International News Correspondent

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine as well as the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza were on the agenda of the South African delegation at the 147th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly on Monday.

NA Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is leading the South African delegation at the Assembly underway in Luanda, Angola.

The delegation had two separate bilateral meetings on Monday. The first bilateral meeting was with the Ukrainian delegation, where issues of global governance, peace and security, trade relations, the proposed IPU emergency items, and the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia were discussed. The second meeting was with the Palestinian delegation, where South Africa reiterated the need for access to humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

The Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Sylvia Lucas, one of the South African delegates, told the panel that South Africa supports the objectives of the non-aligned movement and that the country stands for peace.

Meanwhile, also on Monday, Ms Sylvia Lucas, called for the strengthening of legislation and law enforcement to combat orphanage trafficking and to address the specific vulnerabilities of girls to ensure their protection and empowerment.

Ms Lucas participated in the discussion on the draft resolution that is on the agenda of the Assembly entitled Orphanage trafficking: The role of parliamentarians in reducing harm. The discussion took place at the 36th session of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians on behalf of the South African delegation.

She emphasised the need for parliamentarians to acknowledge that orphanage trafficking undermines human rights and exploits vulnerable individuals in society. She also referred to figures by Statistics South Africa stating that there are 2.3 million orphans with 400 000 of them in foster care. Children in foster care are as vulnerable as those in orphanages for trafficking because many countries lack the equipment to screen foster parents properly to ensure the safety of children.

Ms Lucas referred to the research showing that out of every ten victims detected globally, approximately five are adult women and two are girls. To deal with this issue of gender, she said parliamentarians have a role to play in reducing harm and promoting gender equality in the context of orphanage trafficking.

She proposed that in recognising that orphanage trafficking perpetuates gender inequality and violates the rights of children, particularly girls, it is important to amplify the need for urgent action. She also proposed that vulnerable nations should be assisted in addressing poverty, food insecurity, and other vulnerabilities. The role played by parliamentarians through gender-sensitive initiatives and comprehensive approaches is crucial and gender transformative in combatting orphanage trafficking, reducing harm, and ensuring the rights and well-being of all children, especially girls.

South Africa has also called for the prioritisation of the safety and well-being of women parliamentarians by creating a political environment that encourages long and fulfilling careers. Ms Masiko, contributed to the panel discussion on Women in Politics: To stay or not to stay by reminding delegates of the 36th session of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians that in today’s fast-paced world, it is crucial to recognise that overcoming legal gender barriers benefits all of society and not just women.

On Tuesday, the delegation will participate in various meetings, including the General Assembly, standing committee, and forum meetings, as well as bilateral meetings with other countries.