I was really lucky to attend the Strategic Visioning Workshop on Advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Humanitarian Responses, organized by EuroNGOs! It was a great opportunity for me, as I previously volunteered in the Calais refugee camp and saw first-hand the challenges people are facing in relation to SRHR.
The main activities of the workshop focused around sharing knowledge on the current policy and structural landscape and learning about opportunities for SRHR advocacy in humanitarian responses. It also facilitated capacity building among EuroNGO members and created a space for the European SRHR advocacy community to strategise and explore future policy influencing and action on the issue.
The workshop was informative and interactive with a range of workshops, role-plays, presentations and café style discussions. Invited experts and participants shared, discussed and explored how to join forces to advance the SRHR agenda into humanitarian response.
The first day focused on gaining a good understanding of humanitarian issues and SRHR within this field. There was a great overview of humanitarian response in terms of principles, structures and organisations. The need for greater funding and commitment to incorporating SRHR issues was discussed, in particular family planning and contraception in humanitarian responses that is a key neglected area. There are high levels of funding allocated for maternal and new-born services such as emergency obstetric services but this is not enough. Many of unwanted pregnancies could be avoided if we ensured that people have access to contraception in these settings. Examples of good practice were also given where SRHR policy makers and decision makers have actively embraced SRHR in their policies and responses. We learnt more about the role of EU and UN organisations in international humanitarian response and how gender and gender based violence can be integrated into policy and programmes.
On the second day of the program we worked interactively through role-play and café discussions on advocating for SRHR in crises situations. We discussed key areas where we as SRHR advocates can promote SRHR in humanitarian responses, looking at the International, European and National levels. We acted out how we could advocate at each of these levels in practice and worked together to identify concrete next steps for advocacy. . We discussed in depth the potential targets and the main issues and messages that we want to promote for SRHR in humanitarian crises.
One of the tools that we have for advocacy is The Minimum Initial Service Package, a great international standard for SRHR provision in emergency settings. There is online training available which is free for anyone to undertake. We also identified potential hooks and conferences where we can target our advocacy efforts. The Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) on Reproductive Health in crises does a lot of work promoting SRHR into emergency response plans and improving access to SRH services. The IAWG offers a platform for EuroNGO members to get involved with and an opportunity for collaboration. The EuroNGOs meeting in October will give us a space to regroup and explore our progress so far and I am really excited to see how we in YouAct can explore working in partnership with our EuroNGO partners to push SRHR on the humanitarian agenda and promote meaningful youth participation and empowering young people as key elements of this action!
By: Lois Murray