Delivering transformative, rights-based family planning
Project Name: Tékponon Jikuagou (TJ)
Partners: Plan International, Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health
Objective: Tékponon Jikuagou (TJ) aimed to reduce unmet need for family planning through social network interventions.
Using family planning for healthy timing and spacing of births is a proven strategy to achieve this. In Sub-Saharan Africa, significant resources have been dedicated to family planning programs, but unmet need for family planning remains stubbornly high. Decades of programming have increased individuals’ knowledge but method use has made only small gains, and unmet need continues to increase.
Research shows an individual’s social network (e.g. spouse, mother-in-law, and friends) has great influence on his or her fertility desires and reproductive health. Thus, addressing the overall context in which reproductive health decisions are made could accelerate the progress towards reducing unmet need that has languished until now.
Deeply embedded social norms – including community beliefs, gender norms, and family planning stigma – pose serious barriers to family planning uptake and use, exacerbating unmet need. TJ sought to create a social environment that enables married couples to effectively communicate with each other and with their social networks about family planning, and take action to achieve their fertility desires. Project activities fostered reflective dialogue about social norms related to family planning and diffused information and ideas through social groups, influential opinion leaders, and well-connected individuals.
CARE initially conducted formative research to explore the norms and stigma related to family planning knowledge, attitudes, and use in Benin. Next, community members participated in social mapping exercises, which helped the project team to identify influential groups/people in that area. TJ then facilitated reflective dialogues with these community influencers, encouraging them to reconsider the values and assumptions associated with fertility and family planning and to work to change the norms in their community by discussing these issues with their networks. Radio programs were then used to encourage discussion and decrease stigma around family planning, and influential group members were asked to refer three people to family planning clinics (bridging the gap between demand and supply side).
TJ set out to 1) decrease gender and other social barriers to acting on unmet need, and 2) encourage women and men with unmet need for family planning to seek out information and services. These outcomes were evaluated at the social network level as well as the individual level. At the social network level, the goal is for women and men to perceive there is greater community approval of discussion and use of family planning. At the individual level, there should be greater numbers of women and men who talk about, approve of, believe their spouse approves of, and intend to use family planning than before the program.
Findings from TJ’s endline evaluation indicate that participation in the project led to changes in attitudes, efficacy, intentions, and normative expectations about family planning, as well as family planning use for an important number of participants. Approximately half of participants either articulated or perceived improvements in clear and actionable fertility intentions, family planning attitudes, access to services, and network support, and most participants demonstrated notable improvement in family planning knowledge.
For full project evaluation results, click here.
Learn more on the Institute for Reproductive Health website.