It is Stellenbosch University's great name in academia, research, its focus on community outreach and the excellent work being done by the University's Africa Centre for HIV and AIDS Management that have led to an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund.
This was according to Mr Bunmi Makinwa, Director of Africa's Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund, at the signing on Friday, 8 June when SU became the first university in Africa to enter into an agreement with a United Nations (UN) organisation.
The United Nations Population Fund has concluded an agreement with the University to be an implementing partner for its Regional Programme for Africa, which is active in 46 countries on the continent. SU’s effort will be spearheaded by its Africa Centre for HIV and AIDS Management, which forms part of the University’s HOPE Project, SU's vehicle to bring about change in South Africa and Africa.
The United Nations Population Fund promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. One of the frameworks guiding its efforts is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.
"This university is going through a transformative agenda which symbolises a South Africa of decades to come," Mr Makinwa said. "We identify closely with the HOPE Project," he added.
According to Mr Makinwa one of their priorities is to improve maternal health. "Africa has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world – on average, more than 500 per 100 000 live births, compared to 50-70 in other regions, such as Asia.
"For the past three years we have been implementing a focused programme, and we are seeing a reduction, but it is still too high. In countries like South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Niger, the rate is more than 1 000 per 100 000. We would like it to come down to the figure in Mauritius, which is 2, or Cape Verde, which is 6. This agreement with Stellenbosch University will help us move in that direction," he said.
At the signing, Prof Russel Botman, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, talked about the University's focus on the MDGs through its HOPE Project. "We took the eight MDGs and distilled five themes fom them, namely to: eradicate poverty and related condition; contribute to human dignity & health; consolidate democracy & human rights; Promote peace & security; and balance a sustainable environment with a competitive industry."
He said these themes are in turn pursued in each of the University's core fuctions of teaching and learning; research and community interaction. Prof Botman also added that the University's is looking at the 2015 horizon, but discussions are already starting on what happens beyond 2015.
Prof Botman told Mr Makinwa that the University is grateful for this vote of confidence and he also thanked the Africa Centre for its contributions. The Centre is the largest programme of its kind in the world. Since its establishment in 2003, it has produced more than 3 000 graduates from 48 countries, and has reached more than 250 000 people with its stage productions.
"This agreement lifts the bar in ensuring we deliver and securing that we are effective and making a difference. This is not about how we feel once the work is done, it is about how the work we do now will be judged by the next generation," Prof Botman concluded.
The development work envisaged in the 46 African countries covered by the agreement will focus on population and development, reproductive health, as well as rights and gender, as the main components. SU shall provide services to the Regional Office for Africa of the United Nations Population Fund in support of its work in such areas as capacity assessments, policy advocacy and rights-based approaches to gender equality and the empowerment of women, quality and evidence-based programming and results-based management.
Efforts will be focused on achieving results in the following areas of the work of the United Nations Population Fund:
- Increased access and utilisation of quality prevention services in relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially for young people and adolescents.
- Improved access to sexual and reproductive health services and sex education for young people and adolescents.
- The advancement of gender equality and reproductive rights, particularly through laws and policy.
- Greater access and use of quality family planning services for individuals and couples.
- Increased access to and utilisation of quality health services for mothers and newborn infants.