Using Evidence for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Action in Today’s World

1 July, 2024

 

On June 5-6, 2024, Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters (SRHM) Global and SRHM Francophone Africa Hub, in collaboration with Together for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and the National Reproductive Health Centre, Mohammed V. University, Morocco, held a two-day meeting on Using Evidence for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Action in Today’s World in Rabat, Morocco. 

The context  

In the current context, the field of SRHR has achieved important successes and experienced serious retrogressions. Laws, policies, and programmes across the world are increasingly influenced by ideologically inspired politics, rhetoric, and mis- and dis-information, which can result in human rights violations and negative effects on health.  

This has created an urgent need for new approaches to existing strategies, such as influencing public opinion and political action, as well as to how evidence is generated, and alliances can be built. The diversity of the SRHR movement is one of our key strengths, and this was an important moment to review strategies to help identify where to put our collective efforts and resources, including those of SRHM, to move forward. 

For thirty years, SRHM has been working to advance the creation and dissemination of rights- and evidence-based knowledge, facilitating the transformation of knowledge into action and actively contributing to the alliance and coalition building at a global, regional, and local scale. Today, as the field faces challenges that threaten to turn back progress in securing SRHR, SRHM and its partners stand even stronger in their commitment to strengthen the role of evidence, to build alliances and orient evidence towards action – fighting against misinformation and the regression of certain rights related to SRH. 

For these reasons, SRHM and its partners brought together representatives of international SRHR organisations, SRHR researchers, human rights lawyers and activists, academics in SRHR, and media and communication specialists to identify gaps and priorities; where we need to generate evidence; areas where existing evidence can be better framed and used and to develop innovative strategies and alliances to address these gaps.  

The meeting  

The meeting connected discussions already taking place around these topics while uniquely focusing on the role of evidence in the SRHR movement to further strengthen the alliance of a multi-stakeholder community of SRHR actors, to strengthen the strategic use of evidence in the SRHR movement and develop action plans based on the discussion. 

Day 1 was centred around discussing the opportunities and challenges in using evidence in today’s context of SRHR (global, regional, and national spaces), using evidence for action with reflections on what has worked and what hasn’t. Discussions also included how to use evidence for action through applied examples. Participants engaged in discussions on the strengths and gaps in the current evidence base, how evidence has been used successfully and unsuccessfully to advance this topic, and what lessons can be drawn from these experiences to inform future actions. 

On Day 2, participants discussed analysing key strategies for advancing SRHR, based on the conclusions from Day 1 group work. They also explored key strategies for advancing SRHR in groups. The topics for these group discussions included recommendations for influencing public opinion, influencing political action, alliance building, and evidence creation. In this way, SRHR actors from diverse backgrounds were able to identify strategies to better use evidence to help advance SRHR and to provide recommendations for strategic use of evidence for SRHR action and reflected on how to leverage SRHM as a platform for evidence to action 

Actions originating from the meeting

The meeting concluded with important action plans on positioning the role of evidence in the SRHR agenda in a difficult political climate. Key action plans were formulated across several areas: 

Firstly, in rethinking evidence creation, emphasis was placed on decolonization efforts to ensure research reflects diverse perspectives and avoids perpetuating historical biases. There was a commitment to enhance research that directly informs actionable outcomes, particularly by empowering marginalized communities to participate meaningfully in the evidence creation process. 

Regarding the equity of knowledge creation, the group discussed how to make evidence and knowledge creation via publishing more equitable. It included financial considerations for those authors who have no financial means to afford author publishing charges, diversifying article types to encompass community practice articles, and broadening the dissemination of localized SRHR knowledge. It was also highlighted to adapt language framing to resonate within local and regional priorities and preferences, as well as global contexts, generating articles in various languages and translating them to English, so knowledge becomes more readily available for local and global communities and to ensure broader accessibility and relevance. 

Strategically leveraging evidence was another pivotal focus area. This involved generating evidence that directly supports actions to influence policies and it takes into consideration, responds and strategizes about anti-rights movements and moves through robust evidence and rights-based knowledge collection, analysis, transfer and dissemination. Enhancing multi-disciplinary collaborations among stakeholders such as researchers, practitioners, policymakers, activists, funders and media outlets was deemed essential.  

In terms of strategic communication, efforts were outlined to leverage communication strategies to reach both local and global communities and diverse SRHR communities and beyond as well as to be able to influence policy decisions both locally and globally. This included employing diverse media formats tailored to specific audiences and communities, simplifying complex research findings for public consumption, making articles and knowledge available in more diverse forms, collaboration with media outlets and online platforms. 

 Overall, the meeting emphasized the importance of strategic and inclusive approaches to evidence creation, dissemination, and communication within the SRHR field. Concrete actions with immediate and medium-term timeframes were identified.  

 This initiative was an important element in SRHM’s mission of ‘knowledge to action’ and we will continue to communicate on the actions and outcomes of this important gathering.