Centering rights, centering women and girls



Faith and Family Planning: New Publication from FP2020

Faith and Family Plannin...


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Rights-Based Family Planning

In January FP2020 released a review of the evolution of rights-based family planning and how FP2020 has put rights at the center of our own work. We interviewed the authors of that report, Sandra Jordan and Karen Hardee to understand more about the thinking that went into this review. The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

Welcome, Sandra and Karen. Thanks for speaking to us about your work! As you know, earlier this year FP2020 launched Contributions of FP2020 in Advancing Rights-Based Family Planning, which you authored — a fairly comprehensive look at the evolution of rights-based family planning since Cairo, and more specifically, how Family Planning 2020 has centered rights in its work.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you wrote this, and what that process was like?

SANDRA: The idea of family planning as a human right has a long history, and we wanted to write a report of record for posterity, to show what the movement has done, and particularly how FP2020 has played its own role in promoting rights-based family planning, especially given that we’re coming up on 2020 [the initiative’s original end date]. We interviewed 23 people from across the family planning movement — people who were at the original London Summit, donors, NGOs, family planning implementers and advocates and youth advocates working with FP2020 — to get a history of how all this rolled out. Once we started writing, it almost became more of an oral history to track when and how FP2020 got involved in rights

KAREN: When the initiative was launched at the London Family Planning Summit in 2012, the ambitious goal of 120 million additional users of contraception was announced. And that caused concern that the number was so ambitious we’d be opening up the potential for coercive family planning practices. In our paper, we wanted to show the evolution of the thinking, not only at FP2020 but among the family planning community at large, and how the concept of implementing family planning using a human rights-based approach was baked into the movement. People were concerned about rights and empowerment… But advocates of the initiative said rights were a key principle underpinning the whole endeavor, and that has filtered down to the country level.

SANDRA: The interviewees were quite frank, which I think shows in the report, and they shared what they thought worked and what they thought could improve about the movement and the partnership. It was clear from all the interviews that FP2020 was seen to take the whole principle of rights and empowerment — of ensuring women could use voluntary, modern contraception— seriously. The partnership didn’t just pay lip service to “rights and empowerment” as an idea.

Thats a really powerful observation, and it shows how the rights of women to make decisions about their own futures really served as the foundation of the FP2020 partnership. What do you think has shifted, from the launch in 2012 to now, in terms of rights?

SANDRA: There’s really a lot more research and a lot more thinking focused on client-centered care, delivering sexual and reproductive care in response to the needs of the women as opposed to just having a clinic and saying get what you want. The conversations the movement is having are a lot more thoughtful.

KAREN: Yes, and I’d say there’s a lot more awareness on rights and a lot more talking about rights than there was in 2012. And when I say “FP2020,” I mean the whole community — all the countries, DFID, Gates, UNFPA… they’ve all done such a great job with global guidance around rights and empowerment. Particularly the rights and empowerment principles, the WHO guidelines, and the webinars FP2020 has conducted. Cairo gave us the language of sexual reproductive health and rights and FP2020 has now articulated what “rights” means with regards to family planning.

And it takes a while for that shift in language to permeate down. One of our respondents reminded us that We have to remember how long it’s taken for gender to kind of permeate through programs. And now you don’t really think of programs without talking about gender equity and how that impacts the program, hopefully we get there someday with talking about family planning and contraception as a human right.

SANDRA: And I should add, young people are really the most passionate advocates for rights. They’re the people really taking the work forward.

KAREN: Yes, that’s true. Also, depending on your audience you don’t always need to — or may not be able to — talk about “rights.” You don’t have to go talk to ministers, for example, and say “rights, rights, rights,” when that might make the discussion too sensitive.  But you can talk about quality. You can talk about access. You can talk about the rights and empowerment principles without ever having to say “rights.”

That makes a lot of sense. What do you hope for the future of the rights-based family planning movement, now that were looking beyond 2020?

KAREN: I hope the next iteration of the partnership continues to keep a focus on implementing rights-based family planning at the core of the movement, and I have no doubt that it will. Also, I want to call attention to the recommendations — a lot of those came out of the interviews with those diverse respondents. The report ends with 18 specific recommendations to carry the work forward, and the overarching recommendation is: we’ve done so much at the global level, how do we get this down into the country level?

SANDRA: Yes, and also we’ve learned over the years there is so much going on at the local level that hasn’t always been recognized. How can we broaden the understanding of what people are doing at the country level? That’s really what we need — more evidence, specific examples, of successes and areas that can be improved.

Thank you both for bringing up the recommendations, which is obviously a crucial part of the report. How should people carry those recommendations forward, and how can they use this report?

KAREN: It’s a diverse set of recommendations to carry the work across the field: including focusing more on accountability, including social accountability. And for those of us working with donors, how do we get some of this rights-focused work funded? Should we link rights to budgets? If so, how do we advocate for budgets that promote rights?

SANDRA: Yes — more and more in-country activists are keen on this type of budget work. So we’re hoping to work with them on a policy plan so they’re not just getting funding, but funding for the right things.

That sounds like an exciting way forward! Is there anything else you want to share about the report, or about the rights-based family planning movement?

SANDRA: I’d say something we haven’t covered — but is crucially important — is providers. How do we work with providers to make them more rights-focused, more understanding, and talking about their role in all this. How much is it going to cost to add rights to provider training?  … and how can we convince donors it’s worth it? How can we make sure programs are following the principles of rights-based family planning?

KAREN: That’s so true. Also, everyone wants checklists for rights or tools to measure rights. UNFPA, WHO, and other partners have focused on getting materials to help train their staff members which is important. But my plea is that organizations work together to develop and share tools that we don’t to recreate the same set of tools for every organization.

And I say the same thing about indicators. The FP2020 Performance Monitoring & Evaluation Working Group has done a lot to develop rights—based indicators, but there’s still more to go. Rather than developing multiple lists of rights-based indicators, let’s all support the same ones.

Thank you both for working on this report. We look forward to bringing this work into 2020 and beyond!

FP2020 RBFP Paper

FP2020 RBFP Paper

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