On September 30, 2019, government officials from Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh committed to expanding access to quality family planning by sustaining local advocacy working groups. They made the commitments during a commemoration seminar held by the Advance Family Planning initiative and its partners, Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India, Jhpiego, Pathfinder International, and Population Foundation of India, to mark five years of advocacy achievements. Government officials in attendance applauded the past advocacy successes achieved by the SMART approach but emphasized the need for ongoing advocacy investment to ensure family planning remains prioritized.
Officials acknowledged the challenge of balancing limited funding and competing priorities with the need to expand contraceptive method mix, reach young people, and meet local demands. The Assistant Director of the State Family Welfare Bureau in Maharashtra stated, “Results that two districts [Ahmednagar and Pune] have achieved should be something that all districts in the state should achieve. With that intention, we will advocate with the state government to scale up the district working group approach to remaining 32 districts of the state.”
Government representatives urged for advocacy investment to continue in their states and districts and requested expansion of SMART advocacy to new geographies.
In the last five years, the initiative marshalled 543.7 million Indian rupees (US $8.2 million) for family planning. Over 118.6 million women of reproductive age will potentially benefit and over 2,300 health facilities received new or improved family planning services as a result of the SMART approach. Supporting family planning policy implementation and budget allocation through advocacy will remain important in the increasingly decentralized Indian family planning infrastructure.
The four AFP partners will continue to employ the SMART advocacy approach across their programs and work with the government to maintain family planning as a priority.