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In 2011, nine francophone West African countries formed the Ouagadougou Partnership to change the story of family planning in the region. Thanks to their efforts, an additional 1.18 million women are using modern contraceptives today.*For these women, this means more control over when to get pregnant and better health for them and their families. For the countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) that make up the partnership, it means fewer maternal deaths, potential economic progress, and savings in health and education expenditures. For decades the average modern contraceptive prevalence rate in the francophone countries of West Africa hovered around 12% and the total fertility rate averaged five children per woman, indicators that lagged far behind Asia, Latin American, and other regions of Africa.
The partnership set a collective goal—one that seemed ambitious in 2011—of reaching one million new women with modern contraceptives by 2015. In an era of public national commitments (the Climate Change Conference of Parties, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Global Health Security Agenda to name just a few), skeptics may question their value, but the Ouagadougou Partnership stands out for having achieved its goal and honored its commitments. Last month, at the partnership’s annual meeting, members celebrated this achievement, shared what’s working, and set the course for the next five years.
The partnership includes country governments, donors, key partners, and civil society and private sector representatives all working together to improve health and encourage social and economic development across the region. This level of coordination isn’t easy, but here are seven ways the partnership has been changing the status quo—and maybe leading francophone West Africa to a contraceptive revolution:
The demographic dividend is not a guarantee, and there is still much to be done, but members are eager to accelerate progress. In December, members set a new goal of an additional 2.2 million women using modern contraceptives by 2020.
At their core, family planning commitments are about healthier families and communities. And that’s at least 2.2 million reasons why the Ouagadougou Partnership remains inspired and committed to change. The Ouagadougou Partnership includes the country governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo; donors including the US Agency for International Development, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Agency for Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; key partners such as the West African Health Organization, UNFPA, World Health Organization, and FP2020; and civil society and private sector representatives. Based in Dakar, Senegal, the Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit is primarily funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is managed by IntraHealth International.
Photo courtesy of Clement Tardif for IntraHealth International. A health worker in Senegal counsels a client on her family planning options.* An additional 1.18 million women across the nine countries are using modern contraceptives compared to 2011
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