The external evaluation of the EU funded project implemented jointly with PSN member organisation, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), has revealed the “monumental gains” to the disadvantaged, marginalised communities suffering from human rights abuses.
The EU funded project entitled Nndwakhulu (The big fight is on) underwent an independent external evaluation by Wits School of Public Health, South Africa. Over the 2-year implementation period, the project aimed to improve the knowledge of community members in two marginalised South African communities, Madombidzha and Midoroni, in Limpopo Province, to know and exercise their sexual, reproductive and gender human rights.
The evaluation concluded that the project achieved its 2 objectives: Empowering 2 communities to know, understand, advocate for, and exercise their sexual, reproductive, gender and related human rights; and ensuring staff and representatives of selected government departments comply with their mandates and the Bill of Rights in providing the essential services enabling the communities to fully exercise those rights.
The evaluation included the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. Data was collected in a variety of ways at baseline and endline: surveys with community members, educators and students, focus group discussions with community members including men and women, key informant interviews with stakeholders and pre- and post-dialogue surveys.
The impact evaluation revealed statistically significant results for all project themes (family planning, HIV/AIDS, sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse and minority rights) confirming that the project intervention was successful in changing community members’ attitudes and approaches to these issues. With regards to family planning, the survey results showed improved attitudes including a significant shift towards more respondents strongly agreeing with the statement “every woman has the right to choose whether and when to have children”. The evaluation also revealed a positive trend of more educators teaching about family planning methods in schools.
Regarding the other project themes, statistically significant impact was found with respect to HIV/AIDS; data collected from both communities revealed that 90% of people knew their HIV status at endline. This is very important in an area such as Limpopo province that has an HIV prevalence rate of about 9% (PEPFAR in Limpopo, Demographic and Health Stats, 2016). Attitudes such as blaming women for sexual assault significantly declined and significant improvements in attitudes towards forced sex from intimate partners were also observed. There was also improvement in respondents’ attitudes towards same sex relationships. Survey results showed statistically significant shifts in parents’ outlook on the punishment of children and the qualitative research revealed the concern about and condemnation of child abuse in the communities.
Surveys on community members’ views of state service providers revealed that they were now aware of what their rights were, what services should be delivered and where these were lacking. For example, they were able to describe challenges in clinics such as lack of medication, shortage of personnel, and low nurse-patient ratios. They also demonstrated willingness to follow up on the observed shortcomings in a constructive manner.
Overall, the evaluation revealed the positive changes in the community thanks to the project activities and the resulting improved social cohesion. It is also testament to TVEP’s effective approach to addressing human rights abuses which is making “monumental gains in the community that it serves”.
The Network has collaborated with MSI many times over the years; recently PSN was one of the 16 original signatory organisations to a global call to action led by MSI to integrate Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights into climate action. PSN facilitated MSI’s participation to ensure representation of the SRHR perspective on a panel at COP24 in Katowice last year. Moving forward, MSI will continue to engage closely with PSN and its members to advocate for climate and environmental responses that respect, protect, and fulfil the rights and choices of women and girls.
MSI is also an endorsing organisation of the recently launched Thriving Together campaign. They were keen to be involved in the global initiative given their commitment to reaching the remote and marginalised communities which in many cases are reliant on their natural environment for their livelihoods and survival. MSI strongly believes in and is committed to integrating SRHR programming with conservation partners to increase the resilience of both communities and the environments in which they live.
Today we launch Thriving Together! Our first-of-its-kind global campaign supported by over 150 of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive health organisations. These organisations are all united by their agreement that barrier free access to family planning services is critically important for the environment and biodiversity, as well as women’s and girls’ health and well-being.
Thriving Together highlights the importance of addressing the “unfinished business” of the International Conference of Population and Development Programme of Action. It is timely as this year marks the 25th anniversary since 179 world leaders enshrined reproductive health as a fundamental human right and recognised the important role of reproductive health and gender equality in achieving sustainable development.
The United Nations projects that global population will rise from 7.7 billion today to 9.8 billion by 2050. But this is only one potential scenario. Future population growth is highly sensitive to small changes in the average number of children per mother. If the physical, financial, educational, social and religious barriers to people using family planning services were removed and the average number of children per mother was just 0.5 lower than the UN population projection, which is most commonly used, global population would peak at 8.9 billion in 2050, rather than 9.8 billion.
Increasing human pressures are among the many challenges facing planetary health. In addition, by harming ecosystems, people undermine food and water security and human health, and threaten habitats and species. Ensuring family planning is available to all who seek it is among the positive actions organisations must take to lessen these pressures on our planet.
This is all possible, by enabling the exercise of a well-recognised human right, that people should be able to decide for themselves, whether, when, how often and with whom to bring children into the world. Not only is it possible, it is necessary and non-controversial: family planning contributes to women’s empowerment, improves family and general health, advances education and life opportunities and, by slowing population growth, eases pressures on wildlife and ecosystems.
A mobile "camel clinic" in Milgis, Kenya
To learn more about the campaign visit www.ThrivingTogether.global, and read the Trust’s background paper, “Removing Barriers to Family Planning, Empowering Sustainable Environmental Conservation: A Background Paper and Call for Action” to learn about what we can do.
Today the Margaret Pyke Trust and other sexual and reproductive health and rights organisations are making the following global call to action.
EngenderHealth, FHI360, Guttmacher Institute, Ipas, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Margaret Pyke Trust, Marie Stopes International, PAI, Plan International UK, Population Council, PSI and Women Deliver call on signatories to the Paris Climate Change Agreement to acknowledge the key role that the fulfilment of women and girls’ sexual and reproductive rights and ensuring women and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health services must play in national climate change strategies.
South African documentary film making company, Fireworx Media, has made a short video of our Nndwakhulu project.
Network member, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), and Network coordinator, the Margaret Pyle Trust, have been working together in Venda, South Africa, for two years. For many years TVEP has been a leader in combatting sexual and gender based violence, HIV stigma and child abuse, as part of their “Zero Tolerance Village Alliance” model. In 2017 TVEP and the Trust began the process of developing the Zero Tolerance Village Alliance, to add a new topic: reproductive health.
As a result of this partnership, and the financial support of the European Union’s Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights for South Africa, two marginalised rural communities have benefitted from a range of community empowerment actions, as well as provision of training to clinical staff, police officers and others who provide the communities with the services necessary to exercise their rights to sexual and reproductive health services. The South African documentary film making company, Fireworx Media, has made this short video on the project, focussing on the sexual and gender based violence component of the project, as requested by the European Union. As a result of this project, thousands of people in rural Venda have both the agency to demand the sexual and reproductive health services of the state service providers, which are their right, as well as the state entities (clinics, police, and others) being better able to provide those services.
You can watch the video here.