Rights and Empowerment
The ambitious goal announced at the London Summit proved catalytic in many ways, ushering in renewed interest in and funding for family planning and eliciting global commitments to provide more women with access to the services and programs they want and need.
Significantly, it also emphasized a new approach that called for using human rights principles as the foundation of all family planning activities, including those focused on generating demand, meeting unmet need, and improving quality of care. The promise of rights-based family planning (RBFP) programming has led global and country actors to interrogate their programs and practices to ensure that the rights of the client are upheld and that the principles of agency, access, availability of contraceptives, and quality of care are rigorously observed.
In the years since the London Summit, several guidelines for RBFP have been developed that provide principles, entry points, and solid programming advice to help countries and practitioners develop family planning programs that respect and protect human rights. These include frameworks from the World Health Organization, the Evidence Project, the Population Council, and EngenderHealth, as well as FP2020’s Rights and Empowerment Principles for Family Planning (see box).
Responding to Zika
The spread of the Zika virus highlights the critical importance of a rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health care. The public health response must be grounded in the rights of women and girls to determine for themselves if and when they get pregnant, and to make informed decisions about what is best for them and their individual circumstances. An effective response should also embrace a holistic approach to sexual and reproductive health, with an emphasis on access to a range of high-quality contraceptive methods, including condoms and emergency contraception.
FP2020’s Rapid Response Mechanism is funding three projects in response to the Zika outbreak. In Nicaragua, Ipas is focusing on reaching young people with information on contraception and Zika prevention. The project includes training of health care professionals on youth-friendly services, training of peer educators and extension workers on referral techniques and Zika messaging, and support for the Ministry of Health to develop and adopt a protocol on Zika treatment with a rights-based approach.
In Haiti, Profamil is working to increase access to family planning and information on Zika prevention among underserved populations. The project includes training of peer educators, a nationwide campaign on family planning and Zika, and mobile clinics to serve hard-to-reach areas. Also in Haiti, the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer aims to accelerate the use of contraceptives to mitigate the impact of the Zika virus and prevent birth defects in children during the peak of the epidemic. The project will reach at least 10,000 women and girls with information about the importance of family planning, the range of modern contraceptive options available, the potential dangers of Zika in pregnancy, and how Zika can be prevented.