by Jessica Vandermark, Director, Camber Collective
The post below originally appeared on Medium.
At the close of the Transform/PHARE project, the work goes on! This week, over 450 stakeholders gathered for the first Francophone Summit on Social and Behavior Change in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The halls resounded with the sounds of ideas being exchanged, connections being made, and networks being expanded, pushing forward progress made by Ministries, civil society actors, and their partners, including transformative lessons learned over the five years of Transform/PHARE.
Family planning is essential to achieving the objectives of human development, both at the individual and population level. Access to family planning — including knowledge and acceptance of modern family planning methods — gives women autonomy over their bodies and provides tools for families to provide the most loving and favorable environment for their children, according to their own needs and desires.
Family planning is a major priority in West Africa, home to countries with some of the world’s highest fertility rates, in large part due to social norms favoring large family size. In Niger, for example, the average woman has 7.6 children — yet both men and women desire more children than they have, according to DHS surveys.
A 5-year project funded by USAID, Transform/PHARE focused on innovations in approaches to social and behavior change to increase acceptance and use of family planning in Francophone West Africa. Social and behavior change (SBC) interventions aim to improve the quality and coverage of health products and services. Successful SBC requires understanding how individuals’ behaviors are shaped by communities and societies, including the social norms that condition access to essential health services and the ability to engage in health behaviors. SBC is therefore critical to ensuring that those most in need are included in interventions.
At the Francophone SBC Summit on February 25–28th, 2019 in Abidjan, SBC funders, decision makers, and technical experts convened to discuss the exciting work that has taken place in the West Africa region, and align on a common agenda for elevating the importance of SBC. A number of lessons learned from Transform/PHARE were shared with participants, including sessions on FP demand analysis among men in Niger and youths in Côte d’Ivoire, operational obstacles among FP service providers in Côte d’Ivoire, and a health coaching project for girls not in school in Benin.
Over the 5 years of its duration, Transform/PHARE made great strides in developing innovative strategies to reduce barriers to use of modern contraceptive methods in West Africa. It is perhaps fitting that the Francophone Summit took place for the first time in the region at a time when the Transform/PHARE project is coming to a close. One project may end, but the SBC community is growing, learning from one another, and strengthening our coordination.