By Ayomi Benedicto
Kampala, Uganda – As Achola Scolastika, 30, listened to her chairperson in Yumbe district discuss family planning, she automatically reflected on the pressures building at home: Rent was due a week ago, and her four-year-old son had been sick for three straight days. Her 10-year-old daughter needed new clothes, but they could not rely on her husband’s earnings as a casual laborer. An unplanned pregnancy was the last thing she could manage.
She had made up her mind, which she disclosed to the health expert. She wanted a contraceptive implant, a long-acting reversible contraceptive.
Not long ago, district leaders across Uganda were empowered to prioritize family planning in the district’s cost implementation plans and budgets by members of the Advance Family Planning (AFP) initiative SMART Advocacy strategy in Uganda. Several women in Agola Scolastika’s shoes had fewer options. Family planning was largely not planned for by the local governments and, to many, was a taboo subject, and contraceptives were not widely available.
Before the AFP SMART Advocacy strategy, local governments in Uganda faced a funding shortfall for family planning programs, but they also lacked the knowledge to smartly advocate for costed implementation plans and budget allocation.
Elly Turuho, Programs Manager ACORD Eastern Uganda says that through the AFP SMART Advocacy strategy initiated, a lot has been achieved in Yumbe district health sector committee.
“The committee adopted family planning 2030 resolutions, a costed implementation plan in Yumbe and also oriented council members on sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), family planning and related concepts,” Turuho said.
In Jinja City, the Busoga Health Forum (BHF) advocated for a family planning focal person to be employed and the position has been granted. At the same time, Moses Kyangwa, Executive Director of BHF, says that the focal person has helped in coordinating family planning activities in the city and also strengthened the resource mobilization function within Jinja city.
“I harmonize family planning programs, bring together different partners to implement activities in Jinja city,” said Shem Mitala, Jinja City Family Planning focal person.
Leah Alupo, Program Coordinator Joint Advocacy for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Uganda at the National Forum for People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU) says that while launching the treatment literacy project in four districts of Arua, Zombo, Gulu and Kitgum, the district leaderships were oriented on the family planning SMART strategy. Consequently Kuraish Mubiru, the Technical Director of the Uganda Young Positives (UYP) won a regional grant that will advocate for young positive persons SRHR including family planning for young people.
Doreen Kansiime, Reproductive Health Uganda Advocacy Coordinator says that at least each AFP SMART Advocacy strategy diffusion partner has engaged as well as oriented district local governments’ officials on the family planning SMART advocacy strategies and positive results are already trickling in.
Dennis Odwar, Manager Policy and Rights at the National Union of Disabled Persons Uganda (NUDIPU) says AFP SMART Advocacy strategy dissemination at district and national levels is important especially when many women and men cannot access the modern contraceptives they need to avoid or delay pregnancy. “The current situation in the country shows that nearly 10 million women of reproductive age… do not have access to modern contraceptive methods,” said Odwar,“It affects them and many aspects of their family lives.”
Patrick Mugirwa, Program Manager at Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPDaro) says local governments should take charge of the AFP SMART Advocacy strategies to be more focused and allocate resources geared towards family planning well.
The AFP Uganda initiative implementing partners RHU and PPDaro trained other civil society organizations on how to implement the AFP SMART Advocacy strategy at a diffusion workshop in Hoima, 2021. These include Busoga Health Forum, NAFOPHANU, Agency for Cooperation in Research and Development (ACORD), NUDIPU and Save for Health.