Political will is essential if family planning programs are to advance, and support from government leaders can make all the difference in a country’s environment for reproductive health and rights. This is clearly in evidence in DR Congo, where the attitude of national leaders has moved from neglect of family planning to strong, explicit support.
The transformation has occurred in just three years. In 2012 the government of DR Congo included family planning as one of six elements in its framework to meet the Millennium Development Goals on child mortality and maternal health—a clear sign it was prepared to pay serious attention to family planning. In 2013 DR Congo joined the FP2020 partnership, with the government pledging to revitalize its family planning program, implement and financially support its recently-developed national strategic plan for family planning, reform laws that pose barriers to contraception, and empower women. A year later, at the Third National Conference on Repositioning Family Planning in 2014, the government doubled its financial family planning commitment to US$2.5 million, and approved national and provincial Permanent Multisectoral Technical Committees to further family planning objectives. The process of establishing these technical committees was underway in 2015, while the Ministry of Health ensured the distribution of US$300,000 worth of contraceptives—purchased with national government funds for the first time.
Advocacy is the engine that drives change, transforming ideas into actions. Advocates for family planning identify opportunities for progress and then mobilize political leaders, donors, service providers, and civil society to act on those opportunities.
Advance Family Planning (AFP) is a global advocacy initiative comprising 20 partner organizations, all working to expand access to voluntary, rights-based family planning. AFP provides decision makers with evidence that family planning is a sound investment for individuals, communities, and a nation’s future, and is a fundamental part of universal health care. AFP’s advocacy efforts are focused on the discrete policy and funding decisions that are critical to advancing family planning in a given setting; once achieved, these “advocacy wins” demonstrate progress and accelerate momentum toward long-term goals.
AFP advocates across all levels—global, regional, national, and local—with a special focus in nine countries: Burkina Faso, DR Congo, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda. Since November 2012, AFP has achieved 109 advocacy wins, including 48 budget allocations for family planning and 42 policy improvements to expand contraceptive access and choice. In the 2013-2014 period, national budget allocations for family planning in AFP’s focus countries increased by 133%, and subnational allocations by 115%.