The African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning (AWLN) is a collective voice of African women leaders from 15 African countries. AWLN; a product of Advance Family Planning, supports the efforts of these women to improve reproductive health and access to comprehensive family planning.
Mission, Mandate, & Goals
AWLN’s mission is to strengthen global advocacy efforts for reproductive health and family planning by ensuring that the voices and perspectives of African women from all sectors are amplified.
AWLN works towards women being recognized as equal partner in such efforts, with the following principles as a guideline:
- Respect for and promotion of women’s bodily integrity, autonomy and choice in all aspects of advocacy, policy, legislative development and service delivery.
- Commitment to the leadership development of African women at all levels of decision-making.
- Support for the diverse existing efforts being led by African on issues of Reproductive Health and Family Planning.
AWLN has developed key goals (presented as ‘asks’ during advocacy) based on the most pressing reproductive health and family planning issues:
1.Prioritize and adequately finance universal access to comprehensive, quality and integrated sexual and reproductive health services, which are age appropriate and include adequate counseling and information.
2.Reposition family planning as a key development driver and ensure universal access to the full range of family planning choices to reduce maternal mortality.
3.Ensure equitable access to a full range of acceptable, affordable, safe, effective and high-quality contraceptives of choice and user- friendly, comprehensive maternal health services.
How does AWLN make women count?
Every day, 800 women die from causes related to childbirth and pregnancy, while over 200 million want but lack access to contraception. Girls tragically continue to be forced to marry against their will which is a clear violation of their human and reproductive rights and a devastating form of violence. In addition, harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation still exist.
For women to count, they need to be heard. AWLN is committed to strengthening advocacy efforts for reproductive health and family planning at the national, regional and global levels by bringing to the foreground the voices and perspectives of African women and girls.
AWLN realizes that by investing even more in reproductive health efforts, we will see major improvements in the quality of women’s lives. The Network is intent on ensuring that the needs, experiences and aspirations of African women are addressed. Most importantly, AWLN is working towards the following:
- reducing the unacceptably high number of women who die giving life, and
- ensuring that women have the opportunity to choose a family planning method, and raise healthy, well-spaced families according to their means and desires
AWLN has been involved in several meetings at country, regional and the global levels and will continue to be fully engaged in these processes beyond to ensure a more just and sustainable future for women, girls and the world at large. Some of the engagements AWLN Members have been part of include;
Country level advocacy and consultations have been great opportunities to emphasize the critical importance of prioritizing family planning and reproductive health overall in advancing human rights and development. AWLN members have been directly involved, often playing an advisory role in highlighting the relevance of the reproductive health in their individual country development agendas. AWLN members from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Uganda have been actively engaged in country level preparatory processes leading up to the UN Commission on Population and Development. They were all been included in the official country delegations for their respective countries.
The Africa Regional Conference on population and Development held in Addis Ababa in September 2013: AWLN together with other women’s rights and advocacy organizations actively participated in this meeting and issued a statement to clearly outline what governments need to incorporate in their development agendas to transform the lives of women and girls in Africa.
AWLN raised awareness on reproductive health issues and shared information on strategies for reducing maternal mortality by holding a side event at the International Family Planning Conference in Addis Ababa (2013).
The 6th Africa Conference on Sexual Health and Rights held in Yaoundé, Cameroon 3rd -7th February, 2014: AWLN members ensure that their ‘asks’ were presented. As a result, each goal was reflected in the conference outcome document.
The Pre- CPD and Post 2015 consultative meeting in Nairobi Kenya, from 5-7 March 2014. AWLN members used the same ‘asks’ during their advocacy, and succeeded in having them included in the outcome document which influenced delegations and government positions at commission for population and development and beyond.
Two AWLN Members were nominated onto their country delegations for the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2014. They were actively involved in pre-CPD preparatory meetings in their respective countries and make valuable input into country statements
AWLN Members and one Secretariat were nominated onto their country delegations as advisors for the 47th Commission on Population and Development in New York. AWLN provided sponsorship for the participants, and took on a leadership position among the Civil Society Organisations attending the CPD, urging African governments to using the Common African Position (which features AWLN ‘asks’) as the basis for negotiation in New York.
The Network has produced a number of papers and advocacy information on family planning which were used by AWLN members as well as other stakeholders in important engagements at various levels. For examples, a position paper was developed by Professor Mike Mbizvo on Family Planning as a strategy for reducing maternal mortality and for promoting health and development in Africa.
AWLN has been a focal point in the media, and remained devoted to highlighting issues of family planning and reproductive health through regular blogs on our website, Facebook articles, tweets and newspaper and TV interviews. As a result, AWLN was named the 5th top tweeter on FP and RH by the Huffington post.
AWLN Members are highly supportive of each other. One member’s success is always celebrated as a collective victory by the entire network. AWLN’s South African member Phindile Sithole-Spong was named one of South Africa's most influential young people by Mail & Guardian. A member from Kenya; Jane Kiragu was selected as one of the Civil Society Representatives for the Reference Group of FP 2020 In addition, the Network’s Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (Zimbabwe) was appointed as the African Union Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage.
1.The political positions and popularity that some AWLN members have in their countries can often be a hindrance to their advocacy work.
2.The expectations of Network Members are high. They often have to represent their countries in regional and international advocacy, limiting their time for in-country advocacy.
3.In some instances, the work of AWLN is misunderstood to be exclusive of men, when in actual fact, the members strive to engage men in reproductive health advocacy.
4.Due to limited funding, AWLN members cannot meet very frequently; not all members can be present during international for a. For this reason, they have to rely on communication channels available.
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