why foreign affairs backs uafc project
Lily Talapessy, Policy Coordinating Officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explains why the MFA is backing the Universal Access to Female Condoms programme:
“We want women to be heard and empowered, and the female condom is an obvious and pragmatic choice. It exists, it works, and it’s currently the only way women can protect themselves – so we were surprised that it’s still something of a fringe instrument. We wanted to understand how to transform it into a more mainstream choice.
“Two aspects of the UAFC project were especially interesting to us. The first is social marketing, in particular the idea of using hair salons as a centre of education by training hairdressers to become advocates for and distributors of the female condom.
“So often, reaching people with messages about sex is done in off-puttingly clinical environments, where we speak about the negative aspects of sex – the risks of disease and unwanted pregnancies. A hair salon is completely different. It’s a safe and pleasant environment for women to exchange information, and one that’s much more suited to discussing the need for protection in the context of the positive and enjoyable aspects of sex as well.
“The second especially valuable aspect is the collaboration between public and private partners. As a government official, you don’t necessarily start out knowing all the details about the female condom as a product – the aspects of research and development to improve the product, and manufacturing options to drive down the cost.
“It has been both refreshing and enriching to work with a partner who is steeped in these practical, logistical details – learning how we could work together, how we could best collaborate.
“We also very much appreciate the collaboration with the implementing parters who are doing all the implentation and training work on the ground – both paid and volunteers.
“We are already seeing that all of their efforts are having an effect. I am noticing in the international discourse that female condoms are mentioned more and more often, in policy documents and statements of the big players in reproductive health. I really feel that the UAFC project is contributing to that.
“Looking forward, the next challenge is enlarging the scale. We’re in two countries, and it would be great to work in more countries at a more substantial scale.
“What we’re doing now is not only valuable in those two countries, it’s a kind of pilot to gather information and strategies on how best to make sure the female condoms are actually used – it’s not enough just to distribute the product and trust that all will be fine.
“As we spread that knowledge through linking and learning, ideally other female condom programmes can learn those lessons and seriously upscale them in many new locations.”
|Source||Oxfam Novib, 22 march 2011|