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Advocacy

Advocacy is a campaign or strategy to build support for a cause or issue. Advocacy is directed towards creating a favorable environment, by trying to gain people's support and by trying to influence or change legislation. Since many years, MFPWA is engaged in advocacy for selected issues with a view to improving the SRH environment in Mauritius.

MFPWA works in partnerships with national and international bodies to conduct an advocacy programme with a view to convincing government to legalize/ liberalize abortion and post-abortion care and authorize the introduction of sex education in the school curriculum. Advocacy efforts will also be geared to increasing financial and in-kind support for MFPWA.

Advocacy is a set of targeted actions directed at decision makers in support of a specific policy issue.

“Advocacy is a process that involves a series of political actions conducted by organized citizens in order to transform power relationships. The purpose of advocacy is to achieve specific policy changes that benefit the population involved in this process. These changes can take place in the public or private sector. Effective advocacy is conducted according to a strategic plan and within a reasonable time frame.” — The Arias Foundation (Costa Rica)

Its commitment is:

  • To stimulate larger support for and obligation to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Mauritius
  • To advocate for an enabling policy and program environment to tackle pressing sexual and reproductive health and rights challenges.

Our advocacy work seeks to achieve specific changes in policy, laws, and funding to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

MFPWA proudly promote and protect sexual and reproductive health and rights as basic human rights endowed to all people. As pioneers in promoting women’s empowerment and family planning, we have a long history of both challenges and triumphs.

Under the advocacy campaign, MFPWA is working hard to make Sex education an issue that should be introduced thoroughly to protect adolescents in schools and to better equip them to make conscientious decisions about their sexuality. It also believes that it is high time to integrate formally sex education in the school curriculum.

Our strategic approach to advocacy aims to promote our agenda within the political decision-making process from local to international levels, including policies and budget commitments. Our recent advocacy efforts have included comprehensive sexuality education. We are active participants in movements to liberalize abortion laws in several Mauritius. Additionally, we promote the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights as essential components of development, health, and education plans, and advocate for ensuring that sufficient resources are destined for sexual and reproductive health services as new governments and administrations take shape across the country.

In 2008, MFPWA will among other things team up with other stakeholders to conduct an advocacy programme with a view to convincing government to legalize/ liberalize abortion and post-abortion care and authorize the introduction of sex education in the school curriculum. Advocacy efforts will also be geared to increasing financial and in-kind support for MFPWA. Increasing the importance of sexual and reproductive health In its advocacy campaign, MFPWA is striving to bring about social change in the laws, policies and mindset of people concerning the legalization of abortion in Mauritius.

The current political and economic climate does not favor our attempts to gain support for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The reasons for this are various and complex, but include:

  • The perception among political leaders that the anticipated crisis of a 'population explosion' has diminished, resulting in reduced funding.
  • The general conservative backlash, particularly in the US, which has labelled our work 'controversial' – resulting in a back-down from funding.
  • The tendency for many governments to define their health policies according to disease control and high-cost facilities – reducing the importance of preventative services like ours.

One of our major priorities must be, therefore, to regain leadership of the issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights. Advocacy is not only a key area of action for us, but also a crucial part of our other work priorities including our work with young people, HIV and AIDS, abortion, gender issues and rights. We are undertaking a leading role in international development – a role which relies on advocacy efforts as the cornerstone of our communication with the outside world. We are at a significant moment for action. Our continued refusal to sign the US Bush Administration’s Global Gag Rule (denying international aid to any groups involved in abortion-related activity) means we must find other ways to increase funding and grants to our Member Associations. The development goals set at the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 are now at their midway point to completion in 2015. We are building powerful advocacy to strengthen and maintain political commitment for these goals, and to overcome ICPD’s opponents. For more on the latest action for ICPD, visit www.Countdown2015.org.

The adoption of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the Millennium Assembly in 2000 is also a key target for our advocacy initiatives. The goals provide a framework for national governments to determine their programme priorities – which makes it all the more important for us to persuade policy makers that attaining the MDGs requires reaching the ICPD goals. People now know about family planning, quite a few of them are using it, and some of them are beginning to advocate its use to others," according to one West African family planning official. But other elements of the Cairo agenda, such as safe motherhood, an end to female genital mutilation, and more schooling for girls, are not well known. Moreover, reproductive health organizations promote knowledge and provide services, but advocacy usually remains off the agenda.

Advocacy is often the ultimate step in the process of behavior change—a process that begins with knowledge and moves through approval, intention, and practice. For reproductive health clients, speaking up for family planning or other healthy behavior validates their choices and sustains their commitment. As more and more people speak up, their behavior becomes the community's social norm. Healthy behavior becomes not just accepted, but also expected.

For reproductive health advocacy, a vital need is giving a voice to the silent majority that supports these programs, even in the face of sometimes vocal minority opposition. As funding from international donors falls behind the promises made in Cairo, many developing countries have to dig deep to find sufficient support. Policy-makers will support reproductive health programs adequately only if they feel a groundswell of demand from the grass roots. And grassroots organizations can express this demand effectively only by making advocacy a top priority.