Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health

About The Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health Project

Traditionally, efforts to improve the quality of reproductive health services have provided training, equipment and contraceptive supplies to health care providers. Since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994, concerted efforts have been made to strengthen the ability of health care providers to respond effectively to the diverse and evolving needs of clients.

This new initiative, Stronger Voices for Reproductive Health, represents a new client-centered approach. At its core the project aims to strengthen collaboration between providers and users as an effective and timely way to improve the quality of reproductive health care.

The project’s approach is to empower organized groups of women by raising awareness of their reproductive health needs and rights, and to encourage social mobilization to secure those rights. For example, the project will adapt successful community mobilization experiences such as those reported by ReproSalud in Peru, which works closely with community women’s groups to identify their health needs and seek positive change in their lives. Similarly, Stronger Voices encourages women’s groups to work with providers so they can better respond to the particular reproductive health needs of local communities.

By focusing both on reproductive rights and community mobilization to secure those rights, the initiative aims to broaden access to quality reproductive health services -- a goal agreed upon by the international community at ICPD and in its five-year review (ICPD+5) in 1999.

UNFPA launched the initiative with financial support from the UN Foundation, through its Improving the Quality of Sexual and Reproductive Health Care project.

Three other UN agencies--ILO/STEP, UNICEF and WHO-- each with unique strengths and experiences - are collaborating on the initiative. The effort also involves partnerships with many other actors (governments, international and national NGOs and community-based organizations).

Phase I, through spring 2003 includes India, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania. In these geographically and politically diverse countries, the Stronger Voices initiative is identifying viable partners, building consensus, developing approaches and engaging in strategic national planning.

Phase II envisions implementing the pilot projects on a wider scale within the initial six countries and possibly expanding to others. Lessons learned and the good practices gained through these experiences will be used for wide application to other countries.

Financial Resources
This project was made possible by a generous grant from the UN Foundation. The initial allocation of $3.2 million has been used in three broad, fundamental areas:

  • To increase knowledge and understanding of effective approaches for achieving sustained improvements in the quality of sexual and reproductive health care, especially for women.
  • To apply participatory planning processes in six pilot countries and learn from the experiences.
  • To increase collaboration, coordination and networking within and among UN agencies, NGOs, community based organizations and research institutions in order to develop effective ways to deliver quality reproductive health care that is appropriate, affordable, culturally acceptable and responsive to local needs and concerns.

It is envisioned that the next phase of the project will attract a wider group of funders, including bilateral development agencies, private foundations and perhaps the private sector.

Reproductive Rights underscore the fundamental principles of the Stronger Voices project.

As stipulated under the ICPD Programme of Action, reproductive rights include the following:

The right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so;
   
The right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health;
   
The right to make their decisions about their reproductive lives without fear of coercion, persecution, discrimination, and violence.

By placing sexual and reproductive health in the context of an ethical framework, reproductive rights are not solely a health issue. They are also a matter of social justice and human rights that governments are obliged to ensure through legal and political means. As a result, communities can act on these rights to have safe and satisfying lives.


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