New Strategy Developed for Citizen-led Accountability Coalition for RMNCAH

By Faridah Luyiga Mwanje, White Ribbon Alliance Communication Manager

Participants in Maputo planning next steps for the Citizen-Led Accountability Coalition. Photo: White Ribbon Alliance.

October 24–28, 2016 was a big week for the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) Citizen-Led Accountability Coalition, which met in Maputo, Mozambique to develop its global campaign strategy and share experiences in organizing Citizens’ Hearings. The highly participatory workshop had about 30 representatives from civil society organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S.

The Coalition, coordinated by World Vision, Save the Children, White Ribbon Alliance and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, has been working together at the global level to advance citizen engagement and citizen-led accountability for RMNCAH, with particular regard to the targets of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Citizen-led accountability championed by the Coalition begins with citizens identifying their healthcare challenges and suggesting solutions in a way that gets their leaders to listen and — more importantly — to act. Utilizing several platforms that include citizens’ hearings, this kind of social accountability has been found to bear sustainable results. Indeed, communities that have embraced these platforms are excited to participate in finding solutions for issues that directly concern them, and with good reason.

One example from Malawi was shared during the workshop:

“Maternal and newborn health services have been revolutionized in response to the challenges raised during citizens’ hearings,” Nancy Kamwendo from White Ribbon Alliance Malawi told the group. “Notably, many of our midwives who were once disrespectful and abusive toward women in the throes of childbirth, have now turned a new leaf.”

(More details on how this was accomplished from Nancy Kamwendo can be found here).

The group also heard from people leading Citizens’ Hearings in Mali, Indonesia, Malawi and Uganda.

Members of the RMNCAH Citizen-Led Accountability Coalition in Maputo.

After hearing directly from people leading citizen accountability movements in their own countries, the group set out to develop a global campaign strategy and plan for how to further enhance citizen-led accountability and citizen engagement for RMNCAH. The first step was to answer one vital question: “What are the barriers to effective participation of citizens in women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health?”

Many barriers were identified, but the lack of awareness about health rights and the ripple effects rose to the top as most important. Another challenge identified was that governments often do not recognize the value of citizens’ opinions, ideas and solutions on top of not investing in systems that foster accountability.

Participants agreed that governments, global institutions and donors must invest in educating citizens about their health rights and listen and respond to their opinions and ideas so that ultimately, citizens can exercise those rights. Thus, a new goal was created for the RMNCAH Coalition campaign: to have women, children and adolescents around the world effectively voicing their ideas and exercising their rights to receive the highest attainable standard of health, all with their rights being protected, respected and fulfilled.

Learn more about the Citizens’ Hearing movement by subscribing to Citizens Post. Check back next week for Part Two, where we’ll share more objectives, timelines and other outcomes from the workshop.