Advocacy can play a key role in FP programming. While the June 2012 London Summit on Family Planning began the process of reinvigorating FP and engaging high-level country officials, transforming that energy into a sustained, visible movement calls for concerted advocacy efforts among donors, partners, and global leaders. At the national level, strengthening FP programs will mean finding ways to increase political commitment and creative leadership on the part of government officials and public administrators.
Convincing policymakers to take action requires evidence-based information, strategic thinking, strong advocacy skills, and persistence. Together, these factors lay the foundation for successful advocacy campaigns. In addition to policy audiences, increased advocacy efforts are needed among all of those audiences that have the potential to influence leaders and society (NGOs, religious and traditional leaders, the media, women’s groups, and youth) as well as the general public.
Looking at the benefits of FP through a broader development lens, advocacy efforts need to encompass a range of activities that will help maintain high visibility and ensure that FP is a central development intervention. Potential activities to achieve this goal include the following:
- Incorporate FP into national strategies and budgets. FP advocates need to take a multi-sectoral approach and persuade decision-makers to include FP as a key component of all relevant development programs, including poverty-reduction strategies and action plans, debt-relief and sector-wide approaches, country strategic plans, and national health budgets.
- Build the evidence base—document proof of success. FP yields considerable returns on investments in the health, education, and economic sectors. These benefits need to be documented and quantified to better justify the importance of strengthening FP services. Showing the number of lives that could be saved and the links between smaller family size and poverty reduction are powerful arguments. Demonstrating how FP investments help achieve the Millennium Development Goals is another compelling advocacy message for high-level officials.
- Maximize advocacy opportunities. High-level meetings such as the International Conference on Family Planning, which was held in Dakar in November 2011, can help keep FP on government and donor agendas. These meetings provide excellent opportunities to strengthen FP commitment among authorities and technical and financial partners, and to give more visibility to the movement.
- Create and maintain coalitions of FP champions. Building and reinforcing leadership is essential for advancing FP. A coalition of champions can better mobilize political support. Champions must be provided with the training and tools to effectively advocate for and advance the FP agenda.
Mobilize the media. To keep FP high on national and international agendas, advocates need to work closely with print and broadcast media to expand the quality and quantity of coverage on FP. Increased efforts through the press to hold governments responsible for policy implementation and the equitable distribution of FP program resources can influence policymakers to take action.
Key FP Advocacy Resources:
- Repositioning Family Planning: Guidelines for Advocacy Action (WHO, 2008). This toolkit aims to help those working in family planning across Africa to effectively advocate for renewed emphasis on family planning.
- Engaging Innovative Advocates as Public Health Champions (FHI, 2010). A 2007 Cochrane review concluded that the use of opinion leaders can successfully promote evidence-based practices.
- Family Planning: West Africa on the Move – A Call to Action (Ouagadougou Partnership 2012). This report presents targeted areas of investments in family planning to spur progress in the region and provides advocacy ideas for mobilizing political commitment and resources.
- ENGAGE Snapshots (PRB, 2010-2012). These mini-presentations offer key data on concise topics as tools for advocacy. These one- to three-minute videos with English narration are the perfect way to launch a conversation about a critical family planning or reproductive health issue with policy audiences. Like the full-length PRB ENGAGE presentations, ENGAGE Snapshots are downloadable and easily embedded into PowerPoint.