Ethiopian Policymakers Agree to Establish Nation’s First Parliamentary Network on Population and Development

At a high-level meeting held last month, Ethiopian policymakers agreed to establish the country’s first Parliamentary Network on Population and Development—a major step toward improving access to voluntary family planning for the nation’s underserved women and girls. The network will provide a mechanism for the policymakers to advocate for, legislate, and oversee investment in family planning at national and district levels.

The Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health and Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO), a South-South inter-governmental alliance on reproductive health, co-organized the meeting with support from the USAID-funded Health Policy Project and the Opportunity Fund, a grants program managed by Population Action International and led by the Advance Family Planning initiative. Launched earlier this year, the Opportunity Fund helps seize advocacy opportunities that will accelerate the success of the FP2020 goal to reach 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries with access to voluntary family planning information, contraceptives, and services by 2020.

The meeting strengthened commitment: Ethiopian Members of Parliament from three standing committees (social affairs; budget and finance; and women, children, and youth affairs) signed a declaration to establish and launch the new parliamentary network by August 2013. Working with the Population Affairs Department in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, the network will provide a platform for raising awareness and delivering public statements on the floor of parliament and in districts and other constituencies.

Supporting Inter-governmental Collaboration

PPD ARO’s approach to organizing the meeting—an example of South-South inter-governmental collaboration—involved supporting two Members of Parliament (MPs) from Uganda to attend the meeting and exchange that country’s experiences in establishing two similar parliamentary networks.

Honorable members Sylvia Ssinabulya and Mathias Kasamba presented the work of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Food Security, Population and Development and the Network of African Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and how the groups function in concert with government officials, donors, and civil society. They also shared Uganda’s best practices and innovative approaches in securing and maintaining national and sub-national government budget increases for family planning.

Addressing Unmet Need

Ethiopia has made remarkable efforts towards fulfilling its national socio-economic development goals and is one of the few countries that have made significant progress toward achieving the health-related MDGs.  Contraceptive use has doubled since 2005. Overall, however, unmet need remains high. According to the country’s 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, one in four married women have an unmet need for family planning, meaning they want to space their next birth or stop childbearing entirely, but are not using contraception.

Last year, Ethiopian parliamentarians agreed to take action on family planning as part of the 2012 Women Parliamentarians Capacity Building Meeting and the 2012 Southern and Eastern Africa Parliamentary Alliance of Committees on Health (SEAPACOH) and at the London Summit on Family Planning. During the Summit, the Ethiopian government committed to increasing funding for voluntary family planning and improving access in isolated communities.

Last month’s meeting provided an opportunity to review progress and renew commitment. Held May 18-19, the meeting brought together more than 80 participants including Ethiopian policymakers, regional health bureau heads, and representatives from the USAID, Futures Group, civil society organizations, and the media. Next, parliamentarians and Ministry officials will finalize a strategy paper and working documents for the new network.

For more information about the Opportunity Fund, contact Wendy Turnbull.

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