Ensuring Rights and Equity in Family Planning Programs

Family planning services are a means through which women and girls exercise self-determination. Therefore, the ultimate metric for judging a family planning program is the degree to which it empowers women and girls. On an operational level, family planning programs that do not respect and reflect the agency of women and girls are inher­ently flawed and destined to fail.

The new framework for Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights[1] was drafted by Futures Group, EngenderHealth, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a tool to elucidate what a rights-based family planning program should include and how it should be implemented.

The Framework describes four domains in which the rights implications of family planning programs should be considered:
• Policy level: the conditions of governance (especially political commitment) and accountability (especially to the community) support family planning programs that respect, protect, and fulfill rights (especially in the areas of information, supplies, and services)

• Service level: the elements of quality of care (quality, accessibility, availability, and acceptability) guide programming to adhere to the highest standard of care and thus protect inherent human rights principles (especially in the areas of method mix, technical competence, and service integration)

• Community level: the political, financial, and social environments are supported by the effective participation of diverse community groups (especially youth) in all aspects of family planning policy and program development, implementation, and monitoring (especially in the areas of policy making, funding, and societal norms and equity)

• Individual level: the various contexts in which an individual lives allow him or her to exercise rights (especially in the areas of behavior, knowledge, access to information and services, and empowerment) 

[1] Hardee, K, Newman, K, Bakamjian, L, Kumar, J, Harris, S, Rodriguez, M, and Willson, K., Voluntary Family Planning Programs that Respect, Protect, and Fulfill Human Rights: A Conceptual Framework, Washington, DC: Futures Group. 2013.