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How Budget Advocacy is Central to Family Planning in Uganda

To celebrate the 5-year mark of Family Planning 2020, Lori Adelman, Director of Global Communications at our partner Planned Parenthood Global, explains how local budget advocacy in Uganda contributes to the broader goal of expanding family planning access to an additional 120 million women and girls.

“Family planning is good for the health of the mother, good for the health of children, and for the welfare of the family.”

These words — true as they are — didn’t always reflect Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s position on the matter. Despite being an early proponent of large family sizes, he changed his position on family planning some years ago. And advocates across Uganda have been working diligently to make sure that other government leaders across the country follow suit — and put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing in family planning efforts not only at the national level but also locally.

One such Ugandan-based advocacy group is the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), a national women’s organization with broad experience in grassroots advocacy. Over the past three years, FOWODE has been cultivating local leaders to champion youth access to sexual and reproductive health and rights through advocating these leaders to increase resource allocations primarily for family planning commodities. It has also used village budget clubs to organize and mobilize grassroots leaders to monitor service delivery and participate effectively in local planning and budgeting processes.

FOWODE has helped secure increases in district budgets for family planning services

It’s not only about budget numbers – this work is part of a larger strategy to cultivate political will across the country and the region, starting at the local level. Through the Voices for Health project, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Planned Parenthood Global are providing a diverse coalition of local advocacy groups like FOWODE technical assistance to support them to advocate for policies that will expand access to comprehensive reproductive health services, especially for young people. This initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of their commitment to a global initiative called Family Planning 2020, the overall goal of which is to enable 120 million more women and girls who wish to use contraceptives to do so by the year 2020.

Our collective progress to date in achieving these ambitious goals is being considered at a meeting that’s taking place this week in London called the Family Planning Summit, which aims to reenergize our global commitment to rights-based family planning and drive progress towards global goals to reduce unmet need for family planning around the world. This is part of broader international efforts to increase universal access to sexual and reproductive health by 2020. The meeting is hosted by a number of world governments, UN agencies, and donors.

In other words, it’s an important moment to evaluate how far we’ve come toward meeting our goals to reduce the gap for family planning globally — and how far we have yet to go.

We’re heartened by some recent successes. Uganda is a prime example, with a 4.2% increase in modern contraceptive use in the country since 2012 — this has resulted in an estimated 595,000 unintended pregnancies averted in 2016, and the increase is expected to nearly double to eight percent by 2020.

Many of these gains happen at the local level: groups like FOWODE helped secure a budget line of UGX 2,000,000 for family planning in the 2016-2017 fiscal year in Mityana — 500,000 per quarter. This district had no such budget line in the previous year. This funding will be used to organize community sensitization campaigns for family planning, something that FOWODE has advocated for in the area. The allocated funds will support not only family planning services at the facility but also community outreach and trainings for reproductive health workers. The impact of this advocacy goes far beyond the sum of these budget allocations; ultimately, organizations like FOWODE are cultivating champions from the ground up who recognize that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people are top priorities for Uganda’s progress.

In commemoration of the Family Planning Summit taking place this week — and on the occasion of the UN’s annual World Population Day — it’s an important time to consider the vital connections between family planning, women’s rights, and development, and our common responsibility to place people and communities at the center of their own reproduction and family decisions. We commend the work of groups like FOWODE who are achieving real change, and we are so proud to be part of the change happening locally and globally.