For more than half a century the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has been working towards a world in which people would be free to make their own decisions about whether and when to choose parenthood; a world where people would have healthy, happy sexual lives, without fears and stigma. The agenda unveiled at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) at Cairo, propagating a scenario where all people-especially women-would have access to quality reproductive health services and sexual and reproductive rights has been whole heartedly embraced IPPF and the Federation has been relentlessly striving to transform this aspiration into action.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) came into being through a covenant agreed upon by world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit at the dawn of the new century. The MDGs were a pledge by these governments to work towards concrete achievements including the eradication of poverty, equality for women, improvements in maternal health and reduction of child mortality. Although reproductive rights were not specifically mentioned, it was clear to the development community as a whole, and IPPF in particular, that sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of people is synonymous with the overall well-being of populations, which is what the MDGs ultimately strive for. Thus IPPF choses to engage with the MDG process, promoting the linkages between the MDGs and the ICPD agenda, which are inherently indivisible from each other.
In South Asia beset by a host of problems including early marriage and motherhood, rising numbers of unsafe abortions, lack of contraceptive choices, soaring cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections, including HIV/AIDS, and a pervasive culture of silence surrounding reproductive and sexual health issues, IPPF faces an exceptionally challenging task. The IPPF South Asia Regional Office (SARO) has risen to this challenge and undertaken a variety of initiatives in the region in partnership with its Member Associations (MAs). In an effort to make linkages with these MAs closer and more coherent,
IPPF SARO was relocated from London to New Delhi in August 2004. Locating SARO within the region also facilitated interaction with governments and networks and, due to its proximity, enhanced understanding of regional realities.
IPPF SARO has been working hard with its MAs to achieve the goal of universal access to reproductive health services throughout the region. Strategic planning with the MAs has focused on access as a key component under each of its five main areas: Access, Adolescence, HIV/AIDS, Advocacy and Safe Abortion, also called the 5A’s. In addition, the Vision Building Workshop of November 2004, in which the senior management of all the member associations of IPPF SARO participated, concluded with an agreement that each member association would set up a Centre of Excellence in at least one of the 5A’s in their respective countries. The choice of the ‘A’ was based on their own comparative advantage, political environment and the needs of the communities they served in a global environment where funding needs are perpetually increasing and competition for resources is fierce. , IPPF realized that change is inevitable and analysis as an organization desirable.
IPPF SARO promoted a path of critical analyses and self-scrutiny by its MAs in this process of organizational change. A number of diagnostic exercises including human resource audits, management audits, accreditation reviews, study tours, workshops, attitudinal analyses and baseline surveys were carried out. These processes resulted in a steep learning curve and some difficult but critical changes for SARO and its MAs.
IPPF SARO is at a point where transition and change must be accelerated through renewed commitment to the vision and goals of the organization. With strategic planning based on the 5A’s as well as a vase outreach through the MAs and network of committed staff, volunteers, partners and associates, there is a good reason to believe that IPPF in South Asia will continue to be a prominent voice with a critical vision for the region in this new millennium.