Joining Forces for Voices and Accountability Initiative
In partnership with IPPF's European Network, and with the support of UKaid, we are carrying out a five-year advocacy initiative in 11 countries in Latin America and Central Asia/Eastern Europe to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to hold national governments accountable for their commitments to gender equality and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. The Voices project works to develop robust civil society coalitions, fortify the advocacy skills and strategies of our MAs, and create favorable sexual and reproductive health and rights policies and programs in each country. We accomplish these goals by providing educational trainings and workshops, on-going political analysis, pilot experiences assessing budget transparency, and technical assistance.
Impact in Latin America
To foster a climate where policies and programs can meet the real-life needs of local communities, we are working side-by-side with our Member Associations to advocate at the local, national, and international levels. In Bolivia, CIES developed partnerships with the government and broadened opportunities for public participation at all levels of the decision-making process. Youth networks in El Alto, one of the country's most marginalized urban communities, began to work closely with local authorities to guarantee youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services would be included in Bolivia’s laws.
“In many cases, decision-makers knew nothing about the situation of young people—they believed young people didn’t have any problems,” recounts Rodolfo Palermo, a leader in El Alto’s youth network. “But through the Voices project, I met with the authorities and demanded solutions for young people’s health problems. They started to listen to us and saw that we had well-grounded arguments. They started taking us seriously, and then things changed.”
In the Dominican Republic, Profamilia conducted an analysis of the country’s public budget—with a focus on reproductive health—and submitted their recommendations to the health authorities. It then conducted a study aimed at identifying risk factors for teenage pregnancy in the Dominican Republic, and after they released the results, Profamilia was invited to work with the government to develop a new policy and plan to reduce teenage pregnancy in the country.
“The Voices project gives us tools to build citizenship," explained Myrna Flores, the Voices project coordinator at Profamilia. "We have learned to solicit concrete answers from governments, and the importance of translating the specific needs of communities into projects, programs, and budgets.”
Since 2009, Mexfam has led advocacy efforts to direct funding and policies to sexual and reproductive rights and health services in Mexico. Working with experts in public budgeting, Mexfam developed a strategy aimed at persuading lawmakers to allocate funding for the adolescent health policy. After months of diligent work, Mexfam and its allies secured a monumental victory: the government earmarked a specific budget line for adolescent sexual and reproductive health for the first time in the country's history.
"I feel very proud that Mexfam is opening these spaces and strengthening these democratic processes in Mexico, because it has significant implications for our democracy,” said Esperanza Delgado, Director of Evaluation and Development at Mexfam.
After reviewing reproductive health policies and programs in Panama, APLAFA conducted a social audit of three health clinics to assess whether they were providing youth-friendly services in accordance with national standards. “[The audit] methodically exposed the deficiencies of the health system regarding youth-friendly services," explained Rubiela Sanchez, the Voices Project Coordinator at APLAFA. "It provided evidence of the gap between the norms for youth-friendly services and their implementation, and it generated concrete recommendations for the Ministry of Health to take to comply with the norms." The Ministry of Health has since created pilot programs to apply APLAFA's recommendations and assess their effectiveness.
In Peru, INPPARES built a network of 20 youth organizations and led a concentrated effort to monitor implementation of the Ministry of Health guidelines regarding young people's access to information about family planning. “This project has been able to give voice to people who have traditionally been excluded from having a real voice and a visible role in the political process,” says Giovanna Sofía Carrillo, Voices Project Coordinator at INPPARES. “It’s a significant achievement: people who were invisible are now being seen. They are taken into consideration by authorities at the regional and national level. The great struggle that fuels our work is to reduce disparities so that economic growth affects everyone.”
While the Voices project is unique in each country, one overarching outcome is clear: through this initiative, we have become a more agile and successful network of champions for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Latin America.