By Marie Ba, Director, Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit (OPCU)

In 2011 – the year the Ouagadougou Partnership (OP) launched—the nine Francophone West Africa (FWA) countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinee, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) had some of the lowest contraceptive rates in the world.

Here we are, a decade later.

OP has changed the narrative, supporting 4 million new modern users to choose contraception, and powering countries to double their contraceptive rates. The factors enabling this success are well documented. They include firm commitments to family planning (FP) by member countries driven by emulation and healthy competition, national costed implementation plans (CIP), active participation by civil society, notably youth and religious leaders, and donor coordination to avoid duplication and optimize alignment with country plans.

However, much more needs to be done to maintain the momentum in the region.

Many countries have reached the easier segments of users, and new strategies and innovations are required to continue strong growth. We collectively must address these four key priorities to achieve our new ambitious goal of doubling the current number of modern contraceptive users of 6.5 million to reach 13 million by 2030.

  • Social behavior change (SBC). OP countries must move beyond availability and toward the acceptability of contraception services. We must focus on shifting social norms and behaviors to generate organic demand for family planning services. The OP will continue to fund SBC projects and research in the region, gather, develop and publicize SBC resources in French, and track measures of provider behavior and quality of services.
  • Youth. With up to 70 percent of its population under 30, the OP sees youth as agents of change. Our youth strategy catalyzes leadership and skills development for the emergence of a capable generation of young leaders. It also tackles obstacles preventing access to quality contraceptive services and options for young people.
  • Research. There is a significant gap in FP knowledge and research on SBC and youth attitudes in Francophone West Africa. The OP launched a research fund for local institutions to build evidence in order to advance and improve current national family planning strategies and programs and better inform future policies. The fund will prioritize applied research on youth and SBC, help develop research agendas and funding criteria collaboratively with regional experts, and make local and regional FP research more useful, visible, and accessible from FWA to the continent and globally.
  • Family planning in a crisis context. Many OP countries are facing security, health, and humanitarian crisis. The OP must involve humanitarian experts in CIP development to plan for FP in emergency situations, build partnerships with humanitarian organizations and participate in resiliency projects, activities, and conferences.

Looking toward 2030, we envision a Francophone West Africa where easy access to quality family planning services saves and improves women’s and young people’s lives and serves as a catalyst for sustainable development for all. We are confident that our new strategies will help pave the way for a stronger and more successful partnership.

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This article is a part of PSI’s ICFP 2022 Impact Magazine. Explore the magazine here.

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