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Reprod Health Matters. 2000 May;8(15):21-32.

Transforming family planning programmes: towards a framework for advancing the reproductive rights agenda.

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Center for Health and Gender Equity, 6930 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, Md. 20912, USA.


Recent international agreements call for the transformation of family planning programmes from a focus on demographic goals to the promotion of health and rights objectives. But the practical implications of this agenda for current and future programmes remain unclear. Public health resources are devoted to preventing illness and reducing the prevalence and incidence of disease across a population. Human rights methodologies focus on protecting the rights of individuals, and on the right to health and health care. Both of these approaches need to be re-thought and reconciled on a practical level to promote rights-based health programmes. Applying a rights framework to reproductive health programmes means, among other things, focusing as much on the process as on the outcome, incorporating efforts to address the gender and power dimensions of reproductive and sexual decision-making into every level of programme, and focusing on building a sense of entitlement among both the seekers and the providers of services. It also means moving beyond a focus only on the technical quality of clinic-based services to incorporate the ethos of a rights perspective at every level. Political, institutional, and technical barriers to the realisation of the reproductive health and rights agenda include national level politics, lack of capacity within civil society, and lack of transparency of institutional actors.

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