RIGHTS & EMPOWERMENT WORKING GROUP
A consistent thread that runs through all FP2020 activities is that the rights of women and girls must be observed and their agency respected. The principles of voluntarism and informed choice are at the center of FP2020’s work, which is fully aligned with the reproductive rights framework established by the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. Ensuring that the focus on rights remains uppermost is the special task of the RE WG.
The RE WG works closely with the other three Working Groups, offering guidance and recommendations on how to ground efforts in a rights-based approach. In 2014 the RE WG finalized a set of foundational materials to shape a unified understanding of rights-based programming, including a statement of universal principles and a guide to help stakeholders navigate resources related to rights and empowerment. These materials will be core components of the CIP Resource Kit being developed by the CE WG. They were informed by existing and emerging frameworks, including WHO’s Ensuring Human Rights in the Provision of Contraceptive Information and Services guidance, UNFPA’s forthcoming operational guide on human rights in contraceptive services, and the Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect and Fulfill Human Rights: A Conceptual Framework User’s Guide  developed by Futures Group and EngenderHealth.
Collaboration between the RE WG and the PMA WG has been especially fruitful, with the result that the Core Indicators have been carefully refined over the past year to better reflect principles of rights and empowerment. The RE WG also helped bring a rights-based perspective to FP2020’s National Composite Index on Family Planning, and in April 2014 participated in a regional training session of Track20’s Monitoring & Evaluation Officers to get feedback on rights and empowerment indicators that have data sources and would be useful at the country level.
With support from the MD WG, the RE WG led an effort to develop a survey to gauge if and how contraceptive manufacturers encourage and facilitate the participation of end-users in their product and market planning. The survey was administered in August 2014, and the results were first disseminated at the 15th General Membership Meeting of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition in October 2014.
Importantly, the RE WG is also producing a guide for civil society to use in monitoring family planning programs, based on WHO’s Ensuring Human Rights in the Provision of Contraceptive Information and Services guidance. In September–October 2014, grassroots women’s groups and other local experts in India and Indonesia were consulted on a draft version of the guide. These consultations also served as a platform to explore how FP2020 should respond to human rights violations, if they occur. This approach builds upon FP2020’s collaborative spirit, engaging country stakeholders and ensuring that any forthcoming strategy will be developed from the ground up.
RIGHTS & EMPOWERMENT WORKING GROUP MEMBER
“My work has taught me that the human rights community and the sexual and reproductive health and rights community can achieve so much more if they collaborate,” says Elly Leemhuis-de Regt, who represents the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “That’s why I wanted to be in the Rights & Empowerment Working Group.” According to Ms. Leemhuis, the Dutch government has prioritized sexual and reproductive health and rights over the past 10 to 15 years, and played an active role at the 2012 London Summit. She views the partnerships established by FP2020 as critical for the future of family planning. “FP2020 can bring about change because it involves many people with an enormous, diverse set of experiences,” she says. “It’s interesting what people bring together and learn from each other. I think that togetherness will bring FP2020 further.”
For Ms. Leemhuis, quality is an essential family planning concern, particularly in terms of the skills and attitudes of service providers. But she draws inspiration from the stories of women who access family planning even against great odds. “The creativity of women is a success story,” she says. “It’s always amazing and also very inspiring to learn from the women how they find their own solutions to get to the contraceptives they want.”
KEEPING HUMAN RIGHTS AT THE CENTER
The FP2020 movement is grounded in a human rights–based approach to family planning. That means investing in programs that honor the rights of individuals to decide, freely and for themselves, whether and when to have children. It means respecting the agency of women and girls, and empowering them with full information about contraception, universal access to services and supplies, and a wide range of choices. But how can policymakers and administrators be sure to incorporate these principles in their programs?
In the wake of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, researchers from Futures Group, EngenderHealth and the Gates Foundation set out to answer that question. The resulting Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights: A Conceptual Framework  was published in August 2013. The framework presents a practical, holistic approach to developing and evaluating family planning programs through a human rights lens. Over the past year, the process of operationalizing the framework at the country level has begun.
In India and Kenya, national and regional stakeholders met with members of the Futures Group/EngenderHealth team in early 2014 to discuss applying the rights-based framework to their family planning programs. These consultations led to the development of a user’s guide, designed to help stakeholders translate the principles in the framework into specific program activities. The Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights: Conceptual Framework User’s Guide (September 2014) contains an orientation module and a program planning module that covers program assessment, design, monitoring and evaluation, and accountability.
The orientation module was field-tested in Togo, where EngenderHealth is applying the rights framework to the USAID-funded Agir pour la Planification Familiale and Fistula Care Plus projects. It received another trial run in Uganda, during an August 2014 workshop conducted by EngenderHealth and the Ministry of Health (with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and USAID). The purpose of the workshop was to integrate rights into existing programs; the workshop also helped ministry officials understand how to follow through with the rights-based language included in draft versions of their Family Planning Costed Implementation Plan (FP CIP). The resulting recommendations will be included in the final FP CIP.
WHO GUIDANCE ON RIGHTS-BASED FAMILY PLANNING
In March 2014, WHO launched a new guide, Ensuring Human Rights in the Provision of Contraceptive Information and Services, designed to help countries make sure that human rights are respected in family planning programs. The guidance recommends that every person who wants contraception should be able to obtain accurate information and a variety of services and products. It also underlines the need for no discrimination, coercion or violence, with special attention given to ensuring access for those who are disadvantaged and marginalized. To implement the guidance, UNFPA and WHO are developing an operationalization guide that will be launched in countries at the end of 2014.
81. Hardee, K, Newman, K, Bakamjian, L, Kumar, J, Harris, S, Rodriguez, M, and Willson, K. Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights: A Conceptual Framework, Washington, DC: Futures Group. 2013.
82. Hardee, K, Newman, K, Bakamjian, L, Kumar, J, Harris, S, Rodriguez, M, and Willson, K., Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights: A Conceptual Framework, Washington, DC: Futures Group. 2013.
Now published in Studies in Family Planning: Hardee, K, Kumar, J, Newman, K, Bakamjian, L, Harris, S, Rodríguez, M., and Brown, W. 2014. Voluntary, Human Rights–Based Family Planning: A Conceptual Framework. Studies in Family Planning Volume 45, Issue 1.