We are excited to announce the release of our refreshed Global Reproductive Equity strategy (English and French). We are immensely grateful for the generosity of our grantee partners, peer funders, and other important stakeholders who informed this work. As we launch the strategy, we are sharing reflections on the process and a preview of the key priorities for our work moving forward.
As we worked on our five-year strategy refresh over the past year, the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) field has been in flux. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain health systems and impede access to essential sexual and reproductive health services, even as the need for those services grows. Shifting political and social contexts have increasingly elevated the importance of SRHR as critical to gender equity, while also giving rise to large and well-resourced opposition movements. Simultaneously, the field is in a long-overdue period of reckoning around historically unjust and inequitable power structures that have led many philanthropic and international development institutions, including the Hewlett Foundation, to reexamine their practices. These challenges present an opportunity to build a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient SRHR field that better serves the needs of all women and girls. Realizing this opportunity is a driving force behind our new strategy.
We launched our strategy refresh process in mid-2020 grounded in our guiding principles, including humility, mutual respect, and transparency. While the onset of COVID-19 created unexpected challenges for our process — most notably the inability to convene with partners and stakeholders in-person — we quickly pivoted to a virtual approach centered on meaningful stakeholder engagement. Our strategy and evaluation partners Afton Bloom (based in New York), Niyel (based in Dakar), and Evaluating for Equality (based in London) worked collaboratively with us to engage global and Africa regional stakeholders to ensure that we received the needed input to guide our new strategy. We were also guided by an advisory committee representing peer funders, international institutions, grantee partners, and colleagues with expertise on SRHR issues and health systems in Africa. This committee provided critical input on the strategy goal, outcomes, and overall approach.
Our newly named “Global Reproductive Equity” (GRE) strategy sits within the foundation’s Gender Equity and Governance Program. Our GRE strategy is guided by an overarching goal: Women and girls in East Africa and Francophone West Africa, especially those facing the greatest barriers, are increasingly able to seek, access, and use comprehensive reproductive healthcare — including abortion care — to further their health, well-being, and life aspirations.
This framing reflects several central elements of our strategy:
Continued focus on East and Francophone West Africa, two regions that have made significant progress over the past 10 years but maintain high levels of SRHR need relative to other regions.
A commitment to equity and power shifting throughout the strategy will guide where we fund, focusing on regions with the greatest need for SRHR; who we support, centering underserved communities; and how we fund, placing decision making and resources closer to the people we seek to serve.
A broader ultimate aim to our work that acknowledges SRHR as not only a path to better health, but also a necessary part of a woman’s ability to achieve her well-being and life aspirations.
We will apply these elements in our work towards four strategic outcomes. We defined these outcomes by considering how we might make the greatest contribution to advance progress on SRHR in the next five years. They represent previous priorities that will be maintained and several purposeful shifts that align to current opportunities for progress in the field.
The first two areas of work will focus on strengthening the enabling environment for SRHR within East and Francophone West Africa.
Outcome #1: Local ecosystems are strengthened to more effectively advance policies, systems, and practices that support SRHR for women and girls in East and Francophone West Africa. Building on our support for local advocacy and regional platforms like the Ouagadougou Partnership, we will continue to shift resources and decision-making power in the SRHR field to African institutions, organizations, and feminist movements to strengthen African SRHR ecosystems. African stakeholders play critical roles in advocating for increased SRHR resources, advising on policy and service delivery, and elevating the voices, needs, and preferences of women and girls. We will increasingly invest more resources in African actors and will work with other private and bilateral funders to advance anti-racist, solidarity-centered approaches to supporting SRHR.
Outcome #2: African narratives that promote SRHR and gender equity positively influence public support for reproductive health policies and programs in East and Francophone West Africa. Complementing investments in critical ecosystem actors, we will launch a new exploratory area of grantmaking to bolster African SRHR narratives. Narratives are influential in the ecosystem and can either impede or facilitate SRHR progress. Recognizing social and political shifts, we will explore how amplifying African voices that advance SRHR and gender equity — including artists, activists, and social influencers — can grow support for SRHR among policymakers, service providers, community leaders, and the public.
Work towards our third and fourth outcomes will push the frontiers of access to voluntary contraception and safe abortion care for women and girls in East and Francophone West Africa.
Outcome #3: Solutions to mitigate inequity in access to and use of contraception and abortion care are developed and tested with pathways to scale in East and Francophone West Africa. As access to contraception and abortion care continue to expand, we will seek out opportunities to reach the women and girls who face the greatest barriers to getting services, including women living in extreme poverty, young or unmarried women who often face stigma when seeking reproductive health services, and disabled or displaced women. We will continue to support regional efforts in Francophone West Africa, such as the Ouagadougou Partnership, to sustain and advance progress in geographies that continue to face barriers to achieving their SRHR goals.
Outcome #4: Safe abortion is legal and/or decriminalized in a greater number of East and Francophone West African countries and is accessible to more women and girls in these countries. While safe abortion care should be a standard component of comprehensive SRHR, it is often omitted. Over the next five years, we will strengthen our work in support of universal access to safe abortion, taking a multidimensional approach including advocacy, research, policy change, movement building, and service delivery in target geographies and globally.
Over the next months, we will share more about the strategy through several virtual events. Once again, we are thrilled to embark on this refreshed strategy and are grateful to all who provided input and guided the process to get us here.