
Challenges confront every institution and the IPPF is not spared. Prof Seboni points out the fact that having membership from various regions presents itself as a serious challenge. Some religions and cultures are very much against sexual reproductive education and promotion. So serious is the situation in some areas that IPPF staff and volunteers end up being assassinated. Almost in the same page is the fact that Africans are looked down upon and when an African becomes global president loathe is inevitable.
The up keeping of the association is another challenge. The organisation is sponsored by countries that are result-oriented. To ensure this is achieved, member countries are accredited every five years. Standards of quality performance have been set and each is expected to score 100%.
Another challenge is that of languages. Every meeting is characterised by simultaneous interpretations.
Among its achievements are the facts that the IPPF remains vibrant despite its host of challenges. It is recognised by governments and UN agents.
“In Botswana for instance BOFWA gets grants from the government though in small quantities. It is recognised by UN agencies. We are in mint working relationship with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at national, regional and global level,” she said, adding that they are currently serenely negotiating for policies and legal framework that support their mandate.
She said they partner with NGOs with similar interest to aid marginalised, underserved and hard to reach population groups to ensure they equally access quality family planning facilities and evade unfortunate situations like unsafe abortion.
“We go to war torn countries and provide contraceptives to people because we have realised that conflicted regions provide a haven for abuse of women and girls. We also reach out to very poor members of society, undermined ethic groups and people with disabilities,” she said.
For future plans the IPPF Prof Seboni explained that they have developed strategic framework for the post 2015 development agenda for the next seven years. They continue to ensure the federation continues with its mandate of ensuring accessibility to quality SRH+R and education to all, irrespective of their sexual orientations.
IPPF was founded in New Delhi, India in 1952 by eight women calling themselves ‘Brave and Angry’. It evolved over the years, under various leaderships until today when its CEO is Ethiopian – Tewodros Melesse who happens to be its first African CEO, while Molepolole born Seboni is its second African President and first African woman to hold the post.