From 25 - 29 May 2022, IPPF Board of Trustees Chair, Kate Gilmore, and IPPF Regional Director for Africa, Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry, made an official visit to Cape Verde to support the work of VERDEFAM, the Cape Verde Association for the Protection of the Family and IPPF's Member Association in the country. The visit was aimed at strengthening IPPF’s work through VERDEFAM, the Cape Verdian Government, and other International Organizations in the country.
The visit began with a debrief meeting with VERDEFAM's Board of Directors, where the IPPF delegation was informed of the organization's role and contribution at the national level. The delegation thereafter visited VERDAFAM's health facilities in Pria.
As a Full Member of IPPF Since 2014, VERDEFAM provides a wide range of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programs and services to the Cape Verdean population. VERDAFAM has one clinic, one youth center, four mobile clinics, and six health centers spread out across the country. In 2021, VERDEFAM provided a total of 186,000 sexual reproductive health (SRH) services to different key populations in Cap Verde, 60% of these services being directed towards young people (aged 10 – 24 years). In addition, the Association conducts public awareness programs on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) using radio and television, primarily targeting youth and women.
During this first meeting, the President of the Board of VERDEFAM, Francisco Tavares highlighted the convergence of all parties:
"I would like to highlight the enormous convergence of the parties present here on the problems, challenges, but also on the solutions. VERDEFAM will continue to work, and with the participation of all we will achieve our goals to defend and promote equality and the right of all Cape Verdeans to access sexual and reproductive health " he said.
During the mission, the IPPF team met VERDEFAM’s various Government officials, as well as key partners and stakeholders from different national and international organizations. These included the Cape Verde Prime Minister, Dr. José Ulisses Correia e Silva, the Minister of State, Family, Inclusion and Social Development, Fernando Elísio FREIRE, and the Deputy Secretary of State for Health, Evandro Monteiro.
During discussions with the Prime Minister, Kate Gilmore thanked his Government for the remarkable efforts it has made in promoting sexual and reproductive rights in the country, including those of the LGBTIQ+ community. She called for more action in advancing the rights of this community, including the development and implementation of legislation that defends the rights and interests of the LGBTIQ+ community:
"Cape Verde has an excellent legislation regarding human rights. However, there is need to entrench legislations that ensure that all people have the same rights, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Individuals who identify as LGBTIQ+ need legislations that ensure their rights are protected, and these include their rights to marry and the right to have children regardless of their sexual orientation," she said.
For his part, the Prime Minister, Dr. José Ulisses Correia e Silva, acknowledged the invaluable support of IPPF and its Member Association, VERDEFAM, and reiterated Cape Verde’s commitment to providing continued support to family welfare in the country.
"Cape Verde has been working on the issue of sexual and reproductive health, we have had visible gains in various aspects, lately we have continued to work in this direction to strengthen the action policies, we are working so that the rights of all are safeguarded", assured the Prime Minister.
The IPPF team welcomed the commitment of the Cape Verdean Government in developing actions that are aimed at ensuring its citizens enjoy their sexual reproductive health and rights through the provision of respective information and services. This was achieved in collaboration with key partners such as VERDEFAM.
The IPPF delegation also met with United Nations representatives, the Assistant Secretary of State to the Minister of Health, and the Ministry of State, Family, Inclusion and Social Development to discuss sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services, and ways to improve and facilitate access of youth and adolescents to services and care.
The delegation also visited the Centre for Adolescents and Youth, and LGBTIQ+ community networks to understand their specific needs in Pria. Members of the LGBTQ+ community denounced the various discriminations they face and asked for more opportunities for training and socio-professional integration.
At the end of the mission, the IPPF team was delighted to receive positive testimonies from VERDEFAM’s partners, Government officials, civil society organizations, and beneficiaries of its services (the youth and the LGBTIQ+ activists).
The IPPF delegation expressed gratitude and encouragement to VERDEFAM as a local Member Association that is tirelessly advocating and providing services for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Cape Verde. A sex worker supported by VERDEFAM expressed her gratitude:
“We (sex workers) are very grateful to Verdefam for the level of organization and tidiness of their clinic facilities, which not only creates a friendly atmosphere but also provides comfort to the beneficiaries of SRHR services”.
“This stands out as a simple but important example of results that can be achieved with good leadership, management, and commitment at all levels,” added Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry, the IPPF Africa Regional Director.
While the IPPF team celebrates VERDEFAM’s achievements, a lot more still needs to be done to expand and improve its services. Among others, the team recommended to VERDEFAM to innovate and advocate for people with disabilities who requested more inclusion in access to information and services in different areas of life, while safeguarding their privacy and rights, especially the mute, for whom messages must be translated through a third person; to advocate for reforms on the country’s legal framework to enable LGBTIQ+ activists to live their lives in full, without discrimination or stigmatization, including the ability to marry and raise children; to explore the expansion of the provision of information and SRH through mobile clinics, and public-private partnerships.
A conference on "The role of civil society in promoting sexual and reproductive rights" that brought all cap verdean civil socity actors, marked the end of the first official five-day visit of the IPPF Delegation to Cape Verde, to learn about the work carried out by VERDEFAM in promoting and defending sexual and reproductive health.