Advocacy champions in Nigeria
In Nigeria, the Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH) brought together a diverse group of stakeholders into a strong advocacy collective. Together, as well as in their own fields, these advocacy champions speak out for the availability and accessibility of female condoms.
ARFH selected a group of advocacy champions after a stakeholder analysis in 2014 to showcase diverse support for female condoms: from women’s groups, youth groups, health professional associations, academia, religious organizations and human rights organizations. The group brings together influencers who can create a change in their own field and at their own level. This supplements the advocacy work ARFH is able to do itself: the champions aid in transferring national advocacy efforts into society.
The champions received an initial in-depth training. They created an advocacy (volunteering) work plan and developed a tool to document their work. They now get regular updates on female condom developments and each other’s efforts, focusing on creating support for female condoms amongst their own groups.
ARFH, together with the advocacy champions, has managed to build a fruitful relationship with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health. Because of their advocacy efforts, female condoms have been visibly integrated into the National Condom Strategy policy, on equal footing with male condoms. The champions are now key in ensuring that this success spreads throughout society and that implementation is secured.
Grassroots level advocacy and policy implementation have proven to be as important as national-level advocacy. One cannot go without the other; building alliances and partnerships with strong stakeholders is key to ensure broad impact of policy change.
Budget line for female condoms in Cameroon
In Cameroon, Femmes Santé Développement (FESADE) successfully advocated for a national budget line for female condoms. FESADE’s goal was to ensure that the Cameroonian government budgets for purchase and programming of female condoms, to make them available and accessible to the population in order to reduce new HIV infections and unintended pregnancies, and to increase the choice of contraceptive options available in Cameroon.
After it was announced that the budget line would be created, FESADE monitored the process through organizing a series of meetings with technical people and authorities from different ministries. Parliamentarians were involved in these meetings as well, creating ownership and sustainability of the initiative. FESADE also participated in the technical drafting committee of the national budget.
FESADE’s advocacy efforts resulted in a specific budget line for female condoms included in the National Action Plan 2015-2020.
Knowledge of the political processes and being continuously involved in these were crucial to the success of the advocacy efforts. Capacity building of advocates was therefore very important. Involving policymakers in the reviews also increased FESADE’s impact. Creating ownership, sustainability and good relations with the government were key.
Finally, advocacy focusing on national-level budget lines does not end at that level. It is key to closely monitor implementation of the national budget to lower-level government (‘Is the budget line still there in other government budgets?’), and to monitor expenditures (‘Is the money actually spent on female condoms?’)
Female condoms as 1 of 13 life-saving commodities
In March 2012, UAFC international advocacy efforts led by Rutgers ensured the inclusion of female condoms as one of 13 life-saving commodities recognized by the United Nations.
To reach this goal, UAFC advocates made sure that they were members of the working groups relevant to this international policy process. Contributing and participating in these working groups made sure that UAFC was considered a serious and knowledgeable partner when it came to female condoms. When the time was there to create the list of essential commodities, they were able to get a seat at the table.
The fact that female condoms are recognized as one of the thirteen life-saving commodities has led to several direct results. First of all, it has brought female condoms to the forefront of global discussions. In addition, it caused all 8 United Nations pathfinding countries to consider female condoms and take them up in their costed country plans. It also provides opportunities for other countries to start or increase female condom programming, and make female condoms available to their population.
Networking and interpersonal communication skills have shown to be key in international advocacy efforts. Finding like-minded colleagues and shaping alliances has proven essential to achieve this result (for example, within the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition working groups). UAFC’s ability to pull in technical expertise and support via their International Advocacy Platform has also been critical.
Paper doll campaign
The Paper Doll Campaign is an awareness raising campaign that is also used as an advocacy tool. It was set up in 2011 by UAFC to showcase the global demand for female condoms and to mobilize greater support for investments. The campaign consists of cut-out paper dolls that can be used in different global contexts. The backs of the dolls can be signed with people’s personal message: a wish, a supporting statement, or their reason for demanding female condoms.
The signed dolls were sent out to female condom advocates and organizations. They were used as conversation starters, to inform people about female condoms and why their voice was needed in the campaign. Over 20.000 dolls proved that there is a demand for female condoms.
As a result, the dolls became a recognizable symbol for the campaign for female condoms in many different countries. The campaign also led to policy change: for example, advocates used the dolls to successfully advocate with the New Zealand Ministry of Health to allow female condoms to be sold in the country.
Creating a replicable, flexible and adaptable campaign has been essential to its success. The dolls are easy to print out and take with you. They are fit to use on any level, from international to local. Finally, the specific advocacy message is adaptable: different things can be written on the back of the dolls.
Even though the high point of the campaign has passed, the image of the paper dolls still remains a lasting advocacy tool.
For UAFC, involving media has proven to be essential for female condom advocacy. Several organizations have been able to engage the media, aiding the advocacy and program efforts of their own colleagues and others.
The information surrounding female condoms is often prejudiced, negative or incorrect. Positive media coverage raises awareness on female condoms, creates trust in the product and increases demand. Engaging media is therefore an essential element of a solid advocacy and awareness raising strategy.
Activities & Results
There are several successful examples of engaging the media within UAFC. For example, journalists have been trained in Cameroon during Global Female Condom Day 2014. In 2013, an independent journalist was hired to join UAFC in Mozambique, in order to showcase the program activities and female condoms in general. This trip resulted in varied positive media coverage across several channels.
When it comes to involving media, it is important to at least think about the following things. Firstly, actively engaging journalists is important. Take the time to search for the right contacts and build relationships. It works especially well to reach out when there is a news scoop related to female condoms. Secondly, because female condoms are surrounded by so many myths, make sure that you prep or train the journalists you involve. Focus on user information, variety and international developments. Third, always be aware of the wording you choose in an interview with a journalist: information is easily misinterpreted.