Advocating for Family Planning Policy

Why does advocacy for family planning matter?

Advocacy is essential to reaching the Family Planning 2020 goal of delivering contraceptives, information, and services to an additional 120 million women of reproductive age worldwide by the year 2020. This increased access to voluntary family planning could cumulatively prevent 100 million unintended pregnancies, 3 million infant deaths, and 200,000 pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths.

Definitions (via ​AFP)

  • Goal: desired long-term result of an overall mission; the purpose of a project
  • Objective: specific outcome sought in support of the overall goal
  • Quick win: discrete, critical policy or funding decision that must occur in the near term to achieve a broader goal
  • SMART: a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound objective

Key messages

  • Advocacy is crucial to achieving the FP2020 goal of delivering family planning to an additional 120 million women globally by 2020.
  • Advocacy is an ongoing and cyclical process.
  • Effective advocacy for family planning policy proposes specific, actionable solutions.
  • Advocacy strategies must be flexible to reflect the ever-changing environment.


Advocacy plays a crucial role in building and sustaining momentum for family planning progress. In recent years, a renewed focus on expanding access to family planning has come about in response to the fact that unmet need for family planning remains unacceptably high. In a 2014 report, UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute estimated that 225 million women want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to family planning services. This unmet need is fueled partly by both a growing population and a shortage of family planning services.

Yet we know that family planning contributes to all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is explicit in Target 3.7: By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

The Advocacy Process

Strategic, targeted, well-designed, and evidence-based advocacy is essential to help donors and decision makers develop or revise family planning policy and budgets to support health and development for all. Advocacy is an ongoing, incremental process that demands planning, patience, and persistence. In their proven approach to gaining “quick wins” for family planning advocacy, Advance Family Planning outlines three essential phases, broken down into nine practical steps.

Phase 1: Build Consensus.

1. Determine which stakeholders to involve. Consider the private sector, government, health care providers, research or academic institutions, civil society, donors, and nongovernmental organizations.

2. Pinpoint a SMART objective that supports your broad goal.

3. Identify a decision maker who has the power to address your issue.

Phase 2: Focus Efforts

4. Review the context: What are decision makers saying about the issue, and what challenges and opportunities exist?

5. Know your decision maker: What are the decision maker’s stance and record on the issue? What are his or her concerns, values, and interests?

6. Determine the request: What will you ask the decision maker to do? Will you use a rational, emotional, or ethical argument to make your case?

Phase 3: Achieve Change

7. Develop a work plan and budget.

8. Set benchmarks for success.

9. Implement and assess your change.

Whether the goal is increased resource allocation for family planning, supportive policies that expand access to family planning services—for example, by allowing volunteer community health workers to provide injectable contraception, or improved contraceptive security, advocacy is an essential step in the policy process. Browse each tab on this page for the latest essential advocacy tools, guidance, and case studies from a range of family planning projects and organizations.

Topic last updated: July 22, 2019