Complacency about sexual and reproductive health problems
is a major barrier to change — in the household and the community as much as at the national and international levels. Citizens must be informed about issues of maternal and reproductive health, aware of their rights, and actively engaged in efforts to strengthen laws and policies: only this can ensure that governments fulfill their obligations to improve maternal and reproductive health and reduce avoidable death and illness. In practice, however, local communities, and especially the most marginalized groups, need help in decoding complex policies, government structures, and media landscapes. FCI works to strengthen the capacity of our national and local partners to perform effective, powerful advocacy, in programs that have included the following:
Building advocacy skills of indigenous women in Latin America
In Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, FCI has worked with the Continental Network of Indigenous Women to build indigenous women leaders’ advocacy skills and raise awareness around women’s right to maternal health services, as guaranteed under their countries’ constitutions. In Ecuador, FCI has provided technical support for the creation of “users’ committees” that work with community members and local officials to track and monitor the quality of local maternal care services.In Bolivia, we have worked with the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB) to increase women’s access to quality health services, monitoring how national Maternal Health Insurance is being used by women in isolated rural areas. Connected with these broader efforts, FCI and IBIS Bolivia launched an initiative with indigenous communities in the Amazonian Pando region, to increase awareness and action on HIV/AIDS prevention in rural areas of high migration.
¡Cuídate! Una Guía de Salud y Bienestar, an educational flipchart on gender and reproductive health and rights that FCI developed with CIDOB, is being adapted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for use by the Bolivian Ministry of Health in indigenous and rural communities across the country’s Highlands.
Helping Kenyan communities and NGOs fight for reproductive, maternal health rights
FCI has produced and launched Mobilising Communities on Young People’s Health and Rights: An Advocacy Toolkit for Programme Managers, an interactive toolkit that leads the user through the stages of planning and launching an advocacy campaign to ensure that government commitments are translated into programs that meet young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs. Designed for program managers, the toolkit covers each stage of the advocacy process, from conducting a situation analysis to monitoring and evaluating the results. The skills covered are adaptable to any number of other social and development priorities, such as maternal health, gender-based violence, and child marriage. Mobilising Communities on Young People’s Health and Rights: An Advocacy Training Guide is a 122-page companion piece to the toolkit. This five-day training aims to strengthen the skills of grassroots community-level groups, networks, and organizations to design and plan an advocacy campaign.
In 2009, In partnership with the International Initiative for Maternal Mortality and Human Rights (IIMMHR), FCI-Kenya developed a set of tools to engage health staff and community leaders in Kenya in exploring the human rights dimensions of maternal health. Using these tools, FCI conducted a series of sensitization sessions with health facility staff, health facility management committees and community leaders to address the barriers that limit women’s access to life-saving maternal health care, (e.g. women’s lack of autonomy and decision-making about health care, unavailability of transport, and lack of emergency loan funds) and identified priority actions to address these barriers. These tools were reviewed and approved by key members of the Ministry of Health, as well as other key human rights stakeholders at the national level. More than two-thirds of the measures identified in the action plans were put in place, and community educators reached over 6,000 people with information on the human rights obligations related to maternal health.
In Kenya, FCI has also helped develop and is the host organization for Women Alive, a civil society coalition focused on increasing national momentum to improve maternal and reproductive health services.
- Learn about FCI's Right to Care project, which engaged Kenyan health workers and communities in ensuring women's right to safe pregnancy and childbirth
- Read about Women Alive's May 2010 briefing event for the Kenya Women Parliamentarians, to increase awareness and support for maternal health issues among key decision makers.
- View a July 2010 letter signed by 117 African Civil Society Organisations (including FCI-Kenya and Women Alive) to the African Union Summit asking African governments to uphold their commitments on health and social development
Empowering grassroots advocacy for maternal health
In Burkina Faso, FCI works with local authorities and grassroots organizations in the northern Sahel region to build and reinforce their knowledge in maternal, newborn, and reproductive health and HIV issues; improve their implementation of maternal and reproductive health training and behavior change programs; and enhance their advocacy skills so that they can more effectively make the case to local political leaders for improved maternal health care services.
FCI Burkina Faso is a strategic partner of the Ministry of Health, providing technical assistance in the implementation of national health policies in the Sahel region. As one of only 10 such strategic partners selected from among more than 80 applicants, FCI focuses on strengthening the capacity of grassroots and community organizations in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and maternal health.
Ensuring accountability for fulfilling Global Strategy commitments
Working closely with the UN Secretary-General and a broad range of governments and other partners, FCI has been integrally involved in developing and promoting the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health, which was launched at the United Nations in September 2010. Donor governments, foundations, NGOs, academic institutions, corporations, and 27 high-burden developing country governments made commitments with a total estimated value of $40 billion. The next five years present an unparalleled opportunity for real progress on women’s and children’s health — but this opportunity will only be realized if stakeholders are accountable for delivering on the commitments they made to the Global Strategy.
FCI, which served as NGO focal point in the development of the Global Strategy, is uniquely positioned to help ensure that civil society groups have the tools, skills, and information they need to fulfill this crucial accountability role, and to help coordinate efforts by the many groups that are ready and able to contribute. We are working with NGO partners to ensure strong civil society participation and influence in the accountability mechanism for tracking the fulfillment of commitments, produce tools to support regional and national level advocacy by civil society organizations and networks to hold governments accountable, and build the skills of regional and country-level civil society networks to effectively advocate for women’s and children’s health.