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1.  Operationalising sexual and reproductive health and rights in sub-Saharan Africa: constraints, dilemmas and strategies 
Background
The continued poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa highlight the difficulties in reforming policies and laws, and implementing effective programmes. This paper uses one international and two national case studies to reflect on the challenges, dilemmas and strategies used in operationalising sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in different African contexts.
Methods
The international case study focuses on the progress made by African countries in implementing the African Union’s Maputo Plan of Action (for the Operationalisation of the Continental Policy Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) and the experiences of state and non-state stakeholders in this process. The case was developed from an evaluation report of the progress made by nine African countries in implementing the Plan of Action, qualitative interviews exploring stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the operationalisation of the plan (carried out as part of the evaluation) in Botswana and Nigeria, and authors’ reflections. The first national case study explores the processes involved in influencing Ghana’s Domestic Violence Act passed in 2007; developed from a review of scientific papers and organisational publications on the processes involved in influencing the Act, qualitative interview data and authors’ reflections. The second national case study examines the experiences with introducing the 2006 Sexual Offences Act in Kenya, and it is developed from organisational publications on the processes of enacting the Act and a review of media reports on the debates and passing of the Act.
Results
Based on the three cases, we argue that prohibitive laws and governments’ reluctance to institute and implement comprehensive rights approaches to SRH, lack of political leadership and commitment to funding SRHR policies and programmes, and dominant negative cultural framing of women’s issues present the major obstacles to operationalising SRH rights. Analysis of successes points to the strategies for tackling these challenges, which include forming and working through strategic coalitions, employing strategic framing of SRHR issues to counter opposition and gain support, collaborating with government, and employing strategic opportunism.
Conclusion
The strategies identified show future pathways through which challenges to the realisation of SRHR in Africa can be tackled.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S3-S8
PMCID: PMC3287464  PMID: 22376197
2.  Using research to influence sexual and reproductive health practice and implementation in Sub-Saharan Africa: a case-study analysis 
Health Research Policy and Systems  2011;9(Suppl 1):S10.
Background
Research institutions and donor organizations are giving growing attention to how research evidence is communicated to influence policy. In the area of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV there is less weight given to understanding how evidence is successfully translated into practice. Policy issues in SRH can be controversial, influenced by political factors and shaped by context such as religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
Methods
The case-studies presented in this paper analyse findings from SRH/HIV research programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: 1) Maternal syphilis screening in Ghana, 2) Legislative change for sexual violence survivors In Ghana, 3) Male circumcision policy in South Africa, and 4) Male circumcision policy in Tanzania. Our analysis draws on two frameworks, Sumner et al’s synthesis approach and Nutley’s research use continuum.
Results
The analysis emphasises the relationships and communications involved in using research to influence policy and practice and recognises a distinction whereby practice is not necessarily influenced as a result of policy change – especially in SRH – where there are complex interactions between policy actors.
Conclusion
Both frameworks demonstrate how policy networks, partnership and advocacy are critical in shaping the extent to which research is used and the importance of on-going and continuous links between a range of actors to maximize research impact on policy uptake and implementation. The case-studies illustrate the importance of long-term engagement between researchers and policy makers and how to use evidence to develop policies which are sensitive to context: political, cultural and practical.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S10
PMCID: PMC3121127  PMID: 21679377

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