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Story and Perspective

Why We Advocate – Part 3: Recent Wins for Pathfinder – And for Rights!

Egypt Uganda

This is the third piece (see part one and part two) in a series on Pathfinder’s work advocating for sexual and reproductive rights for all.

Across Pathfinder, one of our underlying strategies for growing the rights of women, girls, and their communities is our global advocacy work. This work focuses on increasing visibility, funding, support, and demand for sexual and reproductive health and rights at the global, regional, and country levels. Our advocacy work includes identifying key decision-makers, influencers, and advocates that have the power to impact change in each country where we operate and building deep relationships with them to facilitate long-term shifts in policy. 

Recently, our Pathfinder teams in Egypt and Uganda had a few strategic “wins” for reproductive rights. 

Pathfinder Egypt Supports Mothers in Calling for Reform of Egyptian Guardianship Laws

OSRA and the Women’s Economic and Social Empowerment Program (2022–2027) are funded by USAID and advocate for greater legal protections for mothers’ guardianship over their children and more equitable regulation of marriage, divorce, alimony, and custody procedures before the court based on justice, mercy, and non-discrimination.

In May 2023, Egyptian parliament called for a review of Egypt’s guardianship laws, which have been in place for over 70 years. Under Egyptian law, in the event of a father’s death, guardianship transfers to the paternal grandfather or paternal uncle. A widow cannot obtain guardianship of her children without permission from her late husband’s father or brother. In addition to limiting a mother’s ability to make decisions around her children’s care and education, these laws also separate children from their remaining parent during a formative period of grief and loss.

To build support for legal reform, Pathfinder Egypt, through their leadership of two USAID-funded programs—Women’s Economic and Social Empowerment Program and OSRA (meaning “Family”)—and in close collaboration with the National Council for Women and Media Hub, co-sponsored the hit Ramadan drama series “Taht El Wesaya” (Under Guardianship). The series, which aired in May 2023, follows Hanan, a widowed mother of two, as she takes up work as a fisherwoman to keep custody of her children. The Pathfinder Egypt team provided technical review for the show’s messaging around its featured themes, such as women’s empowerment and family planning.

“Taht El Wesaya” received 61,600,000 views and received wide recognition by celebrities and influencers on social media. Thanks in part to the show’s success, lawmakers and politicians—including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi—strengthened their support for reforming Egypt’s guardianship laws to expand mothers’ decision-making power over finances and education for their children.

Pathfinder Uganda Convenes Government and Multi-Sectoral Partners to Mobilize Resources for Family Planning

USAID Family Planning Activity (USAID/FPA) (2020–2025) is advocating for increased family planning (FP) budget allocation and improved FP integration into Uganda’s national and sub-national programs by 2025.

In Uganda, there is a huge unmet need for FP. At both the national and sub-national levels, FP is under-prioritized because of insufficient budget allocation and limited integration across different sectors. FP is crucial for Uganda’s socio-economic development, but lack of prioritization and limited funding for FP result in inadequate access to FP services, particularly in rural areas where the need is higher.

Some efforts have been made to address this issue, such as the integration of FP services within existing health budgets. For example, in August 2023, the government of Uganda allocated 25% of the reproductive health (RH) budget to FP commodities for fiscal year 2022–23. However, a more dedicated and separate budget line for FP is necessary to ensure effective implementation and scale-up across the country. Additionally, increased cross-sectoral integration is crucial to address need for FP services and their impact on Uganda’s overall development goals.

To address this concern, USAID/FPA, through the Faith for Family Health Initiative, conducted a budget study at the national level and in 11 USAID/FPA focus districts—Kibaale, Kyankwanzi, Kyenjojo, Kiryandongo, Kyegegwa, Ntoroko, Buliisa, Bundibugyo, Gomba, Butambala, and Rakai—to gather data for evidence-based advocacy, focusing on enhancing budgetary allocation for FP at both national and sub-national levels. The study’s findings revealed that there was no specific budget line allocated for FP, with FP services integrated into the RH and primary health care budgets.

USAID/FPA then organized district and national budget and policy dialogues to equip stakeholders with knowledge in district financing for FP. This included orienting stakeholders on the district budget processes to inform advocacy for domestic allocation of financial resources to FP and district-level prioritization of FP in district development plans and budgets. The team also equipped key stakeholders—including cultural, religious, and youth leaders—with advocacy skills to engage with technocrats on FP budgeting, allocation, integration, and accountability. USAID/FPA highlighted the importance of revitalized multi-sectoral coordination at the district and national levels to enhance cross-sectoral integration of FP by involving non-health sectors, such as education, environment, local government, and gender in FP service delivery throughout 2021–23.

Pathfinder’s efforts have led to the integration of FP at the district and national levels and the establishment of functional district multi-sectoral working groups in all 11 FPA districts. These multi-sectoral working groups include representation from the ministries of local government, gender, labor and social development, health, education, and water and environment. The Government of Uganda has also created sustainable approaches to cover funding gaps in the National Development Plan III, with the goal of reducing unmet FP need from 28% to 10% and increasing the modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 35% to 50% by 2024–25. Pathfinder continues to engage cultural, religious, and political leaders in budget advocacy to sustain FP allocations in district budgets.

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